DA: Flaw in process allowed Texas man out of jail to drive drunk again
Probation officer saw him driving without an ignition interlock device Feb. 21
By Jessica Priest
VICTORIA, Texas — Victoria County Criminal District Attorney Stephen Tyler signed off on a method by which Christopher Cordil-Cortinas could be released from jail without a judge hearing all the facts about his criminal past.
"If people are looking for a systemic failure - what failed to protect the public, what failed to protect this woman, how could this happen with someone who was on probation - if they are looking for fault as that goes, it is not probation; it is not the judge; what fault there is in that is mine," Tyler said Friday.
Tyler agreed to a method by which the probation department deals with possible probation violations. It is updated about every year and was viewed by him as expedient until recently.
For Cordil-Cortinas' case, his probation officer saw him driving without an ignition interlock device Feb. 21, according to court records.
She was following the method by asking a judge to issue a warrant for his arrest Feb. 25.
Typically, after the arrest is made, the probation department works with the offender to amend terms of his or her probation or fix the behavior.
After that is done, the probation officer asks a judge to release the offender from jail, Tyler said.
Tyler said the probation officer assigned to Cordil-Cortinas' case was not certain of the make and model of the car he was driving. She didn't think she had enough evidence to hold him longer, so she requested a judge release him Feb. 26, anticipating filing with the district attorney's office a violation report a few days later.
A violation report is what a prosecutor can look at if he or she wants to file a motion to revoke someone's probation and send them to prison. It is only at the motion to revoke probation hearing that a judge can consider an offenders' past, Tyler said.
"Probation (officers) are experts in rehab. A prosecutor needs to make a decision whether to release a person who is dangerous because the prosecutor is the only one in the system sworn to uphold the law and protect the public," he said. "The way I had it set up, we were involved after the fact rather than during the fact."
Now, anytime a DWI offender is reported to be driving without the required ignition interlock device, a violation report must be sent to the district attorney's office immediately, so it can prepare to file a motion to revoke his or her probation.
"Now, just because we file that doesn't mean the judge will see it that way, but it makes sure that there will be a hearing," Tyler said. "I want the judge to have all the facts in front of him before he makes the decision. ... It's my signature, it's my responsibility, and we're cleaning it up now."