So, for anyone who’s ever been through a DWI charge in Wake County, they may have heard a reference to a courtroom ‘5C.’ As a Raleigh DWI Defense Attorney, I have resolved many cases in courtroom 5C and though it has gone through several revisions recently, it has come to be a tried and true way to try and resolve Wake County DWI trials in an efficient method.
First, for clarification, courtroom 5C is a courtroom set aside just for DWI trials. Now, in many cases DWI cases are plead in 5C for one reason or another, but for the most part, it’s there for DWI trials. The purpose of courtroom 5C was to allow the State to organize their case so that on the date of trial, they had all necessary witnesses and the case would not be unnecessarily continued taking up the court and the Defendant’s time. This differs from regular district court in that in regular court, the Defendant and/or Defense counsel come to court and if the State is not prepared to proceed to trial that day, the case will be continued. This option of a continuance goes both ways as the Defendant and/or their defense attorney can continue a case if they are not ready to proceed on the court date. Obviously, this cannot go on forever, so both sides can eventually run out of continuances and will be forced to proceed with their case at that time.
However, with courtroom 5C, was used to transpire was the State would motion to continue to place the case in 5C, where no date certain would be provided. Then, at a later point, once the State is certain they can proceed with the case, they set the court date and notify the Defendant. Well, this Wake County Defense Attorney, along with many others, took exception to this design as the State was being given an unfair advantage in setting the trial date at their leisure. As a result of the Defense Bar’s complaints, Wake County Courthouse changed local rules so that once a matter was set to 5C, and administrative date was set, and on that date, the trial date would be set. This seemed to be a fair compromise as both the State and the Defendant were provided a date certain for their trial and could plan accordingly. Unfortunately, this has NOT been how this court has been handled recently.
Five times this year alone, and four in the last month, I have had DWI trials set in 5C. On those dates, myself, my clients and sometimes my clients family would show up to court on their date ready to argue our case. On these particular dates, the State was NOT ready proceed with their case and a District Court Judge granted the State’s motion to continue to another date for trial. Now, you may be saying to yourself that certainly the State must have a good reason to continue the case from it’s original trial date, which has been in place for months. Certainly there’s some medical emergency or unforeseen circumstances in which the State could not have anticipated and therefore should be given another opportunity to try the case; NOPE! In each of these cases, the State had to try and continue the case because they failed to subpoena their witnesses; in other words, they weren’t prepared for trial. And in each of these cases, the sitting Wake County District Court Judge granted State’s motion to continue. Could you image if I, as a Raleigh DWI Attorney, stood up for that same Judge, in a courtroom with the State and State’s witnesses ready to proceed, and asked to continue a case set for trial for the sole reason that, though I was aware of the trial date for months, I simply was not prepared to try the case because I didn’t do my job?
What’s worse, if the Judge had denied the State’s motion, the State would have been forced to dismiss the case, but they would NOT be without recourse. The State enjoys the privilege, not only have being able to set the dates for trials, but also to refile charges against Defendants that have been dismissed without prejudice. So, the State, if they so chose, could have refiled the charges if they felt strongly enough about prosecuting my clients.
But alas, this is what has happened. My clients day in court was pushed off for lack of due diligence on the part of the State and the Judges rewarded this lack of preparedness by permitting the case to be continued. What is especially frustrating about this process is the fact that this is contrary to local rules. Certainly, Judge’s enjoy the discretion in granting these motions, and under unforseen circumstances I would have no complaint. But the whole purpose of courtroom 5C was to allow the Defendant and the State to be given a date certain for trial in order to prepare accordingly and not waste precious judicial resources by needlessly continue cases over and over as both sides prepare.
So, from here forward, when my clients hire me as their Raleigh DWI Lawyer, I will fight vigorously in opposing in State’s motions to move a case to 5C as the State enjoys the benefit of multiple bites at the apple to prepare for trial while the Defendant is left wondering why their case is not being heard when it is suppose to.