Caseloads

Definition: Heavy caseloads in busy metropolitan or county level courts are another impediment to the effective enforcement of a state’s DUI laws.

Executive Summary: Criminal justice professionals, particularly those in the public sector, face a substantial number of cases at any given time. The lack of available time and attention may jeopardize the quality of work in complex and demanding cases such as DUI cases charged against repeat offenders or stemming from serious crashes. Because hardcore repeat offenders often choose trials over plea negotiations, these cases demand more time and resources, further straining the professional’s schedule.

More Detail: Heavy caseloads are not a unique problem to the impaired driving issue. However, given the frequency at which DUI cases are filed, the two issues are closely linked. The rate of DUI cases results in heavier caseloads, forcing the judges and prosecutors to spend less time on each case. This can result in these professionals mishandling hardcore recidivists, resulting in repeat DUI arrests and consequently, more trials over plea agreements.

Absent the initiation of a DWI court to handle all DUI related cases, there are still some things that can improve performance in this regard. There are efforts in some jurisdictions to recruit those patrol officers, prosecutors and judges who are more fully invested than some of their counterparts in the fair and effective enforcement of their state’s DUI laws to bring, try and adjudicate such cases. Doing so would be the administrative responsibility of law enforcement leadership, prosecution and the judiciary and would amount to a more focused approach to the case management of DUI cases than is normally the situation.

Some states require that DUI cases be given priority handling by the courts, but in lieu of such a law, each stakeholder could ensure priority handling of DUI cases as a matter of rule or policy. Adoption of a “no plea bargain” protocol for DUI cases or an “early trial rule” regarding such cases, is another way to restrict the cavalier ways these case are handled in some heavy volume districts and courts.  Prior to adoption of such a protocol or rule the court must be assured it can handle an increase in the number of jury trials.

 

Suggested Audience: Prosecutors, Judges