November 20, 2015
This responds to your inquiry (15-184) asking whether it is permissible to attend a meeting with the local STOP DWI Coordinator and the Sheriff’s Department at the request of the STOP DWI Coordinator. Its purpose is to discuss methods of collecting unpaid fines from defendants sentenced on DWI convictions.
The Committee has previously advised a judge not to participate in a STOP DWI program which seeks to coordinate a county-wide effort to collect outstanding DWI fines as doing so would create an appearance of an improper alliance with law enforcement and would appear to compromise the judiciary’s independence and neutrality (see Opinion 96-105; see also 22 NYCRR 100.1 and 100.2). The Committee has also advised that a judge should not accept an appointment to serve as a member of a STOP DWI planning board because STOP DWI is fundamentally aligned with prosecution and law enforcement interests (see Opinion 12-181/12-186). The Committee has further advised that a judge may not serve in an administrative capacity in a STOP DWI Program as the funding for such programs in some portion comes from fines imposed in the judge’s court (see Opinion 95-46).
Enclosed, for your convenience, are Opinions 12-181/12-186; 96-105; and 95-46 which address this matter.
Very truly yours,
George D. Marlow, Assoc. Justice
Appellate Division, First Dept. (Ret.)