Thursday, October 6, 2011

Filling in the blanks

June 25, 2008 
"The Galveston County Criminal District Attorney's Office is coordinating another no-refusal weekend for Friday July 3 and Saturday July 4, 2009. Dickinson Police Department has graciously agreed to host the event again this year. Judge Lonnie Cox will be our judge for Friday night and Judge John Ellisor will perform those duties on Saturday night. The hours of operation will be from 8:30 PM on July 3, 2009 until 4:30 AM on July 4, 2009 and against at 8:30 PM on July 4, 2009 until 4:30 AM on July 5, 2009... 
I have attached the search warrants and affidavits for search warrants. The search warrant returns can be done immediately after the blood draw is performed." 
-- Galveston County Assistant District Attorney Joel H. Bennett
That's right. We've got your search warrant and affidavits right here. They're ready for you to fill in the blanks and type 'em up. No need to make an officer actually recite the facts in a case that gave rise to his belief that the driver was intoxicated at the time of driving. Nope. Just plug in your name and the motorist's name and we're in business.

I understand prosecutors and police wanting fill-in-the-blank affidavits, it allows officers to spend more time on the streets harassing citizens policing. But what's the judge's excuse for signing a warrant authorizing a forcible blood draw based on a fill-in-the-blank affidavit. Somehow I'm not thinking that would cut it if a district judge were trying to decide whether or not to allow the police to enter someone's house to search for evidence of a crime. In fact, I know it wouldn't. But, then again, we're only talking about a misdemeanor. What's the big freaking deal, anyway?

I mean, all we're asking to do is to perform an invasive procedure on a motorist based on our hunch that she might be intoxicated and the fact that she exercised her right to refuse a breath test. Well, that and we can strap her down if she resists. But, c'mon, why all the hoops?
January 2, 2011 
"The morning of December 30, 2010, Fox 26 News began to air footage preparing the public for our initiative, as I addressed the public and presented a "warning and awareness" that our intentions were to increase public safety by removing DWI offenders from our roadways on Galveston Island and a Zero Tolerance No Refusal approach method would be in effect to combat this problem... 
"With the assistance of the following agencies the effort was a success:
  • UTMB
  • Galveston County District Attorney's Office
  • District Judge Lonnie Cox
  • District Judge Susan Criss
  • County Judge John Grady
  • The Galveston Police Department Command Staff
  • The Galveston Daily News
  • Fox 26 News
  • Texas Highway Patrol
"Over the last month I have been in correspondence with the listed agencies and the initiative was proven a success. 
-- Chad Powers, Galveston Police Department
What could possibly be more clear as to the role of the judges in these assaults on the Fourth Amendment? It's not the job of a judge to assist in the arrest and/or prosecution of anyone. It is the role of the judge to sit as a neutral arbiter in a legal proceeding. When the police begin thanking judges for assisting in their initiatives, it's time to start questioning the role of those judges in our criminal (in)justice system.

Since most of these DWI cases will be filed in county court as misdemeanors, two of the judges (Grady and Dupuy) reviewing warrants on suppression hearings are two of the judges who volunteered to approve these fill-in-the-blank form affidavits. And just how do you think those rulings are going to go?

Slowly but surely the judiciary is being subsumed into the trial division of the district attorney's office. Maybe it makes for great copy during campaign season. Maybe the voters like it. You know, the voters who either blindly mark R or D on their ballot or think that judicial candidates should sound like they're running for sheriff or DA.

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