Friday, May 29, 2009

A sensible DWI policy in Harris County

Today Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos announced a new DWI strategy by which first-time DWI defendants will be eligible for pretrial diversion.

Under pretrial diversion, a person must complete a probation with conditions attached such as being required to install an interlock ignition device on their car, attending drug and alcohol counseling and undergoing random drug tests. Should they complete the probation successfully, the case will be dismissed without a plea being entered. The person would then be eligible to expunge all records of the case from his criminal history once the statute of limitations passed.

This differs from deferred adjudication in that a person who completes a deferred adjudication probation would have already entered a plea and is, therefore, only eligible to seek a petition for nondisclosure of records regarding that case to anyone outside of law enforcement.

Pretrial diversion also differs from deferred adjudication in that if a person is on pretrial diversion and runs afoul of the rules, he is back where he started with no penalty. If, on the other hand, a person on deferred adjudication messes up, he can be hauled back before the judge and sentenced to the full range of punishment -- regardless of what the original agreement was.
“So, we’re going to have a carrot-stick approach. It’ll be pretrial disposition if you will, or deferred prosecution — they’re put under supervision, the DWIs will have the inter-locks, they will not lose their licenses, they will go to work, they will undergo the drug treatment, the urinalysis and everything else. And if they’re successful, the charges are not filed." -- Pat Lykos, Harris County District Attorney
Ms. Lykos' plan will reduce the number of people confined in the Harris County Jail and will enable those who wish to take advantage of the program the chance to help themselves.

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