Mecklenburg Co. DA firing back at state report over DWI dismissals

by: Kathryn Burcham Updated:

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. - The Mecklenburg County District Attorney's Office is firing back at a state report that stated prosecutors dismissed nearly 50 percent of DWI cases in the county.

The report from the State Auditor's Office analyzed data from 2011-12 and listed Mecklenburg County as dismissing 47 percent of cases, more than twice the state average.

But Thursday, DWI prosecutor Bruce Lillie called that number skewed.

"That number doesn't reflect the hard work that's being done by the DA's office, by law enforcement, by members of the court system," Lillie said.

Lillie said the Auditor's Office analyzed data from the same year Mecklenburg County switched over to a new warrant system, NC AWARE, a computer program now being used statewide to help track criminals.

As a result, Lillie said county officials purged nearly 1,000 old DWI cases from the records, some dating back to over a decade -- and that those cases were reflected as "dismissed" by state officials.

"These were cases that we were never, ever going to be able to prosecute, they were so old," Lillie said.

Lillie also said while the state listed the 47 percent as "DWI Dismissals," analysts actually looked at cases that involved all kinds of impaired driving charges, including consuming while driving and aiding and abetting, further skewing the numbers.

Local defense attorney Brad Smith, who represents accused drunk drivers, agreed.
"We're certainly not living in a county where the district attorney's office doesn't take these cases seriously," Smith said.

When contacted by Eyewitness News to ask about its methodology in the report, state officials at the Auditor's Office said the report speaks for itself and they stand by their research.