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“It’s about the safety of this community”: Mecklenburg County DA works on backlog of DWI cases

Updated: Jun. 14, 2021 at 6:21 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A major backlog in DWI cases that have piled up over the years and has gotten even worse with the pandemic.

The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office says there are more then 3,000 cases pending. The office estimates about 1,000 of those are backed up solely because of COVID-19.

So to do something about it, the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s office is spending the next 10 weeks focusing on prosecuting these cases.

Deputy District Attorney Bruce Lillie says drunk driving is one of the main reasons for deadly crashes. He says it’s their job to make sure they bring these cases to court and hold people responsible for their actions. That’s why the DA’s office is making this set of cases a priority.

“When we’re unable to get to these cases this past year, it’s been frustrating for many, especially for the DA’s in this office,” said Lillie.

But the DA’s office has a plan and it’s already in place. They’re a full week into a 10 week session to close as many DWI cases as possible. But they say it’s not just about the numbers.

”When we talk about backlog, people hear numbers. But it’s not about numbers, it’s about victims, it’s about the safety of this community and that’s how we look at it,” he said.

Mothers Against Drunk Driving say it’s important for victims and their family members that these cases get back in the court room as soon as possible.

“They’re already coping with an injury of a loss of a loved one or a family member and that alone is difficult enough t cope with. Whenever victims have to deal with the justice system, that can feel stressful,” said Emily Ferraro, the court monitoring specialist in North Carolina for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

Ferraro works with the courts on behalf of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. She says the delay in court proceedings makes it hard for families to move forward when they’re still seeking justice.

“Every victim we work with, every family we work with, even before COVID was desperate for these cases to move along,” said Ferraro. “I think it does leave this uncertainty with family that leave it more difficult to cope with their grief.”

Mothers Against Drunk Drivers says we’re now in the 100 deadliest days of summer, between Memorial Day and Labor Day They say there’s usually a big jump in DWI cases and crashes

During the 10-week process, the Mecklenburg County DA’s office hope to get through 500-750 cases.

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