A St. Louis-area judge gave John D. McGuire the standard plea deal for drunken drivers: No DWI conviction. Just probation and a fine. It didn’t matter that McGuire had been caught weaving at 100 mph. Or that he had been three times as drunk as the law allows. He got the deal, even though when he went to accept it in court, he was drunk again. When McGuire got into his car to drive away, he got a second DWI in the parking lot. Another judge handled it, and approved another no-conviction deal, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
A Post-Dispatch investigation found a culture of cutting deals for DWIs in local court systems. Prosecutors and judges here are far more likely than in the rest of the state to let a drunk driver avoid a conviction. Even prior offenders arrested again have an even chance of avoiding another DWI conviction. The St. Louis system is soft on drunken drivers. The newspaper could study only the Missouri side of the St. Louis area because Illinois officials refused to release meaningful data for analysis. In Missouri, the newspaper found a hodgepodge system that allows more than 100 courtrooms – most of them small, with part-time judges and prosecutors – to handle the majority of DWI cases.