Ol’ Big Jolly is happy as a clam to report that Pat Lyko’s DIVERT program is doing precisely what it set out to do – reducing the number of folks who elect time served and a fine when charged with driving while intoxicated.
The idea all along was to force people to accept probation or apply to DIVERT so that the county could keep them under its thumb for a year. Any defense attorney worth his salt will tell his client that time served and a fine is a better deal than probation – the only downside is having to apply for an occupational driver’s license.
Why would anyone in their right mind choose to go see a probation officer once a month, swear off alcohol for a year, do community service and pony up money every month to the county? Why when you’ve already done two days in jail (2-for-1, remember) and you can get out of the courthouse only owing some money?
The Lykos administration convinced 14 (maybe just 13) of the 15 misdemeanor judges to forget that the minimum sentence for a first-time DWI is three days in jail and up that to 30 days. By agreeing not to consider the full range of punishment, these judges coerced defendants into applying for DIVERT or taking probation if they couldn’t qualify.
And yes, Big Jolly, DIVERT is illegal. And, as a self-professed conservative, I would think that would mean something to you. But then, it’s best not to allow logic or integrity into the political process – it will only cause one’s head to explode. The state legislature said no deferred adjudication for driving while intoxicated. None.
And that’s exactly what DIVERT is. When a defendant applies for the program and is accepted, that defendant must appear before the judge and enter a plea of guilty. The judge then defers a finding of guilty until such time as the defendant has completed the program.
That’s deferred adjudication. And that’s not allowed for driving while intoxicated.
Now there’s a school of thought that the DPS won’t object to any petitions for expunction because no one else will and because they don’t want to cause havoc in Harris County. That remains to be seen. And, regardless of whether or not the DPS objects, the program is still illegal and it has tainted the criminal (in)justice system in Harris County.
H/T Grits for Breakfast