Post Xmas Roundup

Texas criminal justice system can’t keep up with Austin’s greed
Grits opined on the failure of our criminal justice system as a revenue collection agency. The Texas criminal justice system has billed out but failed to collect $1 billion in fines and fees last year.

As a front line observer of this taxation/extortion scheme let me offer some insight. The criminal justice system in Texas is built on a foundation of government greed and bloated budgets. It’s a cheap political ploy to say that “drunk drivers” should pay more.

How does that work out in the court room? Let’s take a closer look at DWI cases, and their financial impact on defendants.

Over the last 24 months court costs for DWI cases have risen from $250 to over $400 per case. The fantasy land budget of a few years ago invented a new draconian $1,000 a year surcharge for DWI convicts (which should be unconstitutional). Not to mention the fine (usually $500 to $1,000) and $50 a month in probation fees. A typical DWI defendant pays thousands to the State. Not murderers, or rapists, or even drug dealers.

These policies are always sold as “drunk drivers” should pay for ______. The reality is that many drivers who are convicted aren’t drunk. Rather they meet the State’s arbitrary intoxication standard. Lest we forget George Bush and Dick Cheney are DWI convicts. These people aren’t sub human. Why should we destroy them financially?

Beyond DWI our criminal justice system places such an unrealistic financial burden on defendants that many never pay. Hence the $1B shortfall for 2008. Beyond the State losing money many defendants will have their probation revoked for failure to pay (there are defenses for failing to pay, but that doesn’t prevent the defendant from being incarcerated on an MTR).

Will Obama decriminalize pot?
NORML and Esquire are reporting that Obama may legalize or at least decriminalize marijuana. The story is more wishful thinking than actual news from the Obama administration. I would be more exitied except Obama’s cabinet (and VP) picks so far include a disturbing number of drug war hawks.

The idea behind this story is that Obama is smart, and he represents change. Intelligence and supporting the arrest of adult pot smokers, are mutually exclusive. Finally, a fair number of big Democrat donors, (including the GOP/ONDCP scapegoat George Soros), reject the drug war.

As a NORML legal committee member I will be following this closely. I proudly defend marijuana consumers. I would be proud of the next administration if I didn’t have to.

ER doctors universally believe in police brutality
I’ve had clients tell me that they were subject to police brutality. In these situations the resulting criminal charges usually include resisting arrest. On that note, here is a disturbing statistic-

In a survey of a random sample of U.S. emergency physicians, virtually all said they believed that law enforcement officers use excessive force to arrest and detain suspects.
The sample included 315 respondents. While 99.8 percent believed excessive force is used, almost as many (97.8 percent) reported that they had managed cases that they suspected or that the patient stated had involved excessive use of force by law enforcement officers.

We already require doctors to report child abuse. Texas needs a similar law requiring doctors to report police abuse.

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One response to “Post Xmas Roundup”

  1. Linda H. says:

    I think Doctors should be required to report any kind of abuse; children, elderly, battered wife, police brutality. If it is serious enough to warrant medical attention, it is serious enough to report.

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