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Came across this article, and the bolded portion (below) reminded me that the grass is not always greener on the other side.

What other crazy laws in other jurisdictions are you glad you don't have to deal with in Texas?

Battle looms on drunken driving
Repeat offenders targeted in bill
By Ralph Ranalli, Globe Staff | August 3, 2005

Expecting a bruising fight in the Legislature over a proposal to dramatically toughen the state's drunken driving laws, relatives of victims and proponents of the stricter laws said yesterday that they are preparing for a key hearing next month and gathering their forces to prevent the watering down of the bill.

The bill, which is aimed at getting chronic drunk drivers off the roads, has received renewed public attention because of several recent incidents involving repeat offenders, including last month's crash in Quincy that injured a 24-year-old pregnant woman and her unborn daughter, who was delivered by emergency caesarean section after the accident.

''We need swift action to put a stop to the mayhem that is happening on our roads," said Edward J. Melia, whose pregnant granddaughter, Katelyn Melia, was driving a sport utility vehicle when she was allegedly struck by a repeat drunk driver who had been stripped of his license. Although his granddaughter has been allowed to leave the hospital, her newborn daughter, Jillian, is still in critical condition, Edward Melia said.

''They [repeat offenders] are murdering and maiming our babies, our kids, our teenagers, and adults," he said.

Dubbed Melanie's Law, the proposal has the support of the Romney administration, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and at least 36 lawmakers who recently signed a letter to the chairmen of the legislature's Joint Committee on the Judiciary.

Other key lawmakers, however, have said some provisions in the proposal go too far, for example, a rule that would allow courts to seize a repeat offender's automobile, even if it is jointly owned. Lawmakers skeptical of the bill include the powerful Senate chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Senator Robert S. Creedon of Brockton.

Creedon, a Democrat and practicing lawyer who has done some criminal defense work, did not return calls seeking comment yesterday. He and Senator Michael W. Morrissey of Quincy are pushing a much narrower proposal that would increase penalties for people who knowingly lend a car to someone who is intoxicated or whose license has been suspended.

Senator Robert L. Hedlund, who has persuaded 35 other lawmakers to sign a letter to Creedon, said he is confident that the bill will move forward in some form.

''I think there is enough public outcry and pressure over the loopholes in our driving laws that we will see something come out of committee," the Weymouth Republican said.

Proponents said they are working hard to organize support in advance of the hearing next month. In fact, relatives of the 13-year-old Marshfield girl the bill is named after say they have already met with Governor Mitt Romney, Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healy, and at least 50 state lawmakers in the past month, in a effort to get the measure passed on Beacon Hill.

''There is no magic bullet; we are not naive enough to think that if we pass Melanie's Law, there will never be another drunk driving fatality," said 59-year-old Ron Bersani, whose granddaughter, 13-year-old Melanie Powell of Marshfield, was struck and killed by a drunk driver in 2003. ''But we need to get the repeat offenders off the road."

Under the proposal, which was formally put forward by Romney in May, the license suspension for refusing to submit to breathalyzer or field sobriety tests would be raised from 180 days to a mandatory one year for a first offense and up to a lifetime suspension for subsequent offenses. Prosecutors would also be able to submit certified records of prior drunken driving convictions in court, rather than having to prove prior offenses again, as they are currently required to do under state law.

Yesterday, Healy called those provisions ''common sense" measures that should have wide public support. ''Chronic drunk drivers know how to manipulate the current system and get that acquittal," she said.

The legislation also creates the crime of manslaughter by motor vehicle and requires a driver convicted of this offense to permanently forfeit his or her driver's license. Under current state law, drunk drivers who kill do not automatically lose licenses for life.
 
Posts: 2408 | Location: TDCAA | Registered: March 08, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It does not surprise me one bit that Massachusettes would have a current requirement requiring prosecutors to prove prior convictions by re-trying those cases. Since Massachusettes is a bastion of left-wing nutballs, their tendency toward socialism, their attitude that everybody is responsible for crime - except the perpetrator - has come back to haunt them. Thank God I don't live up there!
 
