Yes, DWI reports are public record ‘Pour’ Judge Longoria
My office got a call last week from a woman who seemed clearly distraught, according to my office staff. She admitted she was embarrassed, and apparently, she sounded close to tears.
The reason for her call? Her name had appeared in the list we publish each week containing the names of those who have been arrested and charged with DWI (driving while intoxicated).
“Is it legal for us to publish the names?” the woman wanted to know. “Yes, it is,” she was told.
She asked that I call her back. Not really wanting to, I did anyway, but got no answer.
Yes, the names of those arrested for allegedly driving while intoxicated is a matter of public record. In fact, one of the reasons my wife wanted to run them weekly (her idea; but one with which I agree) is because she hopes that it serves as a deterrent to drinking and driving. Without publishing the list, those arrested may never see their names in print. Knowing that if they’re arrested, their names will appear in this newspaper may, in fact, make them think twice about climbing behind the wheel of a vehicle after downing six shots of Tequila with a chaser.
My wife’s daughter, my step-daughter, was in a DWI-related car wreck in 1995 (she was in the passenger’s seat); spent weeks in a coma; thankfully recovered after a lot of physical therapy; so my wife has little sympathy for those who drive drunk. We were on the receiving end of one of those 3 a.m. phone calls, and trust me, you never forget them. Granted, not everyone arrested is guilty of driving drunk, but if you have little alcohol in your system, why not blow into the breathalyzer tube after failing the field sobriety test?
The drivers who are stopped by police after downing alcohol run a big risk. Having your name in The Advance can indeed prove embarrassing; and the cost of adjudicating a DWI these days is no small fee. Just shy of $8k last time I checked. It can also cost you your job depending on what you do for a living.
Today’s norm, as told to people by attorneys in the know, is to simply refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test if you’re stopped by the cops. All prosecutors will then have to go by is the cop’s documentation – failed field-sobriety test; bloodshot eyes – which typically isn’t enough to garner a DWI conviction.
Plus, to convict, the arresting cop needs to show up at the county courthouse. If the DWI case can be re-scheduled numerous times, which is standard fare inside the Hidalgo County Courthouse, there’s a good chance that the cop will ultimately fail to appear, and then the judge can dismiss the DWI. No fuss, no muss. Let’s go have a beer to celebrate.
Cameron County has a no-refusal policy year-round. If cops suspect you of DWI, your blood is going to be drawn. The breathalyzer tube is approximately 90 percent accurate. The blood draw is 100 percent accurate.
In Hidalgo County, however, we’re not that enlightened. Rather than spend money on a year-round no-refusal policy for DWI suspects, or a bigger jail, our elected officials would rather build a multi-million-dollar courthouse and put some people to work, preferably campaign donors.
The fact that a suspected 19-year-old drunk driver killed three people Aug. 9, including a three-year-old little boy, should underscore the drunk-driving problem that plagues this county, but that never seems to be the case. Once or twice a year, law enforcement in this county couple with the DA’s office and a press conference is held to announce a No-Refusal Weekend, which usually includes Labor Day, Memorial Day, but what about the rest of the year? The rest of the year, cities hold festivals and allow the wealthy beer distributors to sell beer. Drink and be merry. Cheers. Bottoms up.
If you drink, don’t drive. How hard is that to understand? Was I like that when I was young and single? No. Thankfully, though, I never got a DWI, and I never got in a wreck. I never drove totally bombed out of my mind, but I’m sure my blood-alcohol level was north of .08, or the old .10. I just knew enough to drive the speed limit and stay away from congested traffic areas. Of course, when I was young, the Valley traffic isn’t what it is today.
If you get stopped, the cops will let you do a field sobriety test. If you fail miserably, as did Judge Nora Longoria (judge on the 13th District Court of Appeals), you may still get your case dismissed if you have friends in high places, and you may have your record expunged, as did she, but if you’re a public official, as is she, you can never get the dash-cam video expunged from the worldwide web. In fact, I can go to Youtube.com right now, give me a second, and type in “Judge Nora Longoria dash-cam video,” and up it pops. In fact, there are at least six videos of her dash-cam footage that pop up on Youtube’s first page, along with the video of her booking process at the McAllen PD.
Just did it. There you go. Her record is indeed expunged, but the video of her falling sideways will never disappear. Wait a minute. Now she’s arguing with the McAllen cop. She wants him to just let her drive home. She lives just a mile or so away. Now she wants to show the cop her judicial “badge.”
Now, granted, I have some sympathy for Nora Longoria. She had lost her husband to cancer approximately a year before her DWI stop in 2014; but please, she needs to own what she did instead of having her arrest expunged even if her case was dismissed. Plus, is she deserving of another term on the appellate bench? You be the judge; but before you do, check out her Youtube.com video. It’s embarrassing, but so is seeing your name in the pages of The Advance under county jail bookings for those arrested and charged with a DWI. On her website – justicenora.com – it says that she has accepted “publically accepted responsibility,” but doesn’t say for exactly what? Getting stopped. Giving the McAllen cop a hard time?
No worries, though, if you’re planning a party. Most alleged DWI drivers will out of the county jail before you know it, especially now that the county is pushing PR bonds for all first-time offenders. The party will go on as many drive once again to pick up a six pack or a bottle. In fact, quite a few of the DWIs named each week have prior arrests, they’re repeat offenders, but that never seems to dampen their enthusiasm for drinking and driving. A strange brew.
Salud. Or as the Snowbirds like to say: Bottoms up.
Jan’s Note: The DWIs published in The Advance will have a new addition in the near future. We have found multiple charges under many of the names we publish. I intend to print the entire list of charges under each individual’s name.