My old friend Mr. X, the Deep Throat of the DA’s Office, does not like DA Lykos’s proposal to offer pretrial diversion to people charged with first DWIs. He writes:
Let’s assume the pretrial diversions will be expungeable because the way that Lykos has talked about them they’ll be more like pretrial interventions where charges are not formally filed (like the current juvenile system). Why is no one bothered by the inherent problem that rich folks get to buy justice? Only folks of decent means will be able to afford the guardian interlock that will be required plus the lab and supervisory fees. That means that defendants with less money will end up with convictions PLUS they get doubly screwed because they’ll have to pay the DPS surcharges that accompany a conviction that the rich defendants won’t have to pay. Call me idealistic. I know the system favors wealth but I don’t think it should do so so obviously.
How about it?
Having an ignition interlock, a device that requires the driver to give a breath sample before starting the car, is not ordinarily a condition of probation for a first DWI in Harris County. Such a device costs about $100 a month. That’s less than the monthly Starbucks budget for most judges, but it’s serious money for ordinary folk.
Add to that supervisory and lab fees (for random urinalyses while on supervision), which are an ordinary part of a DWI probation in Harris County, and the cost of avoiding a conviction for DWI is close to $200 a month.
If the only people who are allowed to take pretrial diversion (and eventually get their cases expunged) are those with an extra $100 of discretionary income a month, as Mr. X says, those who don’t have the money will get screwed and stuck with a DWI conviction and probation. Those who can’t afford either probation or pretrial diversion will, as Mr. X writes, be doubly screwed: they’ll have to plead to time served, take DWI convictions, and be stuck paying $1,000 a year for three years to keep a driver’s license.
How is that fair?