North Carolina provides data on current pending DWIs in each county’s court system. This data includes the case number, the defendant’s name and address (which is how someone charged with a DWI is inundated with letters from lawyers, substance abuse providers, and other services), race, gender, and the current status of the case (whether the case is in District or Superior Courts).
As I’ve discussed elsewhere, a DWI starts in District Court, and may be appealed to Superior Court upon a finding of guilt. DWIs are supposed to be appealed for a trial de novo in front of a jury in Superior Court, but many DWIs are eventually returned (“remanded”) to District Court for compliance with the District Court judgment.
I conducted a brief statistical analysis – I’m calling this the Health of Wake County’s DWI Court Cases – on all current pending DWI cases today, June 7, 2012.
There are a total of 3,459 DWIs pending in Wake County’s court system. 83 percent (2,869 DWIs) are in District Court. 17 percent (590 DWIs) are in Superior Court.
Of the current DWIs, the racial break down is – 64 percent white, 27 percent black, 6 percent Hispanic, 1 percent Asian, .5 percent Indian.
Of the current DWIs, 72 percent are male, and 28 percent are female.
Of the current DWIs, 48 percent are from 2012, 42 percent are from 2011, 8 percent are from 2010, 1 percent are from 2009, and about 1 percent are from years before 2009.
What can you learn from this data? Well, keep in mind that these statistics are based on current pending DWIs, not DWI arrests. For instance, the racial breakdown of pending DWIs doesn’t necessarily reflect the racial breakdown of DWI arrests. Some socio-economic groups may resolve DWIs more quickly because they either have or lack the financial means to deal with DWIs quickly, or to fight DWIs for longer period of times.
Other guesses can be made based on these statistics. Assuming there has been no recent major uptick, or downtick, of DWI arrests, then Wake County averages about 3,000 DWI arrests a year, or about 250 arrests a month.
This makes Wake County a safe county in terms of DWIs, given national and state statistics. For instance, in 2007 – the last year for which statistics are readily available – 26,928 people were arrested in North Carolina for DWI out of a total population of 9 million or less than 1 percent (0.3 percent). By contrast, 3,000 were arrested in Wake County out of 900,000 citizens in Wake County or less than 1 percent (0.3 percent).
Since Wake County has larger number of police than rural counties, the enforcement rate would naturally be higher in Wake County, meaning that while there may be a greater likelihood of DWIs in other counties, some of those people would not be caught.