After a Year of DIVERT

For your perusal: Harris County misdemeanor courts, DWI statistics compared between the year ending July 31, 2010 and the previous year (roughly DIVERT and pre-DIVERT).

August 2009-July 2010 August 2008-July 2009
DWI Cases Pending
at Start of Period
6,687 6,039
New DWI Cases Filed 12,315 11,341
DWI Motions to
Revoke Probation Filed
775 656
Other DWI Cases
Reaching Docket
10 7
Total DWI Cases on Docket 19,787 18,043
DWI Convictions (Guilty Pleas) 8,187 8,917
DWI Convictions (Bench Trial) 2 1
DWI Convictions
(Guilty Plea to Jury)
8 1
DWI Convictions
(Not Guilty Plea to Jury)
96 86
Total DWI Convictions 8,293 9,005
DWI Deferred Adjucation* 1 1
DWI Acquittals (Bench Trial) 1 2
DWI Acquittals (Jury Verdict) 73 77
DWI Acquittals (Directed Verdict) 2 9
Total DWI Acquittals 76 88
DWI Dismissals
(“Insufficient Evidence”)
319 386
DWI Dismissals
(Other Reasons)
1,908 1,107
Total DWI Dismissals 2,227 1,493
Motions to Revoke DWI
Probation Granted
434 365
Motions to Revoke DWI
Probation Denied
347 403
All Other DWI Dispositions 2 1
Total Other DWI Dispositions 783 769
Total DWI Dispositions 11,380 11,356
Cases Pending
at End of Period
8,407 6,687

I wanted to see how DIVERT might have affected these statistics, so I asked the Harris Count DA’s Office for some DIVERT numbers, and got them (except where noted, numbers are for August 2009, when the DIVERT program began, till August 24, 2010, so they don’t quite line up with the Office of Court Administration statistics:

DIVERT applicants: 2624;
DIVERT offers by HCDA: 2111 [November 2009—August 24, 2010];
Defendants who accepted HCDA’s DIVERT offer: 1996;
DIVERT completions: 3;
DIVERT revocations: 64.

Some commenters had suggested when DIVERT was proposed that police officers, knowing that first-time offenders would have the option of DIVERT, would make fewer DWI arrests. That clearly didn’t happen.

DWI filings are up by 974, or 8.5%, non-DIVERT guilty pleas to judges are down (by 730, 8.2%), jury trials are steady, and dismissals are up by 734, or almost 60%. But the State did better in DWI jury trials from August 2009 to July 2010 (96/171, or 56%) than it had done in the preceding year (86/172, or 50%).

Overall convictions are down because there were fewer non-DIVERT guilty pleas to judges. Guilty pleas to juries are up 700%, from one to eight (these seven people were seeking lower punishment than the State would agree to.)

If the goal of DIVERT was to get people who would otherwise fight their cases to instead accept responsibility, it appears to be a success: there were (bearing in mind the slop in the numbers, since DIVERT pleas didn’t begin immediately and the DA’s numbers cover an extra 24 days) around 10,191 guilty pleas (DIVERT and non-DIVERT) between August 2009 and August 2010, a 14% increase over the previous year.

Last year I took the number of people who didn’t plead guilty, and divided it into the number of people who got their cases dismissed or prevailed at trial. The result was .945—94.5% of people who didn’t plead guilty wound up beating their DWI cases in Harris County.

From August 2009 to July 2010, 98 people pled “not guilty” in Harris County and were convicted; 1,581 2,303 people were acquitted or had their cases dismissed. So 93.8% 95.9% of people who didn’t plead guilty wound up beating their DWI cases in Harris County—less than the year before, but still not shabby odds.

4 Comments

  1. Mark, are defendants who take the diversion responsible for DWI Surcharges? I’ve read where it said those charges were so high that most people couldn’t afford to pay them and had to drive without a license or insurance. Those odds of winning DWI cases at trial speaks volumes about the ability to seat open-minded jurors in Harris county.

  2. Actually, I think that would be (1-(98/(98+1,581))), or 94.2%. You should divide 98 by the total number of not guilty pleas (which would include the 98).

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