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LOUIS . dictional hassles? Instead of deputizing everyone, as this bill comes close to doing, perhaps the Legislature should abolish individual police departments and convert all peace officers to state troopers under the Department of Public Safety. At the very least, it would give new meaning to the term “police state.” Status: Placed on Senate intent calendar; pending in House Criminal Jurisprudence Committee. Intoxicated with Authority House Bill 467 Sponsor: State Rep. Bill If it’s not bad enough that all traffic out of South Texas is subject to searches for illegal aliens, now Rep. Carter wants to codify a means for the police to conduct DWI checkpoints. Although the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held DWI roadblocks illegal per se in Webb v. State, the Court found in Brown v. State that such roadblocks might be legal if the officer had no discretion in deciding which cars were stopped. Carter’s bill attempts to comply with Brown, but the result demonstrates why there are more efficient ways than roadblocks to catch drunk drivers. For example, Carter’s bill requires officers to operate a roadblock for no more than four hours and to stop vehicles on a “reasonably predictable, nonarbitrary basis.” Also, an officer cannot detain a sober driver for the initial inquiry for more than two minutes. Finally, a driver must be able to pass through a checkpoint in 10 minutes. With such restrictions, the police have better things to do with their time than staff privacy-invading roadblocks. But this benign language should not be mistaken for a reason to make this bill law. Under Brown, police already know what it takes to conduct a legal roadblock. So why codify what the police should already know: that DWI roadblocks aren’t worth their time? Status: In DWI Subcommittee of House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence States’ Wrongs House Joint Resolution 13 Sponsor: State This bill, which proposes an amendment to the Texas Constitution, really is an attempt to eliminate all the rights of criminal defendants under the Texas Constitution. The resolution would do this under the guise of promoting the interests of crime victims and, specifically, by abolishing Article I of the state Constitution. In case there’s any doubt about the resolution’s intent, it declares that criminal defendants in Texas could not have greater rights than those granted under the U.S. Constitution. What this proposal overlooks is Texas’ unique history, which led the drafters of the Texas constitution to establish protections that reflected their quest for greater justice than that afforded in other states. This measure deliberately ignores the fact that the Texas Constitution makes it much more difficult for prosecutors to introduce coerced confessions, but, then again, he may just be a federalist who would have opposed the Battle of the Alamo, too. Status: In House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence Doing Violence to the Rules of Evidence Senate Bill 275 Sponsor: State Sen. Eddie One of the best examples of good intentions gone awry this session, this bill was promoted by the Texas Family Violence Association and attempts to create a defense for those who kill family members following years of being physically or emotionally abused. As written, the bill would let experts testify about the the defendant’s state of mind at the time of the killing. Problem is, criminal law has long held that witnesses cannot testify regarding the intent, motive, or purpose of another person. Otherwise, we could abolish trials and hire psy DUBOSE State Senator Buster Brown chiatrists to decide if the accused had it in him or her to commit the crime. Yet, the demise of this bill would not necessarily prevent use of the so-called “spouse abuse defense.” In 1988, in Fielder v. State, the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals held that evidence regarding the effect of family violence may be admitted whenever defendants victims attempt to prove that they reasonably believed they needed to defend themselves against an abusive family member. This dangerous bill would simply codify what Fielder has already accomplished. Status: Sent to Governor Richards. Life Begins at 19 Senate Bill 10 Sponsor: State Sen. J.E. There’s an old saying that hard cases make bad law, and this bill is a prime example. Based on the horrendous case of a man who telephoned his estranged wife and then killed their 4 1/2-year-old son in her hearing, this bill initially would have made it a capital offense to kill anyone under age six and over age 60. In passing the bill, the Senate expanded the age range to anyone under 18. While it is true that Texas death penalty laws already make a police officer’s life more valuable than that of a regular citizen, it’s still legitimate to ask why an 18-year-old’s life should be more valuable than a 19-year-old’s. The bill promotes equally arbitrary valuation regarding those over 60. But could this bill have prevented the crime that engendered it? It’s doubtful. The case on which Brown based his bill did not involve’ child murder generally, but family violence specifically. If legislators want to prevent this kind of violence, they might do better to examine Texas family law and police enforcement of protective orders. Status: Passed Senate; now in House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence . Guilty Until Proven Innocent Senate Bill 228 Sponsor: Zaffirini At press time, state Sen. Bob Glasgow \(D-bill by ensuring that it received an unfavorable report from the Senate State Affairs Committee. At least Glasgow used due process, a key ingredient that S.B. 228 lacks. Under the bill, the Texas Department, of Public Safety could administratively revoke the driver’s license of an individual convicted of impaired driving. Because DPS would hold the suspension hearing, instead of a court of law, Glasgow has rightly observed that the bill would deny due process. But that isn’t the only due process problem in this bill, which would also let the DPS suspend a driver’s license 40 days after the driver failed a blood or breath test. Suspension length would depend upon whether the driver had prior “drugor alcohol-related contacts,” including convictions and refusals to take a blood or breath test even if these occurred in other states. Significantly, this information could not be used in a. DWI trial as evidence of guilt, but in a license suspension it would enable the DPS to bypass the inconvenience of due process. Arrestees would have the right to fight the license suspension in a court hearing. The bill does not, however, alleviate the presumption of guilt that arrestees would have to overcome in such hearings in order to retain their driver’s licenses. Status: Postponed in Senate State Affairs Committee; House companion sent to subcommittee. 10 MAY 3, 1991