Robbins leads new Felony DWI Court


She didn’t look like a criminal. Standing tentatively before the judge, her narrow shoulders slumped forward; the woman could not take her eyes off of the courtroom floor. In her late 30’s, she wore a crisp white blouse and a pair of grey dress pants. When the woman finally spoke, she could manage to whisper only two words — “I’m sorry.”

Pulled over by police who suspected a DWI offense, she was found to have a child in the car. Arrested on a DWI felony charge she was now before Judge Tammy S. Robbins in Nassau County’s new Felony DWI Court.

Robbins, 53, who lives in Locust Valley, said most people that enter her courtroom are typically in their 40’s, 50’s and 60’s and are not who you’d expect to find accused of a crime. They are never teenagers.

“I’ve done cases with people that have never been in trouble with the law, they have a family, are baseball coaches, but one mistake has put them before me on a manslaughter charge,” she said. “The volume of DWI cases is unbelievable. I get two to three new DWI arrests every day. It’s the biggest problem facing Long Island today.”

Origins of the court

The new court first opened its doors in Nassau County on June 1, 2014. It’s the brainchild of New York State Chief Judge Jonathan Lippman, his effort to create a uniform system for managing DWI’s. Lippman announced the change in Feb. 2014, ordering the creation of the felony DWI courts in every county in the state, adding that each be led by one judge, who would receive special training to become an expert.

“Drunk driving kills,” he said. “We must ensure that these cases are treated in a more orderly, consistent, and timely fashion in the courts of the state of New York.”

Robbins attended these classes, which were offered by the Uniformed Court System. All specifics relevant to felony DWI cases were discussed including: the relevant forms, how the interlock ignition devices operate and are maintained, the effects of alcohol on the brain, the symptoms of alcoholism and even information on alcohol withdrawal.

The state’s chief judge said he believes the new felony DWI part will send the message to offenders that these cases are different.

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