In testimony before the Senate Criminal Justice Committee, an array of experts from judges to victims agreed that the state needs a smarter, more streamlined system to remove Texas as the nation's leader in alcohol-fueled traffic deaths.
Witnesses said stiff civil fines and mandatory punishments have prompted those arrested for driving while intoxicated to refuse plea deals and probation that could include treatment and alcohol monitoring. Instead, they are insisting on jury trials.
The result: more expensive prosecutions, a 20 percent drop in conviction rates since 2005, and a court backlog of 125,000 cases.
Motorists accused of driving while intoxicated are exercising their right to a trial before a jury of their peers? Shocking! What can we do to prevent this from happening?
More expensive prosecutions? I don't recall seeing anything in the Constitution or the Code of Criminal Procedure that even addresses that. Maybe the DA's office should do a little more cost-benefit analysis before deciding which cases to try.
A 20% drop in convictions for DWI? And how is that a problem? The police arrest motorists they think might be driving while intoxicated and the courts try those cases. If juries are convicting fewer motorists of DWI, maybe the police should take a closer look at their decisions in the field.
A backlog on dockets? When it comes to the constitutional rights of the accused, judicial economy should take a back seat.
Just be grateful the Texas Legislature only meets for 140 days every other year.