Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Law and order: Rockport

I was down in scenic Rockport yesterday handling an appeal of a case involving the holder of a CDL. Due to the infinite wisdom of our state legislators, if you hold a CDL in Texas, you cannot get that ticket dismissed in JP or municipal court through defensive driving or deferred disposition. However, should you appeal your plea or conviction to the county court, you can get the case dismissed through one of those avenues.

What's even more absurd it that in a county like Aransas County (Rockport is the county seat), the county attorney's office handles all misdemeanors -- including traffic cases. So I dealt the the county attorney on my client's ticket while it was filed in the JP court and, as we were unable to come to a mutual agreement, we pled no contest, posted an appeal bond and appealed the conviction to the county court. And who would I be negotiating with in County Court? None other than the county attorney.

To his credit, the Aransas County Attorney, Mr. Richard Bianchi, realizes this little "dog and pony" show the legislature has created is an incredible waste of time and money for the courts, defendants and attorneys. He is trying to find a way to steer CDL cases to the county court in the first place to avoid this absurdity. One way might be to offer pretrial diversions at the JP level, thus eliminating the need to appeal a plea.

We reached an agreement for my client to receive pretrial diversion and a dismissal. Then things got weird. We approached the judge and he informed my client that by entering into the agreement he was pleading guilty to the underlying charge but that the case would be dismissed if he complied with the terms of the diversion agreement.

Hmmm. Entering a plea with the judge deferring a finding of guilt until the terms of the agreement were satisfied. That's not pretrial diversion, that's a deferred. Of course since it's a Class C misdemeanor it doesn't matter -- but on a more serious offense it raises the question of whether the person is eligible for an expunction per the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure.

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