Mesa Municipal Court is part of a pilot program to improve the efficiency of drunken-driving cases. Mesa is joining 10 other courts in the program, which requires them to come up with plans for speedier case processing and establish local committees made up of all the players in drunken-driving cases — such as police, defense attorneys and crime labs — to assist in implementing the plan.
Making sure DUI cases are resolved in a timely manner is a public safety issue, said Cari Gerchick, spokeswoman for the Arizona Supreme Court, whose chief justice, Ruth McGregor, established The DUI Case Processing Committee to determine how to speed up the cases.
Resolving the cases quicker helps get drunken drivers off the street quicker, which deters future DUI cases and future victimization in cases where people get hurt, she said.
“Plus, people need to move on with their lives,” Gerchick said.
Last year, 67 percent of all Arizona misdemeanor DUI cases were resolved within 120 days. McGregor’s goal is to reach 90 percent.
One of the committee’s suggestions was to develop the pilot program.
Judge Matias Tafoya, who oversees Mesa Municipal Court, said his court has already implemented many of the committee’s suggestions and has only a handful of unresolved cases older than 120 days.
But there is still work to do, Tafoya said.
The goal in Mesa is to provide “full service” to defendants on their first court date, which has been typically a wasted proceeding because the police reports, lab results of blood tests and other things necessary to proceed aren’t completed.
Paul Thomas, court administrator, said having all that in place at the first court proceeding creates an opportunity for the defendant to settle the case with a plea or decide to go to trial.