Deferred for DWI?

Beat your spouse, sell some drugs, look at kiddie porn, steal a few Xbox’s from Wal Mart and you can get deferred probation in Texas. (Deferred probation does not result in a conviction if you finish probation). But, catch a case for DWI and deferred is not available. It has been this way since the 80’s when MADD hysteria brought us this dumb on crime law.

The result- DWI is the most common criminal case tried in Texas. Backlogs are common in big counties, and weak DWI cases are often pled as “obstruction of a highway” or “reckless driving”.

A bill has been filed to allow deferred for DWI first timers (I can’t find a text of this bill). From the Austin Statesman

A backlog of thousands of Texas court cases. Drunken drivers convicted on lesser charges. Repeat DWI offenders who don’t have a record of a related conviction or treatment.

Those are some examples of what’s bringing together a new coalition that includes Mother s Against Drunk Driving, prosecutors and defense attorneys who support a widespread change in how the state punishes first-time drunken drivers.

Supporter say the plan, a legislative proposal to allow deferred adjudication for first-time offenses, would ease the court backlog and improve efforts to track and punish repeat DWI offenders.

First-time offenders could be acquitted of the offense if they complete supervision and treatment. If the offense were repeated, it would become grounds to boost future punishments.

“Generally we do not support deferred adjudication bills, but we are going to support this one,” said Bill Lewis, public policy liaison for the Irving-based nonprofit group MADD. “Right now, we are hearing that many cases are not getting prosecuted for DWI but for a bogus charge. We hope the practice of reducing charges will be reduced if this bill does indeed pass.”

MADD’s support of the measure is somewhat shocking. I’ve never seen MADD support repealing any tuff on DWI legislation.

TDCAA has come out in favor of the bill. Lest you think prosecutors in Texas have gone soft, this bill does nothing to limit their discretion or power. ADA’s aren’t really giving up anything by having deferred as an option.

Deferred probation gives them one more chip to bargain away your right to trial. The more cases the State can get to plead, the more they can bury dog cases and bad police work without being exposed at trial.

Some defense lawyers are going to oppose this bill for the wrong reasons. Less DWI trials = less DWI trial fees. Some defense lawyers are going to oppose this bill for the right reasons. That is, more DWI pleas = less DWI acquittals. Defendants are going to plead for deferred because it saves them the expense of trial, and because most DWI defendants have no problem with probation (besides marijuana possession, DWI defendants are the least “criminal” defendants in the system).

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