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v v CHAPTER 18 Fighting Mad I received a lot of press after SB 306 was passed. People from across Texas began calling my office to report their stories about loved ones who they had lost in drunk-­ driving accidents. Their stories were compelling. My staff and I listened. The program 60 Minutes aired a story about the drunk-­ driving problem and a new organization in California called Mothers against Drunk Driving (MADD) that was lobbying the California legislature to crack down on drunk drivers. The segment focused on people who had been repeatedly arrested for drunk driving and were released. But each time they went back to court, they were considered first-­ time offenders! Some of these repeat offenders had killed others while driving drunk. MADD wanted the California legislature to stop those repeat offenders. The next day I asked my staff to call the Department of Public Safety to determine if we had the same repeat-­ offender problem in Texas. This information might provide the angle that I needed to get a bill passed to establish treatment centers for substance abusers. My staff and I read every article we could find about the drunk-­ driving problem. I knew firsthand the pain and suffering inflicted on a family due to drinking problems and alcoholism. I was committed to becoming an expert on the drunk-­ driving issue. This would become the number one issue facing the Texas legislature in the next session. MADD began gaining popularity, and chapters began to form across Texas. I spoke at many of their meetings, giving me the opportunity to learn more about the problem and hear more painful stories. One woman told me a drunk driver killed her husband and three sons. Fighting Mad • 185 That driver had previously been arrested twenty-­ three times for drunk driving. Every time he went to court, he was given deferred adjudication, his offense was cleared, and the next time he was arrested for driving drunk, he was a first-­ time offender. When he had finally killed four people for driving drunk, he was sentenced to six months in jail! At that time, judges and law officers were lenient on drunk drivers . MADD began to target the courts and the judges. Members of MADD sat in courtrooms to hear drunk-­ driving cases and were vocal about insisting on harsh punishments. MADD also began publishing DWI conviction records in local newspapers. They were instrumental in escalating the issue. Judges often had no choice but to release the repeat offenders because prosecutors failed to produce adequate evidence proving how much alcohol had been consumed. At that time, breathalyzers were not reliable, and the only accurate way to test the alcohol percentage level was to draw blood. Very few drunk drivers agreed to the blood test, so it was usually the officer’s word against the accused. I began outlining my plans to draft a bill and spent a lot of time consulting with Danny Needham and Corky Roberts, my two attorney friends in Amarillo, about this issue. They were very helpful in outlining the legal challenges involved in getting a bill passed on this issue. One night we met at Danny’s home, and I tossed out the idea of using video cameras to gather evidence. Video cameras were pretty new at that time. I told Danny and Corky that a video of a drunk driver could provide substantial evidence in obtaining a conviction. Danny and Corky liked the idea, but they said that defense lawyers would fight it hard, and they had one of the strongest lobby groups in Austin . I still thought that if I incorporated the use of video cameras into a bill, those lawyers would have a hard time explaining why it was not a good idea. We also discussed imposing mandatory penalties for repeat offenders . Under the law at that time, the judge or jury determined the penalty , and they were extremely lenient. One man who had been arrested thirteen times for drunk driving finally killed a man and his wife. He served just sixty days in jail. Any time a jury heard a case, the prosecutor could not bring up previous convictions, so the juries were in the dark. Danny and Corky also told me that the judges and attorneys would strongly oppose the concept of mandatory penalties, so I proposed a 186 • The Grand Duke from Boys Ranch discretionary range of punishment for each offense, except for a third offense, which would bear...

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Additional Information

ISBN
9781623496586
Related ISBN
9781623496579
MARC Record
OCLC
1031090706
Pages
336
Launched on MUSE
2018-04-16
Language
English
Open Access
No
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