Monday, March 11, 2013

Committee to address reckless driving fines, police officer side businesses

What's the difference between a tax increase and an increased fine for a Class C misdemeanor? Not much to the person paying it, but apparently anti-tax Republicans can justify the latter, if never the former. Rep. Tom Craddick from Midland has a bill up in the House Homeland Security and Public Safety Committee meeting today raising the fine for reckless driving from $200 to $1,000.

Grits imagines Rep. Craddick is trying to address the problem of prosecutors and judges reducing charges for DWIs to avoid the excessive, counter-productive financial burden placed on defendants by the Driver Responsibility Surcharge. The better solution to that would be to pass Rep. Larry Gonzalez's bill eliminating the surcharge, which would negate the incentives for plea bargaining down DWI charges. That legislation has been referred to the same committee.

It's also possible Craddick filed the bill as a backstop in case his texting-while-driving legislation either fails to pass or is vetoed again. Reckless driving is currently the charge on the books that applies to such behavior. Grits can't say it too many times, though: Increased criminal penalties cannot or at least should not be the primary solution to every social problem, though that tends to be how many legislators approach things.

Another piece of legislation on the same agenda comes from Rep. Bill Calegari, who wants to forbid police officers from using their rank or status as an active peace officer to advertise or promote a private business. That's a good bill. I've always thought peace officers should be required to register their independent businesses with TCLEOSE. You'd be amazed how common the practice is that Rep. Callegari is trying to ban.

14 comments:

Minneapolis DWI Lawyer said...

Interesting to hear what's going on in Texas with this. Nice blog you have here - with a great title!

DLW said...

You should never assume that the primary reason for plea downs on DWI cases are related to the surcharges. In fact, I have never done a plea down where the DA or CA was motivated by surcharges.

At least the Prosecutors I deal with are more motivated by weaknesses in their proof or problems with their witnesses. No matter how good a case is from the Defense perspective, few clients will reject a plea down which guarantees a successful DWI resolution.

Anonymous said...

Be careful messing those extra jobs. If you take those away from us we are liable to all become democrats and go protest all the local government for higher pay.

Anonymous said...

All it does is raise the maximum allowable fine. It doesn't mandate a $1,000 fine for Pete's sake.

JohnnyD said...

All it does is raise the maximum allowable fine. It doesn't mandate a $1,000 fine for Pete's sake.

Its touching that you think broke municpalities will now use the law to replenish their coffers.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

DLW, I'm not saying prosecutors are reducing charges out of the goodness of their hearts. The surcharge make defendants more likely to fight their cases, which means "weaknesses in their proof or problems with their witnesses" are more likely to be exposed.

Anonymous said...

Grits said....."I've always thought peace officers should be required to register their independent businesses with TCLEOSE."

Why?

Anonymous said...

Why?...

To hold Conflict of Interest in check.

IE. Trucking company hires an off duty officer as a "safety rep" but only to avoid being ticketed for running unsafe vehicles on the road.

Anonymous said...

@7:50pm you surely have evidence and reported that to the powers that be, right?

Anonymous said...

Powers to be was a prosecutor... want to take a guess what happened after passing up the information?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

5:49, the answer to "why?" is to provide greater transparency and accountability. It's difficult to find that information on a case by case basis and when those side businesses either play off of the officer's day job, as Rep. Callegari is worried about, or pose ethical dilemmas or conflicts of interest, the public has an interest in knowing what they are.

Anonymous said...

@ 8:20am Report it to the FMCSA for violation of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regs.

North Texas Cop said...

Do attorneys have to register all of their non-lawyer-based businesses with the state bar? How about all of their business investments and other sources of income? Well, do they? If not, why not? Why shouldn't they?

Anonymous said...

So I guess when I donate a pair of boots from my western store to fight leukemia or cancer I will be committing a crime.

Supid arse bill.