“Deferred adjudication” allows first-time offenders to clear their record if they complete a supervised probation. Since the 1980s, drunk drivers in Texas weren’t eligible. But that get-tough approach has had some unintended consequences. People caught drunk behind the wheel were taking their cases to trial and gumming up the courts. Overwhelmed prosecutors sometimes let the drivers plead guilty to a lesser offense, like obstructing a highway.
“That just sounds totally bogus to me.”
Bill Lewis is with the Texas chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving or MADD.
“Making a DWI arrest is a big deal, it’s very time consuming. So the police officer does all his work and it gets to the DA’s office and they say ‘Oh, we just have too many cases here, we just need to plea this guy out, it’s his first offense as far as we know, we need to plea him out to obstruction of a highway.’ Well, that’s just an insult to DWI victims.”
State representative Todd Smith of Euless has introduced a bill that would give prosecutors more flexibility. If it’s their first time, DWI offenders could get deferred adjudication, but there WOULD be a record of it. If they got pulled over again, their punishment would be more severe. And, an ignition lock would be placed on their cars to test their breath for alcohol.
With all those conditions, MADD has reversed its opposition and is now supporting this stricter form of probation.
“Texas is the worst state in the nation for driving while intoxicated, more people die in Texas than any other state in the nation, including California which has about 12 million more people than Texas. You know, something’s out of whack here.”
MADD also wants the Texas Legislature to pass a law allowing local police to set up random sobriety checkpoints.