No, according to Ms. Lykos, it's driving while intoxicated.
But this is where the situation beings to become surreal. On the one hand, as Ms. Lykos proclaims that the situation is getting out of control, she advocates, on the other hand, a program offering pretrial diversion for first-time DWI offenders.
Lykos hopes to lower DWI rates by offering first-time offenders a pretrial probation term that avoids a conviction, in hopes of getting more into treatment. In recent years, most of those charged with drunken driving in Harris County have pleaded guilty, served jail time and paid a fine, rather than be placed on supervised probation where alcohol education and treatment assessment is mandatory. Probation for DWI fell from 4,700 cases in 2000 to 2,150 in 2007, according to the district attorney’s office.
It's no secret why probation for DWI offenders has fallen over the last 10 years -- why would anyone voluntarily subject themselves to county supervision for a period of one to two years when they have the option of paying a fine and calling it a day? There are some judges who will probate the mandatory license suspension if a defendant accepts probation in exchange for a guilty plea, but most will suspend your license.
In fact, you can argue, that an attorney might be committing malpractice by advising a client to accept probation instead of time served and a fine. Now I understand that every case is different and time served and a fine is not always available for clients with multiple DWI's or who were involved in accidents.
I would argue that the reason behind 10,000 DWI arrests a year in Harris County is not because there are that many people out on the road breaking the law, but because there is a financial incentive to arrest motorists for DWI.
Houston’s DWI task force receives about $480,000 a year in grants to pay overtime for officers to catch and process drunken drivers, said task force member Don Egdorf, also HPD’s liaison with the district attorney’s vehicular crimes unit. “I don’t know if there are more drunks on the streets, but there are more officers looking for the drunks so there are more of them getting picked up,” he said.
As my colleague, Troy McKinney, points out, in Harris County, if the officer thinks you're drinking and driving - which is not against the law in Texas - you're going to jail. The attitude among law enforcement is to let the courts take care of the carnage.