The State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) is investigating former Wake County Judge Kristin Ruth, Raleigh DWI defense attorney James Crouch and two of his legal assistants in connection with at least a dozen DWI cases that were allegedly mishandled. Judge Ruth stepped down from the bench a month ago after 13 years of service but denies knowingly taking part in the bad acts under investigation.
A Wake County prosecutor noticed that conviction dates were being changed on orders presented by Crouch and signed by Judge Ruth. The prosecutor brought the inconsistency to the Superior Court judge who then alerted the SBI. Neither Ruth nor Crouch have had criminal charges filed against them, but the Grand Jury has requested that the district attorney's office continue its investigation.
Driver's license suspension and revocation is just one of the penalties for a drunk driving conviction in North Carolina. The one year license suspension can be postponed by filing an appeal of a DWI conviction to Superior Court. If the appeal is abandoned, which commonly happens, the DWI case goes back to the District Court and the convicted drunk driver is sentenced. Once the case returns to District Court, the one-year license suspension kicks back in.
However, in the 12 DWI cases under investigation, Judge Ruth signed court orders that changed the conviction date to months or even a year prior to what a previous judge had entered. That meant that some of Crouch's DWI clients may have avoided a full year with a suspended license for a DWI conviction.
Ruth asserts that she did not read the orders submitted by Crouch and that had she done so, she would not have signed them. There is no indication that those who received drunk driving convictions but benefitted from the orders with changed conviction dates will have their driver's licenses revoked for the full one-year period.
Source: News Observer, "Grand jury calls for further investigation into Wake DWI cases," Anne Blythe and Amanda James