Sunday, April 6, 2008

99 bottles of beer on the wall

The big personal rights conundrum:

Do I blow or do I let them take a sample of my blood.

I, of course, believe if they do a breath test refusal, change the law to a mandatory 1-2 year driver's license suspension with NO work-related temporary occupational license being allowed.

DWI suspects have way to thwart prosecutors
Karisa King: Express-News

On the night police charged District Judge Raymond Angelini with drunken driving because his red Mercedes-Benz had been swerving in the road, the officer noted in his arrest report that the judge was polite and cooperative, except for one thing — he refused to submit to a breath test.

After sitting on the bench for 13 years, Angelini, who has presided over more than 900 felony DWI cases, knew the stakes. By saying no to the test, he denied police the one possible piece of scientific evidence that either could sink or nail the case against him.

In Texas, it was no isolated act of defiance by a courthouse insider.

Nearly half of all drivers in the state deny requests to take the test, a rate that's almost double the national one and surpassed by only four other states.

The numbers have remained steady for more than a decade, undaunted by a law that means drivers who snub the test face a license suspension for at least six months. The law has had little effect since drivers can easily obtain an occupational driver's license for commuting to work.
That loophole, and increasingly strict laws and stiffer financial penalties for DWI convictions, have spurred more defendants across the state to fight their charges at trial.

As a consequence of the refusals, DWI cases jam court dockets and many charges end in dismissals or acquittals. In response, police, prosecutors and lawmakers are seeking new and controversial ways to surmount what they view as an intractable obstacle to punishing drunken drivers.

In Bexar County, the impact has been sorely felt.

DWI cases make up 15 percent of the misdemeanor dockets but account for 80 percent of all trials in those courts, according to the district attorney's office. Of the misdemeanor DWI cases that went to trial last year, the vast majority — eight of 10 — involved drivers who refused to submit to the breath test.

Prosecutors lost about 41 percent of the trials, regardless of the tests.

"The acquittals make me pull my hair out," District Attorney Susan Reed said.