DWI Cases Now Handled in Criminal Court

Posted on May 22, 2017

The City of New Orleans is now prosecuting DWI cases in Criminal Court. The city has decided to take these cases very seriously and has ended the practice of city attorneys prosecuting offenders in Traffic Court.

DWI Cases in New Orleans

photo by Engin Akyurt

District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro said this will allow his prosecutors to go after repeat offenders and drivers with high blood-alcohol levels. He claimed that there are more than 14,000 open DWI cases in Traffic Court that date back to the 1980’s. He believes that prosecuting these cases in Criminal Court will be a more efficient way to handle them.

There has also been poor record keeping of DWI cases in Traffic Court, making it difficult to determine the status on its cases.

“I’m simply looking to try and more efficiently handle the DWIs in the city of New Orleans,” Cannizzaro said, “so we don’t create some public safety issue by causing the intoxicated driver to get out on the street and hurt an innocent person,”

DWI prosecutions generate around $1 million per year in revenue to the city.

Cannizzaro’s office received a $600,000 budget cut this year but he said that the move isn’t a way to bring the department more money, stating, “We are not going to be in a position to make up those budget cuts by simply bringing those DWI cases into the Criminal District Court.”

The chief of trials for the Orleans Parish Public Defender’s Office said he thinks that moving DWI cases to Criminal Court will deplete his resources and put added stress on their already heavy load. He also stated that the hundreds of new cases coming to his public defenders could result in longer pretrial incarceration for defendants who can’t afford to pay bail.

Cannizzaro believes that this is a necessary change to keep people safe. Orleans Parish was the only parish in the state in which the DA’s office did not have jurisdiction over DWI prosecutions.