Commentary

JUDGE’S COMMENTS

Law enforcement, judiciary try to streamline process
David Barkemeyer
Milam County Judge

Representatives from law enforcement and the judiciary recently met to see if we could more effectively handle county court cases.

County Court primarily handles Class A & B misdemeanors while all felony cases are handled in District Court and Class C misdemeanors are mostly handled in JP and municipal courts.

Adult Probation (correct name being the Community Supervision and Corrections Department) handles the probation cases for both my County Court and Judge Youngblood’s District Court.

Michelle Poston, who heads up the Adult Probation Department pointed out that their case load is down, total misdemeanor cases falling from 252 in 2011 to 202 in 2012 to 178 in 2013. So their state allocation is down by over 7% in 2013 as a result.

Their 2013 budget totals some $400,000 with $108,000 coming from the state, some $250,000 total from various fees collected directly from the probationers (which will also be down), $17,500 provided by the county for building maintenance and utilities, and $25,000 coming from reserves.

An additional $40,000 is provided in the county budget.

Individuals going on probation from county court have been required to pay court costs in advance whereas in district court probationers are allowed to pay court costs along with fines during the course of probation.

One of the decisions we made is to handle probation cases the same way in county court, allowing defendants who reach plea bargain agreements who don’t have money for court costs at the time to begin probation immediately and allow the Probation Department to collect at a later date

This has worked out well for District Court and should eliminate some cases that end up as jail time when they could have been a probation case.

This issue is hard to explain to the public. Court costs must be split with the state and among several accounts, so when collected in par t ial payments the accounting hassle quickly becomes complicated due to the red tape involved. We try to keep it as simple as possible.

In the case of “straight hit” plea bargain arrangements— where no probation period is involved, just straight fine and court costs—if the defendant doesn’t have the money, they are given a short period of time to raise the money and return to court and pay or they will be required to serve time in county jail.

We will continue the practice of no time payments on “straight hits”. In misdemeanor cases probation can be an alternative.

We have a legal term called “deferred adjudication.” If the accused who accepts a “deferred” sentence completes probation successfully, they will not have a conviction recorded on their record for that offense. This is a plea bargain arrangement sometimes used for a first offender.

When a probation of f icer requests that a motion to revoke be filed, the first thing I do as judge in the hearing is revoke that deferred status.

That person will then most likely have a conviction on their record for the rest of their life.

Consequences can be devastating. It often alters their career plans, it can prevent them from obtaining a professional license, getting into a school they have wanted to enter, from getting a good job, from entering the military service,and more.

The bottom line is to try to make punishment fit the offender. If there is hope of rehabilitation, I try to tap it. if there is opportunity to help out the county budget, I’m not above trying to make a little money.

If there’s a chance to streamline the system, let’s do it. If all we can accomplish is to punish the guy, then to the dungeon he must go. dbarkemeyer@milamcounty.net


Click here for digital edition
2013-03-07 digital edition



The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


Click here to register for the 5 Kay!