Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Harris County pretrial diversion plan remains clouded in secrecy

Last week the head honchos over at the Harris County District Attorney's Office had a sit-down with the judges in the misdemeanor courts to explain how the DWI pretrial diversion program was supposed to work and to get input from the judges.

As I understand it, one of the 15 misdemeanor court judges made it clear that he would not sign off on any pretrial diversion in a DWI case in his court.

Interestingly enough, at no time did the D.A.'s office consult with defense attorneys to find out what questions and concerns the defense bar had with the sketchy proposal. If the plan hinges upon the signing of a contract, it stands to reason that there should be some give and take as to the terms. It appears as if those accused of driving while intoxicated will be presented with a "take it or leave it" offer -- otherwise known to law school students as a contract of adhesion.

As the thrust of the proposed plan (details to emerge tomorrow) seems to be to force defendants into the program by offering an unpalatable alternative (minimum 30 days in the county jail), one has to wonder who the beneficiary of the program is. Would the D.A.'s office be so secretive about the program if it were meant to benefit defendants?

I believe the Law of Unintended Consequences (otherwise known as "no good deed goes unpunished"), will dictate an increase (not a decrease) in the number of marginal cases that go to trial.

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