‘The instances had been simply sitting there’ | After delays attributable to pandemic, Mecklenburg County DA workplace specializing in prosecuting DWI case backlog

Some cases being prosecuted date back as far as 2018 due to delays from the pandemic.

MECKLENBURG COUNTY, N.C. — The Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s is focusing on prosecuting driving while impaired cases for the next 10 weeks.

According to the district attorney’s office, there are a little more than 3,000 pending DWI cases in the county, with many that stretch back to 2018 or 2019 due to the delays caused by the pandemic.

“DWIs are one of our most important types of cases that we have because drunk driving is inherently dangerous,” said Bruce Lillie, deputy district attorney in Mecklenburg County. “The victims weren’t getting their day in court. Defendants weren’t getting their day in court. The cases were just sitting there and getting older.”

DWI trials resumed in Mecklenburg County in March for the first time since the pandemic hit the community.

Starting June 7, a courtroom will be dedicated to addressing the DWI backlog for the next 10 weeks.

Lillie said the district attorney’s office is hoping to get through 500 to 750 cases during that time period, allowing the judicial process to play out for defendants accused of DWI and giving victims a chance to finally be heard.

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“We know that victims have been really impacted by COVID because they haven’t had that chance,” Lillie said. “So it’s not only important for the community and for public safety, but it’s important for these citizens who unfortunately found themselves to be victims.”

Lillie said prosecutors with the district attorney’s office have gotten more than 80% guilty verdicts in DWI trials in past weeks, with many others pleading guilty.

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