An insider's view of what is really happening in the Harris County Criminal Courts
You are wrong. There are way more than 3 things that will get them revoked. There is usually about a dozen conditions of their probation.If you fail to pay a $50 fine, you get sent to the debtors prison at the Harris County Jail.
@anon 6:19:from the article:"When I advise a client of his or her expectations while on community supervision, I tell them there are three main grounds that get a probationer revoked:"an Ice Cube song comes to mind. bonus points to anyone who knows what it is. Courtney St. Julian is NOT allowed to guess. @murray re: the article:wow. effing wow. I'm stealing this for the facebooks.
My, my. The poor probation department hasn't had this much bad publicity since former Director Paul Donnelly got caught with reams of porn on his county issued laptop not to mention the two county laptops he gave his daughters to use at college. But I digress...The problem at probation is the judges have yet to find and hire qualified administrators. Paul Becker is a nice man but is more concerned about whether he tells the judges what they want to hear than whether he has a grip on the department. Same for Kim, his second in charge.But, there are other dogs in this hunt. Judge Collins wouldn't have an axe to grind with the probation department would she? Like when her son got a positive urine report when he was on probation . Was it a correct finding or not? The Probation Department might very well have lots of bad positives certain defendants but I sure wouldn't believe it just because Donald Martin said it. What a squirrel. If he has known about misidentified UA's why if he just not getting on a soap box about it? Maybe he hopes to be the next Director (God help us all!)Lisa Andrews if just doing her best for her client and doing a great job BTW.Last, I heard Ted Poe making a telephone interview calling for those adminstrators to be fired if they werent doing their jobs right. Ted, you were asked the same question about whether Pat Lykos should be replaced by Mike Anderson and you deftly side-stepped the question by saying "voters know who they should vote for". Now you want to get all self-righteous and judgmental about the probation department. Please!!!!Can't wait to see Becker twisting in the wind on the stand this week. He does not handle pressure and will soon be retiring. Should have done that before now.
He's the rest of the story:Probation is using the courts to clear problem cases off their desk by lying to the Judges to issue arrest warrants for minor technical violations, and they are using the entire law enforcement community to manage their case load and throw those problem children into jail.Cops have to waste valuable duty time every time they run across one of these "fugitives" with an open probation warrant.
Too coiincidental. I have a client on probations from the 208 (dwi). They breath tested him. Supposedly blew .16, but he drove his interock equipped vehicle to probation. They retested him 0.00. He started his vehicle with the interlock. Cop first confirmedthis now is denying since we made a 1983 claim against the cops Cs officers,city and county for arresting him w/o probable cause. My client has seen these pricks high fiving about revocations.the city prosecutor is making me get a court order before he will give the the name of the partime prosecutor whom the cop originally told that my client had stared his interlocked vehicle. Having difficulty getting the Interlock records from the probation department and the city attorney will not discuss the public intoxication charge off docket or do any discovery and we keep getting resets over six months apart. they know itKs a bogus case but they wonkt drop it even though Judge Collins refused to revoke and chewed out the probation officer for the nonsense arrest and waste of resources. Really crooked stuff going on in that department and I plan to clean some clocks over this travesty including ongoing Brady violations in the public intoxication case that they won't drop, properly look into or even discuss off docket all due to potential liabilty to the city for the alleged bogus arrest.
I've got a case in 208 also. They gave a portable breath test....16. Then another .00. Then client started car with interlock and passed HGN. They had him arrested for public intox. Judge was pretty mad when she only got the .16 story from probation then the rest of the story when I questioned the half truth telling PO. City attorney is playing games with the Public intoxprosecution to avoid a 1983 suit against the county and city. Hiding info regarding conflicting statement of police officer and they aren't producing the interlock record that contradicts the officer's new story that the vehicle did not start. Flagrant corrupt prosecution going on here and I hope to clean some clocks and put some folks on unemployment.
On the whole, Anon 8:21 PM is actually closest to the truth.
Pretrial probation/ supervision is just as jacked up and it is harder to get a hearing. Why does Herb Ritchie have every case have Pretrial probation? That is a huge waste of resources.
Anon 6:25 AM - It may be helpful to remember that pretrial supervision for defendants who are out on a surety bond is provided by a division of the HCCSCD, so it may be difficult to tell the difference. Pretrial supervision for defendants who are out on a personal bond is usually provided by Pretrial Services.
The CSCD violates a probationer, judge issues an arrest warrant, then they give the guy a low bond, so who is benefiting from this revolving door? The whole courthouse is controlled by the bonding companies, and they are getting rich off this MRP system.
