Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Breath test operator under investigation

Last October, Dee Wallace, at the time a technical supervisor for the Texas Department of Public Safety in charge of maintaining breath test machines, was fired after it was disclosed she had filed false maintenance records on the machines under her supervision. Now it's Officer Michael Wick of the Houston Police Department on the hot seat as a result of a case in which he falsely accused a passenger in a vehicle of intoxication manslaughter.

On January 12, 2007, Officer Wick was involved in the investigation of a fatality accident in which he charged a passenger with intoxication manslaughter. That case was dismissed and the actual driver pled guilty last week and was sentenced to three years in state jail (not quite as good as the deal the daughter of a juvenile court judge received for causing the death of her boyfriend).
"I don't think...people are going out of their way to make cases for productivity reasons." -- Gary Blankinship, president, Houston Police Officer's Union
Wick has been with HPD since 1984 and has been involved in hundreds of DWI investigations. As a certified breath test operator, Officer Wick must provide a statutory warning to anyone arrested for driving while intoxicated before he can administer a breath test. His testimony that he provided the warning and that the driver refused the breath test can be used by the state to infer guilt at trial. That same testimony at a license suspension hearing can bring about a 180 day (or longer) suspension based on the driver's decision not to blow into the machine.

Harris County prosecutors were notified on January 28, 2009 that there may be Brady material (evidence in the state's possession that might tend to cast doubt on the citizen accused's guilt). Donna Hawkins of the Harris County District Attorney's Office said that the material would be turned over to any defense attorney or citizen accused upon request (another reason to file those discovery motions and get rulings prior to trial).

Just how out of control is the state's breath testing program? Are these just "isolated incidents" or are they just the tip of the iceberg?

1 comment:

DUI-Insider said...

With Texas DWI penalties being pretty stringent, it is sad to hear about people who are supposed to be protecting the general public, doing things or saying things that ultimately benefit no one. Let's hope it's NOT just the tip of the iceberg.

Thanks for posting!