Tuesday, August 17, 2010

A judge voices her concerns

Judge Susan Criss of Galveston County's 212th Judicial District Court left the following comment on my Facebook page with regard to Thursday's post "Vampires on the Bench" ...
[P]lease explain how the defense att[orneys] participated. A few years ago our judges were asked to participate in this also. Because of my concerns about the constitutionality of this I have never participated in it. The only two judges in our county who have are both GOP. The DA's do have to communicate with us about getting warrants and our availability when they need them so I am not bothered by the sending of the email. I appreciate the intent is [to] get drunks off the road but do not agree with the legalit[y] of the program.
I appreciate the need for officers to be able to contact judges to request warrants after hours. In some instances that means having an official after-hours judge to review warrant applications and in other cases it involves the police finding a "friendly" judge to sign a warrant.

My problem with the e-mails is two-fold. First, this is not an e-mail from the Office of Court Management to judges to find out who is available to review warrant applications, these are e-mails from the Harris County District Attorney's Office to find judges who are willing to "review" warrant applications on "No Refusal Weekends." Since when are the judges and prosecutors supposed to be on the same team?

Secondly, everyone is aware of the game and everyone is also aware that the entire purpose of this procedure is to obtain a blood sample, by force if necessary, to make it easer to convict a motorist who exercises his right not to blow into the state's breath test machine. In order for this legalized coercion to work, there must be judges available who are willing to disregard the law and order forcible blood draws for an offense that is one step removed from a traffic ticket.

I do want to take a moment to thank Judge Criss for her comment. It's nice to see that there's at least one judge who has some questions about the legality of "No Refusal Weekends."

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