Posts: 124 | Location: West Texas | Registered: June 25, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Left wing-nutballs or no, I have a hard time believing they actually have to prove up prior previously adjudicated convictions in the same way we'd have to prove up an extraneous offense! What a huge waste of judicial resources that would be. Maybe this is an example of a reporter unable to comprehend the law and thus misrepresenting it to his readers. I know that never happens, though. If our brethren and sistren in Mass. really do labor under those insane conditions, we should start naming our kids after them in recognition of their heroism and bravery.
 
Posts: 49 | Location: Midland, Texas, USA | Registered: December 30, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Home of Senator Edward "Ted" Kennedy and the clan. 'Nuff said?
 
Posts: 723 | Location: Fort Worth, TX, USA | Registered: July 30, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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[/CODE]
 
Posts: 145 | Location: Bryan/College Station | Registered: April 23, 2003Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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In Oregon, criminals run free while a prison stands empty.

BY CHRIS LYDGATE
Wall Street Journal
August 4, 2005

PORTLAND, Ore.--Last month, Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto gritted his teeth and released 391 inmates from the county jail, including legions of drug dealers, drunk drivers, burglars, car prowlers, identity thieves, check forgers and assorted rip-off artists.
This spectacle has become numbingly familiar in Portland, a laid-back city that is suffering from an acute shortage of jail beds, a surge in property crimes, and a spike in methamphetamine use that led the state Legislature this week to pass a law requiring a doctor's prescription for cold and allergy medicines that could be used to make "meth." So far this year, Sheriff Giusto has sprung more than 2,700 inmates--and a town that prides itself on its progressive image is confronting a crisis in public safety.

"The criminal justice system is teetering on the edge of collapse," fumes Mr. Giusto, whose own car was recently broken into in a lot across from his office, beneath a sign reading "Sheriff's Patrol."

What makes the sheriff's predicament particularly maddening is that a few miles away, on the north side of town, sits the answer to his prayers--a brand new $58 million jail known as the Wapato Facility. Secluded in an 18-acre parcel where sparrows chuckle in the cottonwood trees, Wapato is the last word in detention. Its 525 beds were designed for "direct supervision," a correctional philosophy in which there are no physical barriers between the inmates and the corrections officers who watch over them. The dorms comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The jail boasts its own power plant, kitchen, laundry and medical clinic, and the security glass in the central control room is two inches thick.

But the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, reeling from revenue shortfalls and paralyzed by infighting, has not given the sheriff the money to get the jail up and running. So while local newscasts air endless horror stories about crime and meth fiends, Wapato has yet to play host to a single inmate. Sheriff Giusto calls it "a $58 million echo chamber."



The first act of this farce was written in 1995, when local voters approved a levy to build a new jail. The levy did not include money for operations, but county officials reckoned that Portland's rising property values would generate the cash. "It all penciled out," says Diane Linn, chairwoman of the five-member Board of Commissioners, which is elected separately from the sheriff.
Then Oregon voters passed a pair of ballot measures that imposed sharp limits on property taxes, the chief source of revenue for local government in this state (which has no sales tax). The ballot measures, combined with the 2001 recession, punched a huge hole in the county's projections and set off a painful round of service cuts and layoffs. "We hit a huge crisis, and we've been rolling from year to year," says Ms. Linn.

Desperate for savings, the board tore into the sheriff's operating budget; he responded by shutting down wards in his five existing jails. Since 2001, he has rolled up more than 400 jail beds, or 20% of his total capacity, and implemented a "matrix system," based on an inmate's propensity for violence and likelihood to commit more crimes. In this real-life matrix, drug dealers and drunk drivers are released to make way for more dangerous offenders such as rapists and robbers. (Brief profiles of freed inmates are posted at www.inmatereleases.org.)
Still, no one would ever mistake Portland for, say, East St. Louis. Violent crime is down, the parks teem with toddlers splashing in the fountains, and the cops are more likely to brandish lattes than nightsticks. But when it comes to public safety, perception is reality, and everyone seems to know someone who has had his car or house broken into--including County Commissioner Lisa Naito, whose laptop was stolen by a self-described meth addict in February. Many crime victims are outraged that red-handed burglars are routinely released back onto the streets within hours of being arrested. "We're losing to these people," says Sheriff Giusto. "We are losing."

