Officials in Sullivan County, Tenn., are looking to change how some drunken driving arrests are made after finding a “deficiency” in the criminal process that has led to charges being dismissed in several cases and threatened in others.
The county’s criminal judges say that some late-night or weekend DUI arrests haven’t followed a required legal step of getting a magistrate’s approval, the Kingsport Times-News reports.
“What we’re dealing with is after-hours situations,” Judge Ray Conkin said, “when arrests are made in the middle of the night or on the weekend or a holiday. The officer sets out a set of facts, swears that they’re truthful and then it goes from there. For 20-some years, the officer has appeared in front of a notary, an employee of the jail either in Kingsport or Blountville. We’ve been told that process is not valid and does not follow state law.”
Conkin, along with judges Jim Goodwin and Mark Toohey, attended the county commission’s work session last week to plead for a fix.
The commission is expected to consider appointing four magistrates, who would be on call at night and on weekends and holidays and would meet face-to-face with arresting officers to approve or deny their causes to support the arrests.
“This is not just housekeeping,” Commissioner Robert White said. “This is state law. This is one of the most important things we will do this year. We’re setting the record straight. We’re straightening up the law. And everything going forward will run much more smoothly.”
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