Changes in Wake County DWI Courtrooms

Wake County continues to have the largest number of DWI arrests of any county in the State. In short, DWI enforcement in Raleigh is up. And, apparently, general traffic citations are somewhat down in Raleigh and the surrounding areas.

In order to address the backlog of DWI cases, the court system has recently made changes that affect the way DWIs are handled.

First, Wake County courtroom 1A, which has generally be used as a disposition courtroom focusing on mainly traffic offenses, will now have a magistrate between the hours of 7:45 and 9:00 am and again between 2:00 pm and 3:30 when the courtroom closes.

Second, the District Court judge who used to occupy courtroom 1A will only be in that courtroom from 9:00 until 1:00 (i.e., the morning session.) Traffic matters or more serious misdemeanors that require a judge’s input can be disposed of between 9:00 and 1:00 in 1A. This matters most of all in the case where the defendant is requesting a Prayer for Judgment Continued, and the State does not consent. The case will either need to be resolved between 9:00 and 1:00 in 1A or may be referred out to a District Court judge to make a determination about whether a PJC is warranted. Magistrates are not permitted to make independent determinations about PJCs, except when both parties consent.

Third, the District Court judge will be in courtroom 5B in the afternoon to handle overflow DWI cases. Wake County has already had a DWI specific courtroom for years (formerly 9G, now 5C). Excess DWIs will be put into 5B for resolution or trial.

Fourth, given that the State Bureau of Investigation’s Crime Lab has been so overwhelmed with blood cases and understaffed, most Wake County blood draws are now being handled by the City-County Bureau of Identification. CCBI has much quicker turn around. I’ve seen blood cases return with results before the first DWI court date, a vast improvement over waiting times of a year or two with the SBI.

Fifth, given that certain DWI blood draws are returning so quickly, the State is issuing Civil Revocation paperwork to DWI defendants who have been able to keep their licenses pending the results of the blood tests. Where the blood comes back a .08 or above, the court sends the DWI defendant a notice instructing them to turn in their licenses. Arguably, this creates a double-jeopardy issue.

These changes may affect the way your DWI is handled. Consult with an aggressive Raleigh DWI lawyer.

Damon Chetson

Damon Chetson is a Board Certified Specialist in State and Federal Criminal Law. He represents people charged with serious and minor offenses in Raleigh, Wake County, and the Eastern District of North Carolina. Call (919) 352-9411.