MADD’s Court Monitoring Program enlists court monitors to observe and document what happens in the courtroom during impaired driving case proceedings. The national program, which began in 2015 as part of our Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving and has monitored more than 100,000 cases already, was created to ensure that impaired driving offenders are prosecuted and justice is achieved. It is intended to enhance transparency and accountability within the criminal justice system and reduce the likelihood of repeat offenses. One way this is achieved is by sharing data and observations with law enforcement, judges, prosecutors, and the public to promote awareness of impaired driving and ensure accountability for all impaired driving offenders. To that end, each year, MADD releases our findings in an annual report.
The 2021 Court Monitoring Report includes the reporting period 1/1/20 – 12/31/20 and monitored misdemeanor DUI cases. (Cases involving serious injury or death are not included in these findings.) Upon review of 2020 case data, MADD saw that arrests remained constant for impaired driving offenses, even though vehicle miles decreased by 5% during the first quarter of 2020 due the onset of the pandemic.
Data collected by MADD Court Monitors in the 17 states participating in the program, revealed that only 63% of drunk driving charges resulted in a guilty conviction. Despite court closings and virtual hearings during the pandemic, we were pleased to see that the conviction rate is up 6.7% from 2019, when MADD’s court monitors noted an average 59% conviction rate. MADD National President Alex Otte said, “A less than two-thirds conviction rate is not enough, but it’s encouraging to see that we are moving in the right direction and holding more drunk driving offenders accountable. MADD will continue to put more monitors in courtrooms to ensure judges and prosecutors are treating drunk driving like the violent crime that it is, even as they work to clear the backlog of cases caused by the pandemic.”
In Tennessee, the number was even lower. Only 56% of cases monitored in 2020 resulted in a guilty conviction. Twenty-six percent (26%) of Tennessee cases were dismissed or amended to a lesser charge. For 80% of the offenders, it was their first DUI arrest. Twenty percent (20%) of Tennessee offenders had previously been arrested for DUI at least once before.
Among the 17 states reporting, 35% of defendants had a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08-.14. Twenty-six (26%) percent had a BAC of .15-.19, 16% showed .20-.25, and 19% registered .26 or higher. Also noted was that 73% of those arrested were male. Thirty-two (32%) of all defendants monitored were between the ages of 21-29 and 28% were between the ages of 30-39.