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DWI Diversion in Harris County

Houston DWI attorney Paul Kennedy reports:

A citizen confronted with a first-time DWI will be offered pretrial diversion (if eligible) or 30 days in the county jail. The other option is to ask the judge for probation without a recommendation from the prosecutor. . . . . Said an unnamed source, “the plan is to force people into pretrial diversion.”

This is the Harris County DIP (which is now to be called DIVERT: Direct Intervention using Voluntary Education Restitution and Treatment) program he’s talking about.

We now know that the offers will be:

  1. 30 days in jail for first offenders if they take diversion, probation, or jail time. FIne $750.00

  2. 45 days if open container if they take diversion, probation or jail time. Fine $1000.00

The DA’s Office will, contrary to Paul’s information, be recommending probation for people who don’t want DIVERT or 30 days in jail. (But what’s the point of that?)

As a criminal-defense lawyer who makes part of his living defending DWI cases in Harris County, I can live with this. But conscience forces me to point out that there’s a number that the plan does not take into account.

94.5%. That’s the fraction of the 713 people in Harris County whose cases were resolved in the first five months of this year after they refused to plead guilty who beat their cases—got them dismissed or got acquitted.

Pretrial diversion will appeal to those who would otherwise plead guilty to an agreed probation (other than the requirement of an ignition interlock for the first six months of DIVERT, it looks like a better deal for someone who can successfully complete probation).

It will appeal to some of those who would otherwise plead guilty to an agreed time-served sentence (3-2-and-a-hun); some, however, will prefer jury trial (with jury punishment, perhaps) to a year or two of government supervision.

It will not, I hope, appeal to those who think that 94.5% is a pretty darn good chance of winning a DWI case outright.


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