I wonder what else could come to light that would make ADAs believe that maybe, just maybe, the system is broken. I know, they'll never see it. Plus, they will always think it's an anomaly, or someone else's fault. Just admit it--Rage is right. There are systemic flaws in how we prosecute and supervise Defendants. You'll feel better, and can start the process of becoming an honest person once you admit the problem. Rage
This is way better handled than the BAT van cases that went nowhere. It might to be as big a scandal had the BAT van issue been fully exposed as it should have been. But, it's big enough that the courts and the DA's office should be doing some serious investigating. Right now it appears that anyone accused of an alcohol crime in Harris county is likely to be railroaded. Defendants on probation being railroaded for false alcohol tests should have a civil rights suit against the county. Some officials and public employees should be jailed over this.
Judge Denise Collins ruled that she would no longer accept any positive urine drug tests from the Harris Co. Probation Department. This comes after an unusual hearing where defense attorney Lisa Andrews effectively laid out a myriad of problems within the department.
The biggest problemswith the Probation Department:1. The Director has 22 bosses in just the felony courts. Each one of them wants the agency to enforce their individual rules interpreting the law and applying it as each one sees fit.2. The employees of the department are over-whelmed, under-staffed, and underpaid. They haven't had raises,in years yet are required to have a college degree. The positions don't always attract dedicated employees.3. The working conditions they have are pretty abysmal. The ratio of probation officers to probationers is ridiculous. The same goes for the U/A testing. This needs to be completely out-sourced and the use of it reduced.4. Saddling the Department with pre-trial release clients has contributed to the overload problem. It comes down to insufficient funding of an agency and then increasing the workload. This is a recipe for disaster. New administrators are probably needed but they need to be phased in and ONLY replaced with qualified people. Come on Judges, give the department what it needs to make the system work. And stop asking them to enforce your individual, petty rules.
Baytown Police will not arrest anyone based on a probation violation warrant. They refuse to make arrests at the East Region Probation office in Baytown. Maybe they knew something along along.
If the Baytown Police knew of something that may be wrong and did not report it, they should be held accountable also.
The problem for the probation dept. starts with a lack of funding and continues in everything from procedures to promotions. Even the Judges want custom made probation for their individual courts. This complicates things even further. The actual motions filed by the DA's office, for the most part, are typed in the probation department. Why? Harris County probation is an entity without a spine when it comes to dealing with the courts. A culture like that will take some major reform regardless of who's at the top.
I was a CSO (Adult probation officer) for nearly 8 years in a neighboring county. We did on-site drug and alcohol testing at the time of collection. Less than 1% of the samples we tested in our office were sent to the lab for confirmation of a positive urinalysis. We saved lots of money that way. And, we never filed a Violation Report with the DA's office for just one positive urinalysis with no other technical violations. I understand that some of the Harris County Judges require MRP's or MAG's on the first positive urinalysis, which is beyond stupid. But, to get elected in Harris County, it usually requires the mentality of "I'm the toughest SOB there is on crime" instead of the "I'm the smartest SOB there is on crime" mentality. By the way, there are lots of good CSO's in Harris County. The problem lies with the Senior Officers, CLO's, Supervisors and Branch Directors.
The problem for the probation dept. starts with a lack of funding and continues in everything from procedures to promotions.So, "we cheat and railroad people because we don't have much funding?" You're excusing illegality--which is most likely because you're OK with the state doing something illegal. There are lots of companies who do fine with smaller budgets. Even the Judges want custom made probation for their individual courts.I see nothing wrong with this. One size doesn't fit all.This complicates things even further.Really? They can't open a particular file of a person they're supervising and see what the conditions of their probation are? That takes maybe 10 extra seconds per case. And the vast majority of conditions will be boiler plate anyway. Still nothing here that justifies this level of incompetence.The actual motions filed by the DA's office, for the most part, are typed in the probation department. Why? Harris County probation is an entity without a spine when it comes to dealing with the courts.Or, maybe the ones who supervise the defendants and catch them in a violation are the best ones to put specific facts in each motion? Seems like a standard part of their job to me. A culture like that will take some major reform regardless of who's at the top.Yeah, I know. Having people actually pay attention to the details of their job and do the job correctly must be tough. Doing your job correctly does not mean you need reform. It means you need honest people who do the job they're paid to do. I realize this is novel to the folks in the criminal justice system, but perhaps it shouldn't be.Rage
Just a couple of thoughts for Rage . . .Culture - This is a big issue because the CSCD had pretty decent policies in place that were being disregarded at the lowest levels of the department. As a separate issue, the people in charge were not enforcing their own policies.Funding - It is complicated and it is made worse by the demands of the individual courts. While one size doesn't and shouldn't fit all, as a matter of fairness similarly-situated probationers should be able to expect some measure of uniformity from one court to the next regarding conditions. And the conditions should be based on the risk and needs of the probationer, not the judges' political or philosophical leanings. When 37 courts are permitted to go all over the map with conditions, the department providing the services will face resource strain and will have difficulty anticipating needs and budgeting for them.The Vertebral CSCD - When the CSCD is run by the courts and the director can be removed by the courts, a certain amount of spinal atrophy is to be expected. That's the very unfortunate nature of the beast.
