Texas has a lot of terrible laws, but one thing we don’t allow is DWI checkpoints. The Supreme Court has decided that these can be constitutional but the state legislature must approve them. Hopefully ours never will. In case you ever think they are a good idea, here is what we are missing.
The Supreme Court heard arguments in McNeely vs Missouri this week. The issue was whether the 4th Amendment’s requirement for a warrant actually applies to DWI blood draws. The defendant in Mcneely refused to give a breath specimen, so the police just held him down and took his blood, which was allowed by statute in Missouri.
This should be a straight forward issue; the State shouldn’t be able to simply over turn the bill of rights by statute.. Blood draws are a search, a very intrusive search at that, and we require warrants for searches. Of course, DWI and drug prosecutions are the tip of the spear when it comes to destroying the bill of rights. We’ve lost more freedom to save dope convictions and DWI cases than we’ll ever get back.
The Government in McNeely argued that every DWI is an emergency, so they shouldn’t have to get a warrant. That’s a pretty broad definition of emergency and it really makes the government look lazy. I’m sure it would be easier to just ignore the 4th Amendment and let the conviction machine run unabated. But that’s the point, we require warrants because we can not trust the government to do the right thing. We want to limit the power of government to act without oversight.
Forney is one of the faster growing DFW exurbs. It has quickly become a hotbed of Kaufman County DWI arrests. I used to get a fair number of DWI cases from across Kaufman County, many DPS arrests on the interstate, and then a fair number from Terrell/Crandall/Kaufman etc. It seems that I’m seeing a greater number of DWI arrests from the Forney Police Department. I’m not surprised. Forney is a city seemingly designed to maximize DWI arrests. You can’t walk anywhere, and you certainly can’t walk to any establishment that serves alcohol. I’m not sure why we have the majority of our alcohol serving-establishments next to the interstate, why old downtown Forney (the most walkable area in the city) remains mostly dry.
Forney has it’s own jail, and it is possible to make bail there without being transported to Kaufman. I haven’t figured out why certain arrestees are transported to the county jail and others make bail in Forney. Going to jail anywhere sucks, but the Forney jail/police station is brand new and really clean. Much less risk of getting a resistant staph infection than if you are arrested in Dallas.
Forney does not have it’s own breathalyzer, so if you take a breath test you have to go to Kaufman. By the way NEVER TAKE A BREATH TEST. Kaufman County’s breath test machine is based on 1968 technology. The operator manual admits that today’s version of the Intoxilyzer is no more accurate than it was during the Apollo program. Really, don’t do it.
A few months ago I took Lance Platt’s SFST certification course for attorneys. We had mostly defense lawyers and some prosecutors in the room. I didn’t come into this with clean hands. My experience with DWI cases and research of these “tests” tells me they are voodoo bullshit.
I came to this conclusion because as I understood the SFST studies they lacked the markers of real science and quality research; control groups, blind studies, placebos etc. Did you know the field sobriety tests have never been tested on a large groups of individuals who have not been drinking? Or on individuals with different medical conditions? There have been exactly zero studies on gender differences, or on the effect of performing the tests under the stress to mimic the pressure of a typical roadside DWI investigation. Why?
SFST’s are agenda driven science. The feds needed a way to arrest people who had been drinking, but without any bad or impaired driving behavior. So they invented the notion that by performing 10 minutes of balancing tests you can tell if someone is over .08.
I’m amazed on how banal DWI blood warrants have become. Maybe I shouldn’t be. Look how far we’ve come in just a few shorts years. The TSA molests plane passengers without cause, and it’s largely a non-issue. The police can demand that you give them your blood, and few seem to care. We’ve had DPS drones deployed for while (since discontinued) and… no one cared. I’m wondering what it willl take before privacy and liberty enter our political lexicon. Is there anything the public won’t suffer in the name of public safety? Moving on.
Let’s talk blood warrant appeals. Today’s CCA case of the day is Sanchez vs. State-
What happened? A judge from Montgomery county signed a warrant to take Sanchez’ blood in Harris County.
Defense lawyers are not big fans of MADD, or any pro police state organization for that matter. However, one thing I will say is that their public policy liason, Bill Lewis, is an honest guy. DMN ran a round up of the various DWI bills this session. Most died sine die, however the lege did pass one new Tuff on DWI enchancement that will leave first time DWI offenders open to a greater range of punishement if they have a bac over .15 (yet another reason to NEVER take a breath test).
Won’t longer sentences stop people from drinking and driving? Shouldn’t we all celebrate this life saving measure from the lege? Not so much says MADD. From DMN-
The… act is not a bad bill, Lewis said, “but as for stopping drunk driving, the bill is just not going to do that much.”
Facing a DWI charge in Kaufman county? Have a serious drinking problem and/or a history of alcohol related offenses? DWI court may be in your future.
What is the Kaufman County DWI court? This is from a handout I found in CC2. I think the DA’s office made this although I can’t be positive as no authorship is claimed.
“The Kaufman County DWI court is a twelve month minimum program that integrates local criminal justice resources, case management, and alcohol abuse treatment to rehabilitate targeted repeat DWI offenders. There are two aspects of the program, the Court side, and the Treatment side and there are three phases to the court side. As a participant progresses through the phases, the intensity of the program lessens.”
I had the pleasure of hanging out with Lawrence at a conference last summer (SPI), and am proud to have him as a colleague, and facebook friend.
Facebook is how I got Lawrence thoughts on the Lujan disaster. Larry wrote out the following, as a comment to my shameless facebook link to my own blog post on Lujan vs. State.
Kaufman County had a rare flying while intoxicated arrest this week. Allegedly, the pilot landed on FM 429 and was arrested shortly after.
Best quote about this arrest from Kaufman Chief Public Defender Andrew Jordan. “This defendant may have trouble making bail… because he poses a flight risk.” Rim shot!
In my entire legal career I had never seen a Texas FWI case. It just doesn’t happen that often. First, most pilots don’t land near police officers. They go from small airport to small airport. Second, we don’t have any aeronautic speed traps. Pilots don’t face the constant leo harrassment that drivers face. If you can find a way to only commute in an airplane, you’d save a lot in potential traffic tickets/police harassment (thought not enough to cover your airplane overhead).
Thanks to Houston Defense Lawyer Paul Kennedy for tracking down HB 189. I had some tepid enthusiasm after reading the Statesman article. The devil is in the details.
What’s wrong with HB 189? Three quick points.
1. It’s deferred, but still counts a conviction?