While scofflaws scoff and perps perpetrate, the Board of Commissioners is deadlocked over the sheriff's budget. Chairwoman Linn has proposed a deal that would restore 171 jail beds, but has failed to win over a majority of her colleagues, some of whom suspect that the sheriff could open more beds by cutting the amount of overtime he pays his deputies. Board meetings, once about as contentious as a group hug, have turned icy.



Meanwhile, Wapato remains shuttered, its corridors silent. No visitors can appreciate the $180,000 sculpture that adorns its driveway--a series of concrete pillars that resemble the barnacled ribs of an ancient shipwreck--because no one is allowed to visit. So what do you do with a jail that costs $300,000 just to keep closed, anyway? Wags have suggested rehabilitating it into a casino, a hotel or a brewpub. It has also served as the backdrop for a horror flick titled "Path of Evil."
Desperate to find some way out of the maze, county officials recently approached the Oregon Legislature for help. The state prison system is also bursting at the seams--why not house those prisoners at Wapato? Unfortunately, the response so far has been tepid. State officials say Wapato is not suited for long-term incarceration, in part because it has no facilities for an outdoor exercise yard or a Native American sweat lodge, both required by state law.

Besides, the state already has its own project in the works: a 2,100-bed prison in the windswept town of Madras. Last month, the Legislature authorized $191 million to build the Madras prison, but it has not yet figured out how to fund its operation.

Is there an echo in here?
 
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In Oregon, criminals run free while a prison stands empty.

BY CHRIS LYDGATE
Wall Street Journal
August 4, 2005

PORTLAND, Ore.--Last month, Multnomah County Sheriff Bernie Giusto gritted his teeth and released 391 inmates from the county jail, including legions of drug dealers, drunk drivers, burglars, car prowlers, identity thieves, check forgers and assorted rip-off artists.

This spectacle has become numbingly familiar in Portland, a laid-back city that is suffering from an acute shortage of jail beds, a surge in property crimes, and a spike in methamphetamine use that led the state Legislature this week to pass a law requiring a doctor's prescription for cold and allergy medicines that could be used to make "meth." So far this year, Sheriff Giusto has sprung more than 2,700 inmates--and a town that prides itself on its progressive image is confronting a crisis in public safety.

"The criminal justice system is teetering on the edge of collapse," fumes Mr. Giusto, whose own car was recently broken into in a lot across from his office, beneath a sign reading "Sheriff's Patrol."

What makes the sheriff's predicament particularly maddening is that a few miles away, on the north side of town, sits the answer to his prayers--a brand new $58 million jail known as the Wapato Facility. Secluded in an 18-acre parcel where sparrows chuckle in the cottonwood trees, Wapato is the last word in detention. Its 525 beds were designed for "direct supervision," a correctional philosophy in which there are no physical barriers between the inmates and the corrections officers who watch over them. The dorms comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The jail boasts its own power plant, kitchen, laundry and medical clinic, and the security glass in the central control room is two inches thick.

But the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners, reeling from revenue shortfalls and paralyzed by infighting, has not given the sheriff the money to get the jail up and running. So while local newscasts air endless horror stories about crime and meth fiends, Wapato has yet to play host to a single inmate. Sheriff Giusto calls it "a $58 million echo chamber."

The first act of this farce was written in 1995, when local voters approved a levy to build a new jail. The levy did not include money for operations, but county officials reckoned that Portland's rising property values would generate the cash. "It all penciled out," says Diane Linn, chairwoman of the five-member Board of Commissioners, which is elected separately from the sheriff.

Then Oregon voters passed a pair of ballot measures that imposed sharp limits on property taxes, the chief source of revenue for local government in this state (which has no sales tax). The ballot measures, combined with the 2001 recession, punched a huge hole in the county's projections and set off a painful round of service cuts and layoffs. "We hit a huge crisis, and we've been rolling from year to year," says Ms. Linn.

