Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Judges to receive ignition interlock "training"

The Texas Center for the Judiciary is offering an ignition interlock device workshop for Texas judges entitled "Blow 'n' Go" in May up in Dallas. The workshop is funded by a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation to "increase the effectiveness of DWI adjudications in Texas."

MADD is listed as one of the Texas Department of Transportation's Traffic Safety Program Partners according to the Texas Center for the Judiciary's website.

According to the Texas Department of Transportation's Traffic Safety Goals for 2010, traffic safety grants are to be used "to improve adjudication of DWI cases through improved training for judges, administrative license revocation judges, and prosecutors, and improved support materials for judges and prosecutors." In other words, the grant money is to be used to align judges and prosecutors on the same side of the fence. And, here all this time I thought the judiciary and the executive branches were supposed to be separate.

"Reluctant to rely on breath testing devices as a supervision tool?"

"Have you heard lots of plausible excuses from defendants to to why the device failed?"

"This practical workshop covers ignition interlock laws, separates fact from fiction, and dispels urban myths." 

-- promo material for Blow 'n' Go

Warren Diepraam, late of the Harris County DA's Office (now with the Montgomery County DA's Office) will present a lecture on the law regarding ignition interlock devices. According to the promotional materials "ignition interlocks have emerged as a powerful tool in keeping DWI offenders from driving drunk." Mr. Diepraam will instruct the judges as to the law and "the politics behind Texas interlock statutes."

Four manufacturers (Smart Start, Draeger, Guardian, and LifeSafer) will then present a panel discussion about their products, services, support materials and how they work with offenders. I'm sure the presentation will include discussions on error rates, calibration problems and false postive readings.

The judges will then learn how to draft the "perfect order" once they have decided the interlock device is appropriate in a particular case.

At lunch the judges will hear from the Texas Transportation Institute about their recent ignition interlock survey and will have the opportunity "to conduct personal 'field' research on some of the urban myths relating to ways to defeat interlock and breath-testing devices."

The judges will then hear how Denton County "created a system to efficiently deal with DWI ignition interlock compliance and monitoring" from arrest to termination of probation. 

The judges will also learn how to conduct a Kelly/Daubert hearing after a lock-out (occurs when the device detects alcohol in the driver's breath and locks the ignition) to determine if the ignition interlock operates on junk science or not.

Nowhere during the seminar is there a presentation from a defense attorney, nowhere is there a presentation questioning the accuracy and reliability of the ignition interlock device and nowhere is there any balancing viewpoint. If this were a workshop for prosecutors I would understand -- after all, we don't invite prosecutors to present at defense seminars -- but the judiciary is supposed to be neutral.

Is there anyone else out there troubled by this?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Comment most heard by drunk with an interlock: "Hey, blow in this for me."