Saturday, August 19, 2006

To live outside the law, you must be honest

Long-time readers know how much I deplore the criminal justice system's failure to provide ex-felons an opportunity to redeem themselves and reintegrate into society once they're out, in particular excluding them from finding gainful employment. In the comments to this blog post from last summer, a young woman wrote this while I was gone:
My fiance is a convicted felon. He commited his crime when he was 20 years old. Nothing major. But major enough for this country. Before him I have dated and lived with several "nice" model citizens who have either cheated on me, attempted to assault me and one destroyed me financialy. My fiance is a better man than any of them. Honest, loyal, loving, compassionate and everyone loves him. But because of his mistake we are going to leave United States soon and start over in another country. He cannot find any jobs. Even a gas station fired him. He is depressed and does not want me to be the only bread winner because he wants to be able to take care of his family. He has not commited any other crimes. Never will. But we are both struggling financialy, we cannot afford a child etc. That's a shame.
Responding to the same post during my absence, another writer lamented a daughter's inability to find a job after a drug conviction:
I have a daughter [who] served time for drugs, now that she is out, every place she has applied refused her because of her prison record. How can she redeem herself, if society won't help? I pray for a break through for this serious problem.
These sad statements remind me of Bob Dylan's observation, "To live outside the law, you must be honest." Not everybody with a prison record is a dishonest person, and as the first writer has learned firsthand, for sure not everybody with a "clean" record can be trusted.


Anonymous said...

The only people whose arrests stick are unimportant people. Important people can get stopped, formally arrested even, but eventually they will have the 'incident' erased. Thus only unimportant people go to jail.

Having a criminal record is proof that someone is safe for anyone to harass, torment, cheat, and so on.

Consider how the police deal with the two classes of people. You're a cop and you see a car weaving as if the driver is smashed. You turn on your lights and have the car stop.

Once you know which class the driver is in, you will know how to enforce the law.

Policy 1: Call for backup because you will need someone to drive the drunk's car and follow you to his home, where you will make sure he gets in safely and won't find his keys until he's slept it off. If he has any passengers you will see to it that they get home safely.

Policy 2: Call for backup because you will need help threatening people with guns, making them walk backwards into traffic, prostrating themselves on the road, and letting you roughhouse them as you hook them up, pat them down, and cage them. You will need help running checks for wants and warrants for the driver, any passengers he has, and the registered owner of the vehicle. You will need help searching the vehicle. If you want to force anyone to become snitches, you will need to either plant drugs on them or find drugs on them and then not report that you are in possession of drugs you cannot legally possess. -- Uh, let's cut it short there, I'm running short on time -- but you get the picture.

Anonymous said...


Enough with the generalizations about how the police deal with two different classes. The scenario you describe is the exception rather than the rule.

I've arrested many DWI's. First off, I've never had to threaten them with guns or lay them out on the pavement. That's a felony stop and sobriety tests don't work well in that position.

Second, intoxicated is intoxicated, regardless of who you are. Where I see the inequity is in the post-arrest judicial process. The "connected" are given PR bonds and the "connected" are able to afford quality representation both in ALR and criminal proceedings.

Those who don't have the means suffer because there is not enough low cost or no cost legal defense. Public defenders offices, like here in Hidalgo County, are overwhelmed.

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the " NEW " America you can have as many Freedoms and as much Justice as you can AFFORD!!! SAD BUT TRUE!

And now I heard a rumor some are trying to drop the level from .08 to .04??? And that many are going to start the sobriety roadblocks up again??? After hearing the spokesman for DPS on TV, nothing should be taken lightly. A news person asked this spokesman, " How much is to much and then drive ". The trooper replied, " If you drink ANYTHING and then drive YOUR GOING TO JAIL'!!! Now here we have the states finest MAKING THIER OWN LAWS??? The law reads you can't drink beyond the legal limits and then drive!!! I guess if you keep dropping the limits, THE OFFICER WILL NOLONGER BE BREAKING THE LAW??? Prohibition DIDN'T work in the 20's and no matter how they disguise it today, IT STILL WILL NOT WORK, PERIOD!!!

