Wednesday, September 21, 2011

What's the point?

To secure a defendant's attendance at trial, a magistrate may impose any reasonable condition of bond related to the safety of a victim of the alleged offense or to the safety of the community. -- Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 17.40(a)
The other day I was sitting in court when the judge called up everyone making their first appearance. He had the prosecutor read the probable cause statement. On every DWI case he asked the prosecutor whether there was an accident or a breath test.

The first defendant was a young man (I'm guessing he was in his 20's, but as I'm getting older, my ability to guess ages is in rapid decline). There was no accident in his case - but there was a breath test. A breath test of .000. The arresting officer suspected he was under the influence of something other than alcohol so a drug recognition evaluation (more voodoo science for another day) was performed. Apparently our hero had taken a central nervous system depressant or two.

The judge order the young man to install an ignition interlock device in his car.

I found it to be quite odd - as did the attorney sitting next to me. It's not like an ignition interlock is going to detect the presence of CNS depressants (other than alcohol) in one's breath. If this young man had a problem, it certainly didn't appear to be with alcohol.

A couple of minutes later we had DRE number two on the morning. Again we had a breath test well under the legal limit. And, again, the judge ordered the defendant to install an ignition interlock device on her car.

The law says a judge shall order an ignition interlock device as a condition of bond for a defendant who has at least one prior conviction for driving while intoxicated. The law also says that a judge may order an ignition interlock device as a condition of bail in a case with a breath or blood test over .15.

So what's going on here? Ordering the installation of an ignition interlock when a person clearly was not intoxicated by consuming alcohol makes little or no sense. It certainly doesn't do anything to enhance the safety of the community.

All it appears to do is line the pockets of the companies that distribute, install and maintain the devices. I do wonder where that money goes.


Gianpaolo Macerola said...

Just wondering, why didn't you comment? If they were doing this to your client, what would you have said? Just that you can't because its his first dwi and his breath test was under .15??

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

As a matter of fact, I did. I spoke to the attorney (who appeared to be new to the game) and suggested that he file a written motion regarding the bond conditions.

I hope that he follows through and demonstrates to the court and to the prosecutor that he's going to fight.