Desperate for savings, the board tore into the sheriff's operating budget; he responded by shutting down wards in his five existing jails. Since 2001, he has rolled up more than 400 jail beds, or 20% of his total capacity, and implemented a "matrix system," based on an inmate's propensity for violence and likelihood to commit more crimes. In this real-life matrix, drug dealers and drunk drivers are released to make way for more dangerous offenders such as rapists and robbers. (Brief profiles of freed inmates are posted at www.inmatereleases.org.)
Still, no one would ever mistake Portland for, say, East St. Louis. Violent crime is down, the parks teem with toddlers splashing in the fountains, and the cops are more likely to brandish lattes than nightsticks. But when it comes to public safety, perception is reality, and everyone seems to know someone who has had his car or house broken into--including County Commissioner Lisa Naito, whose laptop was stolen by a self-described meth addict in February. Many crime victims are outraged that red-handed burglars are routinely released back onto the streets within hours of being arrested. "We're losing to these people," says Sheriff Giusto. "We are losing."

While scofflaws scoff and perps perpetrate, the Board of Commissioners is deadlocked over the sheriff's budget. Chairwoman Linn has proposed a deal that would restore 171 jail beds, but has failed to win over a majority of her colleagues, some of whom suspect that the sheriff could open more beds by cutting the amount of overtime he pays his deputies. Board meetings, once about as contentious as a group hug, have turned icy.

Meanwhile, Wapato remains shuttered, its corridors silent. No visitors can appreciate the $180,000 sculpture that adorns its driveway--a series of concrete pillars that resemble the barnacled ribs of an ancient shipwreck--because no one is allowed to visit. So what do you do with a jail that costs $300,000 just to keep closed, anyway? Wags have suggested rehabilitating it into a casino, a hotel or a brewpub. It has also served as the backdrop for a horror flick titled "Path of Evil."

Desperate to find some way out of the maze, county officials recently approached the Oregon Legislature for help. The state prison system is also bursting at the seams--why not house those prisoners at Wapato? Unfortunately, the response so far has been tepid. State officials say Wapato is not suited for long-term incarceration, in part because it has no facilities for an outdoor exercise yard or a Native American sweat lodge, both required by state law.

Besides, the state already has its own project in the works: a 2,100-bed prison in the windswept town of Madras. Last month, the Legislature authorized $191 million to build the Madras prison, but it has not yet figured out how to fund its operation.

Is there an echo in here?
 
Posts: 2408 | Location: TDCAA | Registered: March 08, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Review of felons' claims possible

A bill on the House floor would set up a panel to study assertions of innocence

By ANDREA WEIGL, Raleigh News & Observer
Aug. 10, 2005

RALEIGH -- A House committee sent legislation to the floor Tuesday that would create a state agency to review felons' claims that they are innocent of the crimes that sent them to prison.
"I'm elated," said I. Beverly Lake Jr., chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court and the force behind the proposal.

The legislation, if it passes both the House and Senate, would make North Carolina the first state to create a legal process for those with innocence claims. The only comparable entity exists in England.

A companion bill in the Senate has not moved out of committee.

The legislation was recommended by the N.C. Actual Innocence Commission. Lake created that commission after several high-profile cases of convictions of people later found to be innocent.

The commission's version of the bill was barely changed before Tuesday morning's hearing, and the committee room was packed by district attorneys and law enforcement officials who opposed it. During a two-hour break before the committee reconvened Tuesday afternoon, intense negotiations occurred among Lake, lawmakers, prosecutors, sheriffs and the criminal defense lawyers.

With some revisions, the prosecutors and sheriffs were more comfortable with the legislation.

How panel would work

The amended bill would create an agency called the N.C. Innocence Inquiry Commission to screen and investigate innocence claims. Credible claims would be evaluated by an eight-member panel, whose members would include a Superior Court judge, a prosecutor, a victim advocate, a sheriff and a criminal defense lawyer. Five members would be appointed by the chief justice of the N.C. Supreme Court and three by the chief judge of the N.C. Court of Appeals.

If five of the eight members found "sufficient evidence of factual innocence," the panel would forward the claim to a three-judge panel for a public hearing. Up to that point, all the agency's work would be closed to the public.

To be declared innocent, the judges would have to agree unanimously that there is "clear and convincing evidence" that the defendant did not commit the crime. If two of the three judges found such evidence, the defendant could appeal to the state Supreme Court.

The commission would have to issue a report on its work to the legislature at the end of 2008.

Despite the changes, not all who initially opposed the bill were swayed.

"I feel it undermines the criminal justice system," said Mel Chilton, executive director of the N.C. Victim Assistance Network.

