The arrest of Justice Nora Longoria of the Thirteenth Court of Appeals in Texas made me think about the utter cruelty to our fellow man insofar as to how we handle misdemeanor cases in the United States.
To begin with, the fact that misdemeanor cases cause so much stigma and have severe consequences is good for business when you are a Atlanta DUI Lawyer. I should want more stigma and more severe consequences. I do not.
The hypocrite, Justice Nora Longoria, never considered for one moment how much the justice system ruined the lives of others until her arrest. As reported, during her July 12th arrest, she pleaded with the police to be let go and refused to let herself be handcuffed (which would be charged as obstruction in Georgia).
She then began to cry and told the police officer that she was a judge and that he was going to “ruin [her] life,” because she had “worked hard for 25 years to be where [she is] today.”
Well, Ms. Longoria, where was your sensitivity to others in your role as a judge? How many lives have you ruined? Why do we place such a high priority on ruining the lives of people who have simply made mistakes?
So many of my clients have worked their entire lives to have a home and family. Maybe they have not reached the lofty position of a judge, but that does not make their lives any less important. Nonetheless, our justice system disproportionally shames them and ruins their lives.
In fact, in misdemeanor cases the shame and harm is more disproportionate than in felony cases because a misdemeanor arrest (such as a DUI) can happen to any ordinary person. In fact, most Georgia Traffic Offenses are strict liability offenses that do not require even the intention to commit a crime.
When I became an attorney in 1995, a person could plead nolo contendre (no contest) to a first DUI offense. In 1997 our legislature removed the no contest plea as an option. Year after year we make the DUI laws more severe without even considering that people should be allowed one mistake in life without ruining their life.
Many companies will automatically terminate a person if he or she is arrested for DUI. Most terminations occur well before the case has been adjudicated. What about the presumption of innocence? Haven't we learned anything from all of the cases where people were eventually proven innocent like the “Memphis Three” and the Duke Lacrosse Players?
For certain limited offenses, prosecutors offer “first offender” or “diversion” programs whereby a person is given a set of requirements to complete, and if the individual completes them, his or her case is dismissed and expunged. Why is this humane, common-sense measure not extended to those accused of DUI? Why do we insist upon forcing our young people to carry a lifetime stigma for a single indiscretion?
A misdemeanor arrest is the 21st Century Scarlet Letter. With the internet and mug shots, and background checks, a misdemeanor arrest can cause a lifetime of harm. We need to show some compassion to our fellow citizens and give people a second chance. This is what is best for society, not what is best for business as a DUI Lawyer in Georgia.
As for Justice Nora Longoria, she deserves what she gets. She has never cared one second for her fellow man or she would never have participated in ruining the lives of others.
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