DWI: Giant fines and jail time, but no need for an attorney.

Spring in the Missouri legislature always sees the introduction of bills designed to prevent drunk driving.

In addition to the Drunk Driver Victims memorial signs discussed in an earlier post, here are a couple more:

Senator Wes Shoemyer’s Senate Bill 861, attempts to close what some consider a “loophole” in the DWI laws. Currently, some DWI-related convictions do not count toward “enhanced” punishment for persons accused of subsequent alcohol offenses, unless the defendant is represented by counsel or has waived the right to an attorney in writing.

This bill simply snips away the requirement that the defendant must have been “represented by or waived the right to an attorney in writing.”

This is one of those bills that tries to crackdown on DWI offenders, but in the end may backfire by permitting the courts to get sloppy about the constitutional right to an attorney. This would result in overturned convictions and would foul up repeat offender charges.

A written waiver of an attorney is a simple method to protect defendant’s rights (and the prosecutor’s conviction record). A written waiver in the file usually ends any controversy. By doing away with this requirement, Senate Bill 861 will create more problems than it solves.

* * *

Senator Tom Dempsey’s Senate Bill 1053 doesn’t beat around the bush. In addition to jail, fines and license suspensions (click here for a complete list), this bill tacks on an additional–and mandatory–$1,000 fine on a first offense; $2,500 on any later offense.

I guess it follows that since poor people cannot possibly pay such fines, only rich folks will be able to afford DWI’s anymore!

As a practical matter, the courts will be helpless to deal with such mandatory fines, except to sentence everyone to jail and put them on probation with orders to pay the fine in 30 – 90 days. Then when half of them can’t pay, just throw them in jail.

Tasers to be outlawed in Missouri? Well, sort of.

We hear in the news nearly every week how the police have either misused a Taser on somebody or killed somebody with one. Read: Tasers: Safety measure or Electronic attitude adjustment?

There is a bill in the Missouri Senate which –at first glance–I wondered if it might address this problem. But it does not. Sen. Yvonne Wilson is sponsoring Senate Bill 813, which would make ownership, possession or discharge of a taser a felony.

This prohibition would not apply, however, to police and a handful of other persons in legal/security related professions.

For some reason, I don’t feel any better now.


And now this ironic note from our Straining at Gnats and Swallowing Camels Dept

  • In Missouri, you can carry a firearm openly. You can carry it concealed, if you get a permit. You can carry it at home or concealed in your car even without a permit.
  • Now with a knife, you can own and carry one, but not concealed. You can’t get a permit.
  • Finally–if this bill passes–you cannot even own a Taser, let alone use it, even to protect against an intruder in your own home..

Sigh

Getting tough on crime: Steal a wire, go to prison

Sen. Rob Mayer is sponsoring Missouri Senate Bills 1034 & 802, which contains provisions for regulation and recordkeeping about scrap metal.

Thieves beware, for the bill sets a new record for punishment WAY OUT OF PROPORTION to the crime.

As most people know, stealing is a crime.

Steal a small thing, it’s a misdemeanor.

Steal a BIG thing (worth at least $500), it’s a felony.

This bill, however, makes it felony to steal a wire. Or a pipe.

It won’t matter if it’s worth 3 cents. It’s a felony.

Can you imagine going to prison for up to four years for stealing a piece of wire or pipe.

It is bad policy to “get tough on crime” by declaring obviously unfair punishments for trivial offenses.

It’s pure deterence, and no justice, no balance.

It’s like kicking a kid out of school for drawing a picture of cowboys and Indians shooting at each other.