When accused drunk drivers ask Massachusetts judges, not juries, to rule on their cases, they receive a not guilty verdict more than 80 percent of the time, according to a Globe Spotlight Team investigation. It is a degree of leniency virtually unsurpassed in the United States, specialists say. And it has public safety officials concerned that the scales of justice for one of the most common crimes are now tipped dangerously out of balance.

State Trooper Matthew Sheehan took a suspected drunk driver into custody in Everett.

Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe

State Trooper Matthew Sheehan took a suspected drunk driver into custody in Everett.

For drunk drivers, a habit of judicial leniency

When state judges hear OUI cases without a jury, they acquit the vast majority of defendants, no matter how blatant the alleged offense. It is one more way Massachusetts stands out nationally — for all the wrong reasons — on this crime.By

Part 2

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2015/10/14/BostonGlobe.com/Special/Images/dui2.jpg A judicial haven for accused drunk drivers

Plymouth County’s courts may be the most lenient in OUI trials. Judges hear most cases without a jury and acquit just about everyone, leaving police and victims appalled.

Part 3

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2015/10/14/BostonGlobe.com/Special/Images/dui3.jpg Court mismatch makes OUI justice elusive

Lawyers who specialize in defending drunk drivers enjoy huge legal advantages built into state law, and have the ear of some judges prone to favor their arguments, no matter how far-fetched.

Audio transcript

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2011/11/06/BostonGlobe.com/Metro/Advance/Images/greenhouse_mooney3_spotligh-001--90x90.jpg The keys were in his pocket? ‘Not guilty’

An intoxicated teen said he crashed his vehicle and then handed the keys to police. At the trial, the judge found him not guilty.

Nov. 2, 2012

//c.o0bg.com/rf/image_90x90/Boston/2011-2020/2014/08/12/BostonGlobe.com/ReceivedContent/Images/Boghosian_Sobriety15_MET.jpg Change urged for drunken driving cases

A special counsel urged the state’s highest court to embrace measures to help erase the “appearance of leniency’’ in drunken driving cases decided by judges instead of juries.

A driver performed a sobriety test at a checkpoint in Chicopee.

Matthew Cavanaugh for The Boston Globe

Photo gallery

From checkpoints to trial

Scenes from State Police checkpoints and some of the judges involved in the report.