When we get a DWLI and the person is not a pure dirt-ball, we give them 90 days to get all their stuff straight with Austin. Typically, the offender signs an "installment agreement" with DPS, and the offender deals with DPS. So the offender gets behind or quits paying.... Who's in charge after that point? If the offender is still paying DPS, does that mean we have to wait out the ultimate results of the DPS payment plan? If the offender must pay $1,000 x 3 years, do we have to keep that case open as long as the dirt-ball is on a DPS payment plan?
Sorry...know this has been discussed before, but couldn't find the thread.
Is it true that all this is contracted out by DPS to civilian debt collectors?
That's awfully lenient of y'all to let them avoid the conviction while only asking that they sign-up for an installment plan. Their payment is only $35. Unless you're calling DPS to make sure payments are being made on everyone you set this deal up for, you're not going to know if they've failed to make payments and had their license re-suspended. Then you've got your defendant out there DWLI/S again and you still have no conviction to enhance the 2nd offense to Class A. They don't slip through the cracks and get this deal twice do they?
Drew, I was really looking for some constructive ideas. Instead, you roll in like a strike fighter dropping napalm, and lecturing me on your perceived inadequacies of my office. If that's all you have to offer, I'm not interested.
wow. not my intent.
I apologize, sometimes tone is hard to convey on a message board. I just mean that the 90 day reprieve to start an installment agreement is offering a lot of kindness to the defendant, and it probably requires a lot of hard work on the part of your office to make sure the defendant is holding up his end of the deal. I agree though that in many of these cases that type of lenience is appropriate.
Most of these DWLS cases seem to come from people who don't realize the relative seriousness of the offense and aren't willing to give up driving their cars. Then there are the types rolling around on a suspended license w/ 19 DWLS priors(the most i've seen).
As for constructive ideas, why not arraign these types who deserve lenience and an opportunity to fix their problems and allow them to use the time between arraignment and the jury docket to get this resolved. You don't have to keep track of them in the meantime and you can dismiss the case if they take care of business.
These cases are the nightmare of my docket. We are a rural area with I-20 and US 84 (toward Lubbock)as well as a technical college. My solution -
IF there does not appear to be a prior DWLI arrest within the last 24 months and all it takes to clear the DL is money, I offer 90 days to clear it without the case being filed. We get the Sheriff's Office to run it in the set time. If still suspended, the charge is filed. By now the bondsman has gone off so an arrest warrant is issued.
IF the person has no DL but is driving on an ID card, I offer 120 days to obtain a valid DL. Rationale? I live here too, and would rather that they were licensed, insured drivers. By not filing the case until I know that I'm going to proceed on it, my dismissal rate is not quite as high.
I realize that some of these people, especially those who don't live here, may get the license cleared, then fail to abide by the requirements and lose it again. However, I prefer to think that most folk don't do that.
The sad thing is that most of the people I see with this offense
1) have no idea that their DL is suspended. They moved (I know, they should have changed their addresses - but these aren't rocket scientists...) and DPS' notice is not forwarded. The first that they knew of their suspension was when they went to jail.
2) if they are employable, these folks have the worst jobs around. THey are hourly at the cement plant 35 miles from town, or the smelter. We have no mass transportation here. If they are to keep their jobs, they have to get there. Without driving, that can be nearly impossible. Without money, they can't get their license; without the license, they can't get to the money. What do we want them to do?
Perhaps I'm "soft"; the allegation has been made before and will be made again. However, I am a one attorney office in a small community. It is my opinion that sometimes "justice" is not blind prosecution, but seeking a solution to the problem.
Who's in charge? Guess my answer would be the driver; if he/she chooses to be honorable, they drive about the state without problem. If they choose to do just enough to get me off their backs, sooner or later, someone else will get them and see the recent arrest and call me.
How does the 90 days process play out? What do you do to contact the large numbers of accused w/o actually filing the case and start them on the process to reinstatement? How do you follow-up? Doesn't it require sending for the driving record a second time around after the 90 days is up or calling the DPS to verify? This seems like a tremendous amount of work for offices that are already overloaded. We get 100's of these cases per month and have just 4 prosecutors working the dockets. Our preference has always been to let the accused do the leg work themselves and dismiss where appropriate, but if there's a better way of doing things, I'm always open to hearing about it.
