Reading about drunk driving arrests here and there in the news is obviously one way of gauging the number of intoxicated driving incidents that occur throughout the Garden State. But until one actually sees the extensive number of active and pending DWI court cases on the docket at courthouses throughout New Jersey it is difficult to imagine the sheer volume of DWI-related traffic offenses that gain the attention of our legal system on a weekly, monthly or yearly basis.
Of course, as experienced drunken driving defense attorneys, I and my staff of skilled trial lawyers live this story every day. We can easily comprehend the huge burden that DWI and drug DUI cases exert on our court system. Yet we also believe that every individual who is charged with an offense, be it civil or criminal, deserves his day in court should he choose to go that route. And why not? Every one accused of a crime, civil infraction or other statutory offense should seriously consider exercising his right to have his case be heard in a court of law.
It is for this reason that we always encourage motorists who feel they have been unjustly accused of operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, doctor-prescribed medications or even illicit drugs, to take their case to court and fight for their rights under the law. Still, it is sobering for the public, if we may chose that term, to read articles like the one we ran into a short while back. The news item in question pointed out that Bergen County alone has a serious backlog of more than 500 drunk driving and DUI cases out of about 1,000 pending adjudication.
According to news reports back in April, Bergen County’s court system had identified four municipalities in particular that had a relatively large number of backlogged drunken driving cases including Cliffside Park (35), Elmwood Park (25), Fort Lee (25), and Mahwah (38). Readers should understand that the county defines a “backlogged” case as one that has been pending for more than 60 days.
Taking a look at those numbers, although the individual totals may not seem like much on their face, consider that of these four worst offenders, whose combined backlog as of early April was 123 cases, also had another 100-plus newer DWI cases waiting in the wings. And, as a drunk driving defense attorney, I can say without any trepidation that ever more potential DWI-DUI cases are always in the pipeline.
Needless to say, the problem of case backlog as it applies to driving under the influence is rather concerning for Bergen County’s judges. According to Judge Roy McGeady, the Hackensack, NJ, Superior Court judge in charge of all of Bergen County’s municipal courts, the backlog analysis focused on DWI cases mainly because of what he described as a “potential disaster” for other drivers in Bergen and New Jersey in general due to drunken driving cases potentially not being adjudicated properly.
The solution appears to be the addition of additional court sessions to help whittle away at the staggering backlog, which followed a meeting between Judge McGeady and a number of other Bergen County officials. For example, Mahwah’s court administration subsequently announced that it would add one more court session each month that would be solely dedicated to adjudicating the drunken driving caseload.
Based on estimates for coming out of Mahwah, it is expected that the backlog could be completely eliminated by year’s end. Slow as this might seem, it is certainly a step in the right direction. We’ll wait and see how this works for the county. As I mentioned previously, there are always new DWI-DUI cases being generated across this state on a regular basis.
Backlogged DWI Cases in Bergen County, Patch.com, April 25, 2013
Mahwah Court Backlogged with ‘Large Volume’ of DWI Cases, Patch.com, April 8, 2013