He wants the legislature to create a commission to study the proposal.
 
Posts: 2408 | Location: TDCAA | Registered: March 08, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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"...the committee room was packed by district attorneys and law enforcement officials who opposed it."

Why is something like this so vehemently opposed? I mean, if there is 'clear and convincing evidence', wouldn't everyone want to have the person released from prison? What is to fear from a program like this, the cost? Is it not worth some money if even 1 wrongly convicted person is found and released? No disrespect intended, but is the fear that maybe too many folks will be found actually innocent, and make law enforcement and prosecutors look bad?
 
Posts: 13 | Registered: January 13, 2005Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Those who are actually familiar with the provisions of the proposed legislation probably could comment more accurately than we can here. There may be tremendous burdens and offensive presumptions of prosecutorial malevolence that lurk in the bill unrevealed by the facile label of "freeing the innocent." As is so often true with legislation, the abstract idea may be a great one, but the devil usually is in the details.
 
Posts: 1233 | Location: Amarillo, Texas, USA | Registered: March 15, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Yeah, I guess you're right. One can't really take anything at face value when it comes to legislation. It certainly sounds like a good idea, but I can understand how it could be abused. Kind of like when a good bill is introduced, but a bunch of bad ideas are tagged onto it, causing the whole thing to fail.
 
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"The legislation, if it passes both the House and Senate, would make North Carolina the first state to create a legal process for those with innocence claims."

Maybe I'm just being clueless here, but isn't our good old art. 11.07, etc. writ of habeas corpus (theoretically, at least) set up largely to provide exactly such a legal process?
 
Posts: 102 | Location: Galveston, Texas | Registered: September 27, 2004Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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What a ridiculous system. To convict someone, I have to conduct an investigation by a trained agency. Then I indict before a grand jury. Then I have a trial in an adversarial system with a judge and jury. Then an appellate court reviews the trial. Thena another appellate court reviews the trial. Then a federal system of courts reviews the trial. Then a state habeas system review the trial. Then a federal habeas system reviews the trial.

But, wait, if the defendant claims he is innocent, he can bypass all this and go straight to a panel of people who are not judges, who have very different roles in our criminal justice system, and simply get them to agree he might be innocent. No trial, no adversarial contest. Just a popularily contest.

What utter nonsense.

This is turning our criminal justice system on its head. It is the sort of legal pablum that will seriously damage the criminal justice system.

There is already a system for challenging the legality of a trial. It is set out above. Throw on top of that the entire clemency process and you have to ask yourself, what sort of wooly-headed thinking drives people to make such bad choices.

No wonder a roomful of prosecutors and law enforcement were opposed.
 
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Why are certain people's solutions to government problems always MORE government?

If this new non-adversarial star chamber of a panel is so great, why do we need appellate courts? Let's just scrap them all and save a bundle.
 
Posts: 2408 | Location: TDCAA | Registered: March 08, 2002Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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And how many times have we seen someone released from prison because some sort of evidence, be it DNA or other, surfaced, even after all those options outlined above were exhausted?

Even a trial in many cases is a popularity contest. Which attorney strikes a cord with the jury can affect the outcome. Bad outcomes are not potential problem for defendants, but prosecutors as well. How many times have you lost a trial when you KNEW the guy did it? OJ ring a bell?

If you admit that bad guys have walked, you must admit that good guys have been sent to prison.
 
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The fact that the guy got out does not show that the opportunities in the current system had been exhausted. How do you think he got out??? Through the current system.

You can't have your cake and eat it too. Individuals who have been released on innocence claims went through the courts or clemency process. Other than making it easier and subject to less adversarial review, what in the world are you offering?
 
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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Does it bother anyone that, more and more frequently, the powers in this country are recognizing and even following laws from England? I thought that was what the revolution was all about. Whatever happened to the republican state and American sovereignty?

Just another example of "the evolving standards of decency" authorizing changes.
 
Posts: 532 | Location: McKinney, Tx | Registered: June 22, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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It sure seems like the posters who fail to identify themselves make the most outrageous claims.
 
Posts: 7860 | Location: Georgetown, Texas | Registered: January 25, 2001Reply With QuoteReport This Post
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