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Deferred adjudication for DWI: 'Free pass' or good law?

With more than 15,000 DWI cases moving through just one Texas county at the start of this year, a proposed law for deferred adjudication of drunk driving charges is back on the table for debate in the Texas legislature.

Ashley Withers, reporting for the SMU Daily Campus, writes that deferred adjudication used to be on the books prior to 1984 but the law was killed that year. Deferred adjudication (which is heavily supported by Mothers Against Drunk Driving) allows someone charged with DWI to accept a guilty plea in exchange for keeping the actual DWI conviction off his or her record.

But John Patton, who at 22 years old caused a drunk-driving accident that seriously injured two people and caused the death of a third, was charged with two counts of intoxicated vehicular assault and one count of intoxicated manslaughter. Patton served time for the accident.

Contrary to what you might think, Patton does not support deferred adjudication.

Referring to the drunk-driving accident Patton caused, he said, "The scary thing about that is my first drinking and driving offense killed someone."

The law, if passed, will likely apply primarily to first time offenders.

Source: SMU Daily Campus, "Texas legislature considers DWI deferred adjudication," Ashley Withers, 04/24/2011

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