Just a thought for Thomas:Culture is a problem at every level of the criminal justice system. It is nothing new in CSCD, much as I am sure you would like to think that it does not infect your own corner of that world.
Word in the office is that the DA court staff in the 208th wanted to dismiss the MRP that led up to this circus, I mean, hearing, and put the D in drug treatment. Head of the trial bureau approved this strategy. Leitner after consultation with Collins ordered the State to proceed with the hearing. (Hmm, that sounds ex parte, not at all transparent) Leitner has been repeatedly seen going in to Collins chambers for meetings with the Judge since the primary. Word is he wants to be one of her contract lawyers come January. Further, we hear that Lykos wants to be the new head of probation since she still wants a government job come 1-1-2013. Guess Ed Emmett won't take her back. Will Hannah be her top deputy at probation. Lykos' plans may be stymied by Becker announcing his retirement effective Friday. Will Lykos deplete the probation department's discretionary funds they way she has decimated the hot check fund at the DA's office? Can Lykos still go after Chip Lewis as head of probation the way she has as DA? She has ordered that all of Chip's plea bargains for the past two years be reviewed.Lykos is livid that Anderson may not have an opponent in the general. She even has her friends Big Jolly, Gary Polland and Don Hooper rallying to Oliver's defense in the blogosphere.One final question for Pat: When you leave December 31 will you be taking those ugly whore house looking gold chairs you put outside your office or will you be leaving those for Anderson to put in the dumpster?
God help the Probation Department if the Judges are foolish enough to even think of putting Lykos in charge there. Talk about destroying morale! The Judges need to remember Lykos has just been fired for being incompetent in running a department and she was horrible on the bench.As for Leitner, he is pitching his pole in several County ponds hoping to keep his government salary coming in. He can't get appointed to any Capital cases from the last four years so he will need some help from Collins who is very close to Lykos.There is more to this whole 208th circus than meets the eye. It is way unusual for any District Court to docket two weeks of court time for an MRP. There was an agenda here from the beginning. Not that some changes don't need to be made at HCCSCD. The Judges all know that it has been a matter of time before the wheels come off that wagon. They just haven't wanted to have to deal with replacing the Director. Now they have to replace a minimum of three major positions. I am really feeling for the line P.O.'S who are struggling to make a screwed up system work for way too little pay. The management has been reactive rather that proactive for a long time.
I'm sure Lykos will be taking those fine chairs to put in her living room so she'll feel at home. Don't you know Mr. Lykos can't wait to have her around the house all day? :(
Becker took the honorable way out. He was ROD anyway (Retired On Duty).The director before him questioned the policies of the courts (like 1 client with a dozen violations gets a bond while another who only owes $100 fine gets a no bond)and got railroaded over his laptop use.HCCSCD is a hybrid monster, working for the county but paid by the state.The poor PO's lost their county benefits a few years ago and got the cheesey low paid state benefits in their place.Once again, Harris County is getting just what they pay for. Nothing will change until they get forced to do it, either by the media or by the state.
Defense attorneys and the DAO should also look at breathylyzers given by probation dept. I reviewed hundreds of emails about problems and errors with those but that wasn't my issue. Also, two weeks wasn't docketed for this MAJ. Please don't report misinformation, gossip and rumors. LA
A few years back, one judge stopped using an ankle monitor that detects alcohol because they were junk science.
The ankle monitors are not junk science, but - regardless of how they are marketed - they really only reliably produce a Y/N result. However, they also are overpriced and don't offer a meaningful opportunity to challenge positive results.
Leitner after consultation with Collins ordered the State to proceed with the hearing. (Hmm, that sounds ex parte, not at all transparent)One prosecutor telling another prosecutor to press the case is ex parte to you?You better tuck that lip in son. You're going to get it caught on a trip wire.There was an agenda here from the beginning.Right. When the result is bad for the criminal justice system, there's an "agenda." It's funny how fast you people go from complaining about Lykos to sounding just like her.Not that some changes don't need to be made at HCCSCD. The Judges all know that it has been a matter of time before the wheels come off that wagon. They just haven't wanted to have to deal with replacing the Director.Looks like they don't mind now.I am really feeling for the line P.O.'S who are struggling to make a screwed up system work for way too little pay.Are these the same PO's that are revoking probation knowing that the defendant didn't do anything wrong? They're the last people in the building you should feel sorry for. Rage
Uh, Rage, I may be wrong, but I think the exparte that anon: 2:37 was alleging was between Leitner and Collins, not Leitner and another DA.
