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Diary of a DUI, second offense

July 18, 2015:

(1800 hours) Eight state troopers set up a road block at the Hwy. 49 and I-220 in Hinds County. The effort is part of a federally-funded program that targets DUIs.

(1952 hours) A Ford Explorer pulls up to the check point. The window rolls down to reveal a middle-aged male sitting in the driver’s seat. The trooper asks to see his license and proof of insurance. He smells beer on the driver’s breath.

“Had anything to drink tonight?”

“A little.”

The trooper pulls out an Alco-sensor to test his breath alcohol content. The driver blows into the tube and registers .350, more than four times the legal limit. He is told to get out of his car. The trooper administers two field sobriety tests — the horizontal gaze nystagmus and the walk-and-turn. The driver fails both. He is placed in handcuffs and escorted to the trooper’s car.

“I’ve got to test you on an Intoxilyzer at the station.”

“I know I’m gonna fail it.”

The trooper calls for a wrecker to tow the Explorer. While they wait for it to arrive, he runs the driver’s license to make sure it’s not suspended. He discovers the driver has a previous DUI. On the way to the station, the driver confesses to drinking at a family reunion earlier that evening. His speech is slurred, and he says the same thing over and over: “What wrecker got my car? What’s my bond going to be?”

(2030 hours) The trooper is told the Intoxilyzer at the Hinds County Sheriff Department isn’t working. He’s instructed to head to Jackson Police Department (JPD) Precinct 3 instead. The trooper takes the driver inside and tries to turn the Intoxilyzer on, but it doesn’t work. A JPD officer walks by: “We’ve been having trouble with it.”

As they return to the patrol car, the trooper holds onto the driver to keep him upright.

“What wrecker got my car? What’s my bond going to be?”

(2100 hours) They head to JPD Precinct 4. The machine doesn’t work properly there, either. The trooper issues a charge based on state statute DUI law 63-11-30. The driver is taken to Raymond, where he is booked into the Hinds County Detention Center.

“What wrecker got my car? What’s my bond going to be?”

May 2016:

Ten months later, the trooper learns that the driver failed to show up for his initial hearing. The trooper gets a subpoena for court on June 9, 2016.

The trooper goes to the JPD records division to get a certified copy of the court abstract from the driver’s DUI First Offense (2012). He learns that the driver never signed a required document that verifies he waived his right to an attorney when he pleaded guilty. No waiver in the file is a red flag, meaning either the municipal court judge or municipal clerk failed in his duty, jeopardizing the second offense standing.

June 9, 2016:

The trooper leaves his other duties and comes to Hinds County Justice Court for the trial. Eventually he is told the case has been continued (postponed) at the request of DUI attorney David Camp. The defendant knew it beforehand, Camp knew it beforehand, Justice Clerk Patricia Woods knew it beforehand, Judge Frank Sutton knew it beforehand, but no one contacted the trooper.

July 2016:

The trooper gets a subpoena for Aug. 4.

Aug. 4, 2016:

The trooper leaves his other duties and comes to Hinds County Justice Court for the trial. DUI attorney David Camp asks for another continuance because he hasn’t received discovery (all the evidence in the file). He hasn’t asked for it previously. The trooper makes copies of all the documents and hands them to Camp.

Late August 2016:

The trooper gets a subpoena for Sept. 8.

Sept. 8, 2016:

The trooper calls the Hinds County Justice Court and finds out the case has been continued again.

October 2016:

The trooper gets a subpoena for Nov. 3.

Nov. 3, 2016:

The trooper leaves his other duties and comes to Hinds County Justice Court for the trial. He learns that the case has been continued. He asks the clerk why. The driver’s attorney, David Camp, had a conflict. Once again, everyone was told except the trooper.

December 2016:

The trooper gets a subpoena for Jan. 19.

Jan. 17-18:

The trooper calls Hinds County Justice Court multiple times, but only gets recordings. He leaves messages that are not returned.

The trooper finally gets a clerk on the line the day before court is scheduled and asks if the case is going to trial. “Yeah, it’s still on,” he is told.

Jan. 19:

The trooper leaves his other duties and comes to Hinds County Justice Court for the trail.

“Looks like it’s been continued, because it’s not on the record here,” the prosecutor tells him. It’s the first time the trooper has seen him or any other prosecutor involved in the case.

“The defendant’s attorney called a couple of weeks ago and said he needed to continue it,” Judge Sutton explains.

The trial is delayed for the fifth time. Exactly one and a-half years after his arrest, the driver retains the uninterrupted privileges of a Mississippi license.

Feb. 6:

Sherrel Clark, program coordinator for Mississippi’s Mothers Against Drunk Driving, reads the account and responds: “MADD Mississippi is appalled when DUI hearings drag on, allowing potentially dangerous drunk drivers to continue to endanger others. We expect that this case be treated seriously and the alleged offender be held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

Wesson resident Kim Henderson is a freelance writer. Contact her at kimhenderson319@gmail.com.