MADD’s Court Monitoring Shows Low Rates of Conviction on Original Charges

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New Report Presents a Cross-Section of Data from Select Jurisdictions in 11 States

Mothers Against Drunk Driving

Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is releasing a new report ahead of the busy Labor Day weekend that shows an alarming trend of pleading down drunk driving charges and low conviction rates in some jurisdictions monitored across the country.

“With traffic deaths expected to rise again this year, it’s more important than ever to support law enforcement during the federal Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over crackdown leading up to, and during, the busy Labor Day weekend,” said MADD National President Colleen Sheehey-Church.

The Court Monitoring Program is part of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®, launched in 2006, to support law enforcement efforts to protect the public from the 100 percent preventable crime of drunk driving.

As part of MADD’s Court Monitoring Program, MADD volunteers attend judicial proceedings involving drunk driving cases to ensure laws are being enforced and prosecuted to the fullest extent. Volunteers document every step of the judicial process and enter the disposition, age, gender, outcome and other information about each case. Court monitoring is active in 13 states across the country, with plans to expand to other states as volunteers and funding become available. States with court monitoring are:

  • Arizona
  • Connecticut
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • Virginia

MADD’s first-ever Court Monitoring Report reveals observations in 11 states that have collected data for at least one year in at least one jurisdiction. The results are from a diverse cross-section of jurisdictions across the country. Further information is needed to produce complete statewide and nationwide results.

“This initial data collection shows the disparities among jurisdictions in how drunk driving cases are treated — and what we can learn by expanding the program,” said Sheehey-Church. “This is another way MADD can support victims and our law enforcement heroes by making sure drunk driving offenders are held accountable for their actions.”

Among the report findings are conviction rates in states with jurisdictions monitored, disposition of cases, sanctions imposed, and average offender age groups.

MADD’s court monitors have found jurisdictions in Missouri and Louisiana, for example, have conviction rates on original drunk driving charges of 33.87 percent and 36.51 percent, respectively, in the first half of 2017. Other states, such as Ohio, Tennessee and Texas show unusually high rates of conviction on original drunk driving charges, with 89 percent to 90 percent in the jurisdictions monitored this year. These variations indicate discrepancies in how court cases are handled across the country — and the need for more court monitors.

Cases monitored and closed during the first half of 2017 also resulted in a wide range of sanctions. For example, jail time was imposed in 10 percent of the cases, community service in 9 percent and Victim Impact Panels and court fees in 13 percent.

The report also includes personal stories from court monitors, and an example of more detailed state findings in South Carolina, where court monitors found major differences in how cases were handled in the state’s 13th and 5th Circuit Courts.

“The whole purpose of court monitoring is to identify trends or weaknesses in the system, and we are already seeing this in the courts we are monitoring,” Sheehey-Church said. “Now MADD is calling on our supporters and volunteers to join us — even if they have just an hour or two a week. We need to send the message that MADD is watching.”

About Mothers Against Drunk Driving
Founded in 1980 by a mother whose daughter was killed by a drunk driver, Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) is the nation’s largest nonprofit working to end drunk driving, help fight drugged driving, support the victims of these violent crimes and prevent underage drinking. MADD has helped to save more than 350,000 lives, reduce drunk driving deaths by more than 50 percent and promote designating a non-drinking driver. MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving® calls for law enforcement support, ignition interlocks for all offenders and advanced vehicle technology. MADD has provided supportive services to nearly one million drunk and drugged driving victims and survivors at no charge through local victim advocates and the 24-Hour Victim Help Line 1-877-MADD-HELP. Visit http://www.madd.org or call 1-877-ASK-MADD.

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Becky Iannotta
@MADDOnline
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Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD)
since: 09/1980
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