Blood tests could become pricey

The Houston Chronicle reports that individuals in Harris County could soon be picking up the tab for their blood tests if convicted DWI (driving while intoxicated). The County, which has spent over $350k on these blood tests in recent years, is seeking to recoup some of these losses from the fines of those convicted of the pertinent offenses.

County Commissioner Jack Cagle, a Republican representing Precinct 4 (northeast quadrant), seemed supportive of the measure but felt it would be ideal to rather encourage the Legislature to revise the law. The easiest solution, he pondered, would be to make the blood test a standard component of “court costs,” which are normally included in the fines assessed to those convicted.

As the Chronicle article notes, the District Clerk’s office was supportive of the idea, while the District Attorney’s office noted that Judges could already assess the fines if the “arresting agency” requests it. Judge Sherman Ross was tepid about the proposal, however, as were criminal defense attorneys.

There is currently no scheduled agenda item to implement this idea. Personally, I have never really been supportive of the idea of the convicted paying restitution for prosecutorial expenses. Unless the State is prepared to pay the attorney’s fees of those wrongly accused of a crime, this is a one-sided tactic. The American rule is that both sides pay their own legal expenses, without exceptions. I realize this is typically applied to civil disputes, but criminal complaints should be no different.

I realize that, specifically in the State of Texas, we enjoy applying one-way versions of the English rule. I also realize that fines are a common part of the DWI conviction. However, what I am saying is that a reimbursement for the blood tests should not exceed the amount typically agreed upon for the DWI fine.

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