All person released from our jail on misdemeanors are given an appearance date. The unfiled DWLI defendants appear with everyone else. I take them to a conference room and visit with them together, explaining from their DL run what the problem is, give them an overview of how I will handle it, and send them off to "fix" their problems.
At the end of the time, I send a list of DLs to the sheriff's office. Their night crew runs them and marks the ones still suspended. Quite simple, actually!
Hmmm...doesn't sound too bad. Our way may actually be the more time consuming and frustrating route. Fining these folks $500 a pop is obviously not helping them get their surcharges paid either.
For those non "dirt-bag" defendants, we have a PTD program set up to deal specifically with DWLI's that typically only owe $ has been working very well. I visited with the PO this morning, in fact, for an update. They are pleased with the results so far. Not the best solution, I know, but a small office can be overwhelmed by these things, as can less than affluent defendant. I could fill our jail with DWLI's, either A' or B's....Oh wait, it's already full!
Hope this helps.
The real solution is for the Legislature to acknowledge that it was a bad idea to slip a tax into the criminal justice system in order to balance a budget on paper. The real costs of their creative financing are astronomical to county jail without any real progress in getting unlicensed drivers off the road.
Repeal the surcharge.
John, not only repeal the surcharge, but the legislature needs to stop providing for license suspensions for every cockamamie offense, and just concentrate on those in which it is necessary that the defendant not be behind the wheel of a motor vehicle.
21% of the cases on my county court docket in 2005 were DWLI cases. They increase monthly and there will be more in 2006. It is ridiculous. It has essentially become an economic crime. There are no buses or taxicabs in rural counties and people must drive to work.
Ironically, if we as prosecutors do our jobs well, and assist in collecting this revenue, or "persuade" folks to pay the surcharges, we are assuring it's continued existence. As I understand it, fairly low cost for state to impliment compared to the revenue it brings in.
However, it is the law, and I can't just dismiss or refuse to file them! I don't see a repeal coming anytime soon. Anyone know the exact revenue generated last year?
I would be interested to know how close the actual revenue came to the comptroller's (or whoever's) prediction. This result was entirely predictable, and therefore arguably the law should be strictly enforced as written until the legislature decides otherwise. The sad part of this law is that while many of these persons may still be employed, they are probably also driving without insurance coverage. Maybe the surcharge payments should be paid to the insurance companies rather than the state treasury.
We file all the DWLI cases received and place them on the county court docket. If the defendant has the capability to resolve the matter and does not have a significant DWLI history, we reset the case for 30 or 60 days for them to to get it straight and bring back documentation. If they do so, we give them a deferred adjudication and a fine but no reporting or monthly fees. Thus, no new surcharge and no new license suspension. For our DWLI "regulars", we negotiate a plea for 3 days, credit for 2 days, and a fine and court costs.
For a review of the Driver Responsibility Program, click here:
State Auditor's Report (2006)
"As of the end of February 2005, it had not assessed and billed at least $25 million.
Of the amount that had been assessed and billed as of the end of February 2005, only 20 percent had been collected. The Program was projected to have a collection rate of 66 percent for the first three years."
Why doesn't this make headlines?
Regarding surcharges, since the penalty doesn't really go into effect until the person tries to renew the license, it could take years to actually collected surcharges due. For example, I just renewed my DL last September and my DL doesn't expire until 2011. If I were hit with surcharges tomorrow, I wouldn't have to cough up the cash until 2011--presuming I wanted to renew my DL. I think this is one reason that the collection rate seems low.
Seems a bit disengenuous to measure the success by waiting to see who pays after the penalty kicks in. I'm pretty sure the Leg measured the fiscal note by predicting that collections would occur on their due date, not their penalty date. Seems a bit like saying a house note is not really overdue until the bank forecloses on it.
Regardless how we measure the program, it is a disaster. It is a taxation masquerading as a public safety initiative. It probably has more negatives (jail, prosecution, uninsured drivers, etc.) than positives (money in the state's coffers). Unfortunately, the costs are hidden in county and city budgets.
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