Chief judge explains lengthy process of DUI cases

LAS VEGAS -- Last year Las Vegas' Justice and Municipal courts heard more than 8,000 DUI cases, but it can take months or even longer for each of those cases to be resolved.

The justice court's chief judge says it's because a DUI case is a lengthy process; one that has actually been sped up in recent years.

Justice Court Chief Judge Joe Bonaventure said he presided over nearly 5,500 DUI cases last year.

"For DUI cases we give a return date and a shorter amount of time -- like 30 days. One of the reasons is because of the serious nature of the charges," Judge Bonaventure said.

However, there are exceptions to the rule. Take Seong Lee, for instance. He was just arrested for driving under the influence and causing a crash that killed two teen sisters.

When the accident occurred, Lee was out on bail awaiting arraignment on a previous DUI case. It took eight months.

Judge Bonaventure said there currently isn't a requirement that imposes conditions of release for a first time DUI offender.

"Usually the embarrassment that comes with an arrest and a prosecution for DUI is enough to get through to these people," said Judge Bonaventure.

When the embarrassment isn't enough, it's up to judges to decide what needs to be done in order to prevent someone from reoffending. Adding an ignition breathalyzer to their cars is one way, but Judge Bonaventure said courts can't authorize an interlock device for DUI drivers after their first offense because it's not a requirement by law.

Judge Bonaventure says it's a delicate balance when you weigh the rights of the accused versus the protection of the community.


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