Smith's bill strikes me as a much better solution to the problem than Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo's DWI-Lite suggestion. Here's a notable excerpt from the Statesman story in which even Williamson County DA John Bradley endorsed reinstating deferred adjudication for first-time DWIs, which was eliminated as a sentencing option by the Lege some years ago in a fit of overzealous pique:
Supporters say the plan could ease court backlogs by routing cases out of courtrooms, give prosecutors a new negotiating tool and remove the threat of jail that makes some first-timers refuse guilty pleas in DWI cases.
By the time a House legislative committee held a hearing on the issue in August, more than 122,000 misdemeanor DWI cases were pending in state district courts. Prosecutors argue they are too limited in the options they can offer first-time offenders.
"Our alternatives that we can offer have diminished such that our bargaining positions have weakened, and cases are backing up," testified Richard Alpert, a 24-year Tarrant County prosecutor who has become a key figure in the fight against drunken driving.
The practice of convicting first-time offenders on reduced charges is more prevalent in counties near San Antonio and Houston, where backlogs have become a significant concern, witnesses reported during the hearing. If the drunken driver repeats the offense, critics worry there is then no record of a first conviction, and no grounds to enhance punishment for repeat offenses.
"The other thing this will do is hopefully make sure that we have a record of that drunken driving incident," said Williamson County District Attorney John Bradley, who expressed support for the measure. ...
In counties where the practice of reducing charges is not as prevalent, such as Travis and Williamson, the move could still ease backlog concerns, several prosecutors said.
"This would be a first step to putting some sanity in that system as long as people make sure to retain it only for the true first-time offender," Bradley said.
Kudos to Rep. Todd Smith and his staff for tackling this hot-button, third-rail issue in a moderate, sensible way. With even MADD endorsing the bill, there is plenty of political cover and only knee-jerk reasons left for opposing the legislation. And during a session when counties seem certain to face additional unfunded mandates on the criminal justice front, it'd be nice to pass at least a few pieces of legislation that reduce the cost burden on county justice systems. See HB 189 bill details.
RELATED: MADD sounding quite reasonable on mandatory license suspensions.