Rusty White

Anonymous said...

New studies are showing that impairment occurrs at BACs as low as 0.03, some don't. The problem with a 0.04 per se law is that it would criminalize everyone who is 0.04 (two drinks for some people), even though they may not have their normal mental or physical faculties impaired.

I went to intoxilyzer school and surprised to see how impaired 0.08 is. I was dosed up to 0.089 and even though I am a social drinker, I felt like I was fit-shaced. I'm an SFST instructor and I couldn't do the tests without showing most of the clues.

Rusty, I think you're right, there will be an attempt to force down the "legal limit", but it's going to be an uphill fight.

As for the trooper's comments, DPS can't go out there and say, "yeah you can drink a little," because the message the agency is trying to put out is that any drinking and driving is bad. It's kind of like a priest saying it's okay to look at porn just as long as you don't jerk off.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

"like a priest saying it's okay to look at porn just as long as you don't jerk off"

That's my position - I only subscribe for the articles. ;-)

Anonymous said...


Brother, I can not agree with your acceptance of the DPS officers statement " EXSPECIALLY " as a spokesman for policy. His job is to enforce the law not make it. What the agency is doing is mind conditioning people to accept a LIE! And with the power and unquestionable power at that, one can no longer be honest when stopped. To do so is to put yourself at risk of those making their own laws. Then an American expecting justice BY OUR LAWS has to deal with enforcement making their own, and a court system that takes their word without question and a jury that has been conditioned to accept other than what the law states???

Everybody is different when it comes to the levels that impairs a person. We booked and Indian male who came off the reservation in Arizona, HE BLEW A 2.7!!! The highest anybody had every seen or heard of! The officer cleared the machine and ran the test again, same 2.7! yet he could stand and carry a conversation, anybody could tell he was impaired, but I was later told death could occur at this level.

We all want a better and safer world, " BUT " Problem drinkers HANDLE THEIR PROBLEMS BY DRINKING, add more problems expecting them to change is pure BS, as is raping all for the actions of a few. when our system is perverted to give everybody the same penalties as those who really deserve it. I have to stand and call BS!

If the good guys don't have to tell the truth or follow the laws, NOBODY DOES!IMPO.

Rusty White

Anonymous said...

Rep. Eddie Rodriguez has filed a bill for the last two sessions which would restrict the arbitrary disclosure of certain aspects of a person's criminal history. The purpose of this bill is to protect those individuals who have proven to society that they are rehabilitated by leading a productive and rehabilitated lifestyle. Understanding this, these people should no longer be punished or prejudged based on a prior arrest or conviction for which mandatory judicial punishment was satisfactorily served. It would also prohibit companies who collect and disseminate people's criminal records from releasing information that is covered by this nondisclosure order.

Ultimately, Rep. Rodriguez' bill extends the nondisclosure eligibility granted by the 78th Legislature through passage of SB 1477 (West).

A person would be eligible to request an order of non disclosure ONLY after:
* there are no subsequent legal actions on or after the 5th anniversary of a discharge from probation for a misdemeanor charge, OR the 10th anniversary of a discharge from probation or parole for a felony charge.

It is important to note that Rep. Rodriguez' bill would not represent a "get out of jail free" card, nor would it constitute a free ride for offenders. The purpose of this bill is to protect those individuals who have proven to be good citizens. These people usually continue to pay for mistakes made early in life. This bill specifically targets those people who have served their time to society; as a matter of reward and reciprocal good faith, these people should not have to endure continuous prejudice or be neglected the possibility of becoming productive members of society because of prior mistakes.

Anonymous said...


Excellent information, I hope those elected to represent “” THE PEOPLE “” have enough heart, TO FINALLY DO SO!!! I personally believe a misdemeanor with no victim should have NO history AT ALL! The 10 years for a felony should take in to account if a victim is involved, if no victim drop it to 5 years.

Rusty White