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DWI defendants miss out on speedy trial in North Carolina

North Carolina has a reputation as having some of the most stringent rules for drunk driving. Now, some residents are calling for even more regulation, considering the shocking number of individuals arrested for DWI every year in the state. Authorities report that nearly 50,000 people were arrested within the state's borders for drunk driving during 2013, and 388 fatal alcohol-related crashes occurred.

Experts in the field say that although the state has tightened rules in recent decades -- lowering the legal limit to 0.08 percent and permitting the seizure of DWI offenders' vehicles -- there is still work to be done. Offenders are reportedly lost in the system on occasion, largely because of a massive backlog in blood alcohol testing. Defendants in the state may wait up to two years to have their blood test results confirmed.

That large backlog has led to a discussion about defendants' rights, as several cases have had to be dismissed because the state's speedy trial law was violated. Misdemeanor charges are subject to a two-year statute of limitations. Agencies are struggling to provide the necessary information within that time period. In many cases, a drunk driving trial cannot proceed without blood alcohol values.

Not only do delayed blood alcohol tests lead to violations of defendants' rights; experts say they can also be blamed for repeat DWI offenses. Additional victims may be injured or killed because penalties are not handed down quickly enough. That could change with the completion of a law enforcement facility that would include expanded laboratory capacity. A task force is also examining new methods to speed analysis and ensure that defendants get the quick legal proceedings they deserve, all as part of a comprehensive effort to reduce drunk driving in the state.

DWI defendants whose cases are being stalled may benefit from a consultation with a North Carolina attorney. These professionals may be able to provide more information about defendants' legal rights. Remember that an arrest for drunk driving does not mean that the defendant is automatically guilty; all drunk driving defendants deserve an unbiased legal proceeding.

Source: Times-News Online, "Tough laws may need to be tougher" No author given, Feb. 07, 2014

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