One of the most important rights individuals accused of a crime possess is the right to due process. In King County, however, justice and speedy trials are being compromised by an overburdened court system. For many throughout the local and legal communities, King County courts have a serious problem – they're congested. One King County District Court Judge – who sees as many as 66 cases on a day's docket – commented that there are simply too many cases and not enough court time. This problem, if left unaddressed, can lead to problems– especially for those accused of crimes.
According to a recent article from KUOW.org, prosecutors in King County filed nearly 10,000 cases in 2013. With such a large number of cases being ushered through the court system, fairness and justice become difficult to achieve, and re-scheduling and delays are common. These factors can also affect the outcome of cases.
A large caseload has already led to legal difficulties. In April of last year, one swamped District Court Judge offered defendants charged with driving with a suspended license a plea deal of a $248 fine or 25 hours of community service. Dozens of people took the deal and pleaded guilty to a criminal offense. Because the judge was more concerned with lightening the caseload than fairness or justice, she was admonished by the Washington state Judicial Commission and was ordered to take ethics training.
For defendants, the plea deal was appealing for the very same reason it was appealing to the judge – it saves time and hassle. In fact, many defendants choose not to pursue a trial simply because of the time associated with the process. Many view trials as a maze of red tape and bureaucracy that can cost them time away from work. As a result, many choose to plead guilty or accept plea deals simply to avoid the hassle. This, many legal experts state, is not what the court system was intended to achieve.
Finding Solutions & Dealing with "The System"
King County's heavy caseload can be found in courts throughout Washington and the country. In King County, the problem is often made worse by an outdated, 34-year-old case management system still being used in 150 district courts, as well as judge's using state law to extend the length of cases. This affects case outcomes and one's right to a speedy trial.
Solutions to King County's problems are being explored and pilot programs have been implemented in some district courts. Because defendants still face barriers in the overcrowded court system, working with an experienced attorney becomes all the more important.
At DUI Heroes, Seattle DUI attorney Jonathan Dichter works personally with clients to guide them through an imperfect system. His commitment to clients and to protecting their rights often makes the differences in cases, and is one of the driving forces behind our firm's record of success.
If you or someone you know has recently been charged with driving under the influence (DUI), call 425-296-9358 for a FREE case evaluation to learn more about your rights and the process ahead.