Uh, Rage, I may be wrong, but I think the exparte that anon: 2:37 was alleging was between Leitner and Collins, not Leitner and another DA.Yep, I read it wrong.See fellas? I admit it when I'm wrong. I think this is even the second time now.Rage
Actually, if by referencing one prosecutor talking to another Rage is referring to the conversation between Leitner and Collins, he may be on to something.
Actually I found Judge Collins to be quite fair once she has all the facts. My client was "going to jail today" after Judge Collins had spoken in Chambers at length with the CSO wanting to revoke my client. I said that I understood her position, but felt that she might change her mind if she would let me ask the CSO several questions. The answers to those questions revealed to her that not only had my client failed a breath test with a high BAC, he had also passed one 40 minutes later and started his vehicle equipped with an interlock. No revocation occurred and she got all over the CSO for involving the police and wasting resources. Thank you Lisa Anderson for that very helpful information about the hundreds of e-mails regarding breath tests conducted by CSO's.
Ms. Anderson has done everyone a great service.
With alcohol breath testing of that type, that's why the supervising officer should always evaluate the timing and results of the last "blow" before and the first "blow" after the one in question. Not every "violation" is an actual violation, but that's not a problem with the science. It's a problem with people knowing what to look for and understanding what they're looking at. Some officers see the word "VIOLATION" (an unfortunate choice of words) on an interlock report and forget that a computer made that entry based on one data point. It simply indicates the need for further investigation.When blind reaction is substituted for calm reasoning, people can wind up in jail.
Andrews. Lisa Andrews.
Their title is Community Supervision Officer, not Probation officer. Their in lies the rub. They don't supervise shit. They sit behind a desk and demand that their client bring all sorts of proof that they are complying with the 16 terms of their agreement. Probation Officers are nothing more than clerks and snitches.
CLOs are an interesting bunch. Some are very good prosecutors. Some are better persecutors. Some want to always revoke. Some never.
Due to the new drug testing changes recently in Harris County, is the standard UA test now test for EtG?
With the recent changes to the Harris Country drug testing, are they using EtG, in standard UA testing now?
Not to dig up the past however, I think it is time to tell the rest of the story about Donnelly. He tried to do the very things people pointed out in the posts above e.g. Questioned the revocations of minorities, tried to standardize conditions, promoted minorities into supervisory positions, fired toxic branch directors, Janice...questioned rosenthal who then succeed the dogs on him. I knew several people in the department who are convinced the porn allegations were fabricated and that he was the best director they have had. He took on the power and they squashed him, the lesson for all future directors was made very clear
I don't mean to bring up the past either. However I have seen time and time again that defendants are made to use interlock devices even when their charge is COMPLETELY unrelated to alcohol. I have met with defendants who have had to pay out of pocket for these 'bond conditions' even though, even their own arresting officer made no mention of them being intoxicated whatsoever...Nor did any staff from within the jail make mention of any intoxication after their arrest...And then of course, the plot thickens when many of the 'service centers' that the defendants are required to go to are quite familiar with the court's blind demands and even state that if it weren't for the court sending all of this money their way...they would certainly lose prosperity in their business. (These are private sector businesses.) And the plot thickens yet again, when even the local vehicle inspection stations (for state inspection) are familiar with these interlocks being placed on defendants vehicles, and a VAST majority of them come from the same court...where the defendant is typically not even being tried for an alcohol related offense but is made to have to pay for this.Keeping in mind that while some of these are DWI offenders, many of them are not...and it all seems like someone is financially profiting (Not just the service centers) from this ridiculousness.At at any rate... at the very least it sounds fishy to me. But then what do I know...? I'm not a judge trying to legislate from behind the bench...
The system is broken I agree with your analogy. pretrial supervision is a way of recouping the money that is lost to the probation department by defendants excising their right to a jury trial. first they are punishing the defendant for excising that right and instituting pretrial punishment in the form of a conditional release and restrictions on personal freedoms guaranteed by the U.S. Constitution and these rights should be lost only after a final conviction from a fair trial (no one is getting a fair trial in Harris County unless you are super wealthy of related to a high ranking government official). These people are already on a bond and their bondsman (if he is doing his job) is already supervising these people. There are some individuals that should be on pretrial supervision like 2 time convicted rapists , child molesters and murderers as they pose a clear danger to the community, but several of these courts are placing every one on pretrial supervision that asks for their right to a trial to discourage them from excising those rights. Secondly the probation department will have never seen a dime from those who are found innocent and this is Harris Counties way of insuring their payment by receiving pretrial supervision fees,it is extortion.
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