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Mecklenburg DA: State computer error led to 16,000 cases being wrongly dismissed

Mecklenburg District Attorney Spencer Merriweather

Mecklenburg District Attorney Spencer Merriweather said Wednesday his office is working to restore 16,000 cases that were mistakenly dismissed by the state, as part of an effort to reduce a “massive case backlog” in Mecklenburg District Court.

During the pandemic, when courts were closed, court dates were pushed back and cases piled up.

The District Attorney’s Office has been working with the Administrative Office of the Courts to dismiss many low-level misdemeanors and minor traffic offenses, such as driving with an expired registration. In all, the AOC has worked to dismiss roughly 97,000 low-level cases.

But during the process of dropping those low-level offenses, Merriweather’s office said it learned in late September that the state had mistakenly dismissed thousands of more serious cases due to a computer error. They include about 300 DWI cases, along with other cases where people were driving at “dangerously high speeds.”

Merriweather said he asked the state to restore those charges.

In a news release about the mistake, Merriweather said there are more than 10,000 pending cases in which drivers are charged with going 25 mph or more over the speed limit. He also said there are more than 1,000 pending cases in which drivers are charged with driving more than 100 mph. He said those cases are “prosecution priorities.”

Last week, Mecklenburg Sheriff Garry McFadden said his deputies would no longer stop people for so-called “non-moving violations,” such as driving with an expired registration. He said he’s hoping to reduce racial disparities in traffic stops with the decision.

Charlotte Mecklenburg Police also make fewer traffic stops than they did a decade ago.

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Steve Harrison is WFAE's politics and government reporter. Prior to joining WFAE, Steve worked at the Charlotte Observer, where he started on the business desk, then covered politics extensively as the Observer’s lead city government reporter. Steve also spent 10 years with the Miami Herald. His work has appeared in The Washington Post, the Sporting News and Sports Illustrated.