Fort Worth, Texas—Alcohol-related arrests have become all too common. Some involved deadly accidents, but most DWI arrests don't involve death and many just clog the court system, according to Tarrant county assistant DA and Chief of the misdemeanor division Richard Alpert. "We get anywhere from 5- 7 thousand new DWI every year. We move about 5 - 6 hundred less than that every year," Tarrant County Chief of Misdemeanor Division, Richard Alpert said.
He and State Representative Todd Smith drafted a bill which if it becomes law would allow Texas prosecutors to offer first-time DWI-offenders mandatory counseling and probation instead of jail time. Surprisingly Mothers Against Drunk Driving supports the bill. "We want mandatory ignition interlocks for every DWI offender and that is in this bill," MADD spokeswoman, Kardell Mary. The bill is more complex than just mandatory interlocks and counseling in exchange for not being convicted of a crime. "(If) they are not convicted of a crime, that is not the same thing as a dismissal or an acquittal, because if it is dismissed or acquitted, you can never hold it against them."
Once a defendant accepts this deal, she agrees to live under a legal shadow. If she is arrested for DWI a second time the courts will consider her a repeat offender and charge her with a felony. Supporters say the proposed law will ease the burden on the courts so judges can focus on the most serious offenders.
"You want a case tried as soon as possible," Alpert said. "So we ultimately have cases that get to be so old, witnesses are not available and we can't prosecute anymore," Alpert said.