Monday, November 22, 2010

The Constitution is the target of NTSB's Most Wanted List

Oh, the Tenth Amendment is alive and well. Y'all remember the Tenth Amendment, right? That's the one that says
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.
You also remember the separation of powers doctrine. You know, the one that says the legislature enacts the law, the executive enforces the law and the courts rule on the law.

The last time I checked, it was up to the state legislature to amend or change the penal code. It's the state legislature's job to decide what is and what isn't against the law.

We have folks jumping up and down and cheering for those who espouse federalism, "states' rights," and limited government. But now we have the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) entering the fray with its "Most Wanted List" and pressuring state governments to change and amend state penal codes. That's right, the federal government is putting pressure on the states to bend to the will of los federales. More than than, the executive branch of the federal government is putting the screws to state legislatures to fall into line.

Here's the NTSB's agenda:

  • Enact legislation to reduce crashes involving repeat offenders who drink large amounts of alcohol, including:
    • Frequent, statewide sobriety checkpoints.
    • More effective measures (sanctions/treatment) for first time arrests with high blood alcohol concentration and repeat offenders.
    • Zero blood alcohol requirement for those already convicted of driving while intoxicated.
    • Administrative license revocation for refusing to take or failing an evidential test for alcohol.
    • Vehicle sanctions for DWI offenders to separate drinking from driving.
    • Elimination of plea-bargaining DWI offenses and programs that divert offenders and purge offense records.
    • DWI offense records retention for at least 10 years to identify repeat offenders.
    • Special sanction court-based programs such as DWI courts for hard core DWI offenders

Let's just go down the list, shall we?

Sobriety checkpoints have been declared unconstitutional in Texas. Why? Because the police must have reasonable suspicion or probable cause to pull you over. Sobriety checkpoints would allow the police to harass motorists without reason.

As for punishments, the legislature has determined that a first-time DWI merits a sentence of up to 6 months in the county jail and a fine not to exceed $2,000. A subsequent offense can get you 12 months in the county jail and a fine of up to $4,000. If you still haven't learned your lesson, a third offense is a third degree felony and will get you a bed in the state penitentiary. As for probation, it's up to the court to impose whatever conditions it feels are appropriate when suspending a sentence.

Zero blood alcohol? Last time I checked, it was legal for an adult in Texas to consume alcoholic beverages. The last time I checked, it's legal to drive so long as you haven't lost the normal use of your mental or physical faculties due to the consumption of alcohol. Need I remind anyone, Prohibition didn't work the first time.

The license suspension for refusing or failing a breath test - let's just talk about double jeopardy, collateral estoppel and the Fifth Amendment. The entire ALR program in Texas is just a way to coerce motorists to blow into the state's breath test machine so the state can obtain evidence it wouldn't have any other way of obtaining. And we already have vampires and their black-robed friends just waiting to take your blood if you decide to exercise your right to refuse.

The NTSB wants to stop prosecutors from offering pretrial diversions or "reductions" in DWI cases. Here we go -- Washington meddling in the affairs of local jurisdictions. There are any number of reasons why a pretrial diversion in a DWI case might be the right solution. There are also good reasons why some DWI's are "reduced" to obstruction of a highway or reckless driving. In the name of dragging everyone into the criminal (in)justice system, the government hasn't given a second thought to the consequences that follow a criminal conviction.

And my favorite, the DWI court - a facade of justice where defense attorneys are prodded to become a member of "the team" and sell their client out. Either treat DWI like a criminal offense and let the criminal (in)justice system take care of it, or treat it as a medical condition and let the doctors treat the disease. The criminal (in)justice system is not equipped to be a social service provider. The purpose of the criminal courts is to determine whether an individual violated the laws of the state, not to prescribe treatment for a medical condition.

If you like what Bret Ligon, Warren Diepraam and their crew are doing up in Montgomery County, jump aboard for the ride.

Let the witch hunt begin!

No comments: