Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Harris County defense bar's reaction to the new DWI diversion program


The Harris County Criminal Lawyers Association stands united against the DWI Diversion program announced today by the District Attorney’s Office. What appears on the surface to be an act of benevolence is in fact an assault on the constitutional rights of all of the individuals accused of DWI.

This program will be forced on an unsuspecting and uninformed accused by way of an overly coercive plea bargain. Under the new program defendants will be offered the diversion program or alternatively 30 days in jail. Currently there are very few jail time offers to resolve a first time DWI. The action by the District Attorneys office is punitive and not in keeping with their duty to see that justice is done.

The diversion program forces defendants to confess and enter a plea of guilty that will result in jail time if they are unable to live up to the requirements of the program. The diversion program requires those participating to give up any and all protections provided by the US and Texas Constitution. This program is an affront to the adversary process and steps on the constitutional protections that all citizens enjoy.

HCCLA repeatedly asked to meet with the District Attorney about this program. Although the DA’s office arranged more than one meeting with the judges in private they refused to receive input from the defense bar. The entire defense bar was unethically excluded from this one-sided conversation.

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