Dallas Felony Court Backlog- Opportunity Costs Strike Again!

DMN reports that Dallas County Criminal courts have a growing backlog of felony cases.. Even with the addition of two new felony courts in 2005 the number of pending cases is still growing each year. DMN estimates there are 24,126 pending felony cases in Dallas.

What could possibly cause such a huge growing backlog of felony cases? Hmmm…. DMN explores.

The reasons given for this vary, depending on whom you ask. The local criminal justice system has many parts, and defense lawyers and prosecutors can contribute to slow-moving cases. Some cases are more complex and difficult than others, and thus take longer to try. But judges play a big role, too – for example, in the speed with which they hear motions and make decisions.

All the statements in that paragraph are true. However, the real reason cases are backed up in Dallas is…. you guessed it- PROHIBITION!

From 1998 to 2001, Dallas County felony judges disposed of more cases than were filed. But that trend reversed in 2002, the same year former District Attorney Bill Hill’s new policy began requiring testing of drug evidence before cases are filed.

Here is how the War on Drugs makes Dallas less safe.
1. First, Making Drugs Illegal Corrupts Law Enforcement. In 2001, Dallas Police were caught using fake drugs and snitches to convict the innocent. Ergo, now all drugs are tested in Dallas County. This testing takes substantial time and resources.
2. Second, Making Drugs Illegal Does Not Eliminate Demand. Despite years of “Just Say No” propaganda Dallasites still want to get high. Drug users are not very hard to arrest. Those arrests lead to hundreds of useless prosecutions annually.
3.Finally, Opportunity Costs Exist. Prosecutors working on possession cases can not work on murders, rapes, assault, theft, burglary of a residence etc.

The Result- Drug cases clog the criminal justice system while real crimes go without justice. Expanding capacity with more courts is not slowing the tide. The real tragedy is that not all felonies are created equal. Drug Possession/Distribution and Sexual Assault are both serious felony offenses in Texas. Both require substantial resources, tax dollars, and court time. Which do you want prosecuted in Dallas? Both? Then you better be prepared to wait for justice.

Here are some other posts on the Opportunity Costs of Prohibition-

Kaufman County Opportunity Costs-
Opportunity Costs and Crime Clearance
Opportunity Costs and Child Molesters

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