On May 22, 2006 Nassau County got its dedicated DWI Part. An important piece of newly elected DA Kathleen Rice's personal war on DWI, the part is meant to speed up the time between arrest and adjudication of DWI cases. The fact is, if you are arrested for DWI in Nassau County NY, guilty or not, it is going to cost you a lot of money.
In her press release and in interviews about the new court, Rice has spoken about rehabilitation for DWI convicts, she has also spoken about harsh punishments, giving criminal records to otherwise law abiding people, and taking a zero tolerance attitude toward people accused of the crime.
In court I have seen an increase in the number of times bail is sought in these cases as well as an increase in the amount of bail requested by the district attorney. This of course unfairly burdens the poor, who are no less likely to come to court than their rich counterparts, but who can rarely afford the bail of the more wealthy. Rice's minions have failed to address the issue. Then again the poor rarely vote.
As far as plea bargaining goes, the conviction will have a far greater effect on the unskilled laborer or mid level working poor than on their rich counterparts. Loss of their vehicle will be more of a disadvantage. Rice doesn't seem to care, based on her plea policy. She is taking a zero tolerance view. After all a poor drunk can kill just as well as a rich one can. However fatalities are the exception not the rule when it comes to DWI. Of course the media would have you believe otherwise but then again, that information doesn't sell newspapers.
That Rice doesn't look at the collateral consequences and their cost to the individual defendant disturbs me to no small amount. However she is only 1/3 of the equation. Another 1/3 part is now the one judge who is assigned in Nassau County to hear all the DWI cases in the District Court. Now note, felonies are much more serious, however no County Court judge would allow himself to get stuck handling DWI's as his whole docket. So we will put the court in misdemeanor land and make an example out of the guy who has had one too many and never even spit on the sidewalk otherwise. Afterall without the new part we can't have a press conference or make it look like we are really addressing an issue.
It is interesting that in the article cited above, the new Nassau DWI supervisor, Maureen McCormick, talks about some guy who killed someone or another guy who has 11 previous convictions. These guys will never see the inside of the new DWI part. Here again we have to wonder why the fanfare and the inconvienence of this new "initiative." As I noted above, the truth doesn't sell papers or buy votes. It does corrupt justice however.
The problem with a dedicated part with only one judge is that a judge seeing only DWI's and seeing the same ADA's all the time is more susceptible to being subverted by the government's position. It is human nature to want to get along with the people you are working with. If the only people he sees day in and day out are the six assistants in the part subversion is likely. Moreover, the oppportunity for inadverdent ex parte communications rises precipitously. That further prejudices a defendant who we should remember is only charged with the crime. A further problem isolating this jurist is that it is also unlikely that there will be any dissenting opinions being decided in the court on the issues of these cases that he can rely on (or that can be argued) to persuade him to decide issues differently. This judge becomes the only law of the land as to the issues on these cases. An almost supersupreme court for DWIs.
What makes DWI so damn different? Why does it need its own court and not assaults in bars (also often caused by alcohol) Reckless endangerment, resisting arrest, or any other alcohol or drug related crime? Hell there would be almost no crime if it were'nt for intoxicants. Under the District Attorney's theory all the cases should be in one court and one judge.
Because DWI crosses the lines of Race and Class. It sells papers, it makes one look like they are doing something about a dangerous situation, even when the opposite is true. It buys votes.
Kathleen Rice is a smart Politician. I already knew that when she beat Dennis Dillon in the last election. She has yet to show me she is a good District Attorney. This latest power grab hasn't helped. It is like taking candy from a baby. I want to see her conviction rate in felony DWI cases. I want to see her recidivism rate there too. After all you can only lock them up for so long. Her success on this issue shouldn't be measured by how many she can lock up or coerce into a plea. It should be measured by her success in getting them into a rehab and attacking the reason why people drive drunk. Crippling their chances at making a decent living is probably not a step in the right direction... Then again solving the problem through a real rehabilitation program that carries a carrot along with a stick wouldn't sell papers...or buy votes.
If you are handling your first DWI case and would like to discuss your dwi case with me, feel free to call me at 516-741-3400 or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you or a loved one is charged with a DWI click here to see if we can help. We are available 24 hours a day 7 days a week 365 days a year. Whatever you do, don't wait to find a lawyer. Call in the middle of the night. The faster you have a good and knowledgable Criminal Lawyer, the better chance you have of beating the charge of DWI.