May 2009

Harris County DA Pat Lykos has announced that she will allow first time DWI offenders to apply for Pretrial Diversion and/or be eligible for a Deferred Prosecution:

Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos announced plans Friday for a program that allows first-time DWI and drug offenders to avoid conviction, an idea she acknowledged could be a hard sell to the public.

The plan, referred to as pretrial diversion and scheduled to begin in August, was heartily endorsed by the county’s defense attorneys, supported by the sheriff deputies’ and the Houston police officers’ unions, but strongly opposed by the local chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Drivers.

“What we’re trying to do is prevent recidivism. So, it’s a carrot-stick approach,” Lykos said. “With respect to DWI, that’s an absolute plague in Harris County. If we can get first offenders, get them into treatment … and divert them so they don’t become repeat offenders, that’s going to have enormous dividends. And the same thing for first-time drug possession.”

This move was, and I know I’m repeating myself here, “supported by the sheriff deputies’ and the Houston police officers’ unions”. For all you law and order folks out there, doesn’t that endorsement convince you that it can’t be an all-bad idea, can it?

Heck, even Williamson County, not known for its soft-on-crime reputation allows DWI defendants with no prior criminal history to apply for what they call Pretrial Intervention – the same thing as Travis County’s Pretrial Diversion.

Isn’t it about time the progressive folks in charge of our Travis County Attorney’s Office here in Austin do the same thing?

I should know better than to get my hopes up.

Yesterday morning, my client’s DWI was set for a pretrial conference. That’s the last setting before a contested pretrial motions hearing in Travis County. But it doesn’t get set for pretrial motions until the complaint and information (official charging instrument in a misdemeanor) have been filed at the county clerk’s office.

This was – hang on, let me go check my calendar – the 27th time my client’s case was set on the docket. Which is a lot – but, no complaint and information, it just keeps getting reset about once every 3 or 4 weeks for another status check.

Today was 732 days after my client’s arrest. Two years and two days after. The statute of limitations for a misdemeanor DWI in Texas – which applies to the filing of the charging instrument only – expired two days ago. But this morning when I looked in the clerk’s file, the C&I was there. It had been filed in between the last two settings, just under the two year deadline.


That’s OK. Now I’ll just have to earn my fee the regular way.