Guilford County has received a grant to establish a DWI task force. The funding, from the Governor’s Highway Safety Program, will create 3 new positions in the Sheriff’s department and 2 in the High Point police department. The city of Greensboro did not receive funds, but will assign 2 officers to be full time members of the task force.
For everyone who drives in Guilford County, this should be a reassuring development. For some, though, cynicism may kick in. In order to renew the grant after the trial period of 1 year is up, the task force will have to prove that there is good cause to fund another year. How better to show this than by having a lot of arrests to show? Guilford County will be facing the same issue, to a lesser degree, that we as a nation face- how do we keep citizens safe, while not trampling on civil rights?
Drivers have a right to go about their business unmolested. This means safe from drunk drivers, and it means safe from fear that waiting a few seconds after a red light turns green could lead to being pulled for Driving While Impaired. Since “impairment” includes more than simply alcohol, a person carrying prescriptions in a non-pharmacy container could be charged.
North Carolina has several counties that now boast a DWI task force, some even have special DWI courts. Even counties with neither special police units nor special courts provide additional training to District Attorneys who will handle DWIs. The only group that does not have a special team is the accused. Many attorneys throughout the state make concerted efforts to improve the knowledge base for defending DWIs, but they lack the unified support that every other party to a DWI- police, state prosecutors, and sometimes judges- (The Institute of Government) have.
If you have been accused of Driving While Impaired, interview the Law Firm you are considering hiring carefully. Ask how many DWIs the Firm actually handles each month and each year. Ask if the Firm regularly pleads people Not Guilty, and actually fight the charges. Typically if you are charged in North Carolina you will receive more than a dozen letters from attorneys who offer their services. While they may handle these cases in a general way, check into how many they have actually plead Not Guilty tried out to the finish. Some lawyers may tell you to simply plead guilty, but discuss your cases with several attorneys and see if you have a valid defense, then consider the path you should take.
Efforts to keep innocent drivers and passengers safe should always be welcomed. But this welcome does not have to be blind. Protection of some should never cost others freedom.