Local DWI courts sorting through hundreds of cases

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On a Thursday morning in Courtroom 1D of the Guilford County Courthouse, Judge Tabatha Holliday is all business.

“The verdict of the court is guilty of driving while impaired. Show that there is one grossly aggravating factor,” she tells her courtroom. “Surrender any driver’s license today to the clerk of courts. Not operate a motor vehicle until you're licensed to do so or have a valid privilege.”

She is working one of Guilford County’s two, dedicated DWI courtrooms.

“Four and five hundred cases every day in Greensboro and we have a fulltime court in High Point with four or five hundred cases every day in High Point and it's not enough to move all the DWI cases,” said Tom Jarrell, Chief District Court Judge. “We have the most productive DWI task force in the state.”

A group of officers--some are from the High Point Police Department and some are from the Guilford County Sheriff’s Office--are dedicated to finding and getting impaired drivers off the road.

The Greensboro Police Department pulled out of the group a few months ago.

“Some of these people we deal with, they have a drinking problem and they're continuing to drive,” Sgt. Kevin Wallace said, who runs the program for the sheriff’s office.

That’s because, when Jarrell began the dedicated court on January 1, 2018, there were more than four hundred DWI cases that were more than four years old.

Until a recent North Carolina Supreme Court decision, many cases were so old the statute of limitations on them had expired. That court decision, though, removed the statute so there are cases that are decades old that now have to be adjudicated.

“You think about the person who habitually reoffends on a DWI: they're the most dangerous person in our community as far as killing an innocent family,” Jarrell said.

That’s why Jarrell began this court.

See how well it’s doing in this edition of the Buckley Report.

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