According to county records, a DWI suspect with deportation orders to Honduras who was arrested and released on a $100 bond in Harris County last year has not returned for his scheduled court appearances.
Suspect Emilio Duarte-Lone was arrested by a Harris County Constable Precinct 4 deputy on December 28, 2019. Charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) and Failure to Stop and Give Information (FSGI), Duarte was booked into the Harris County Jail.
Although U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) confirmed to The Texan that a federal judge had issued deportation orders for Duarte-Lone in October 2019, Harris County Criminal Court 15 authorized Duarte’s release on a $100 General Order Bond.
Originally scheduled for arraignment in court on January 3, Duarte’s case was reset for January 24. The reset documentation states that there was “no answer” on January 3, and Duarte’s signature does not appear on the form.
On January 24, records filed with the Harris County District Clerk indicate that the judge revoked and raised Duarte’s $100 bond to a $201 bond and issued a warrant for non-appearance, but Duarte is not in custody at this time.
While drunk-driving fatalities have declined in the U.S. over the past several decades, they still accounted for 29 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2017, according to the Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility.
An ICE summary report of Enforcement and Removal Operations for Fiscal Year 2018 indicates that among the more than 158,000 ICE arrests that year, some 80,730 had either convictions or pending charges for DUI.
An analysis from Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) claims that “an average drunk driver has driven over 80 times before his first arrest,” and that “about one-third of all drivers arrested or convicted of drunk driving are repeat offenders.”
Duarte’s deportation orders preceded his arrest, but several Democratic candidates for president have called for deportation policy changes, including for those with criminal records or pending charges.
Former Vice President Joe Biden recently stated that he would fire ICE agents who arrest for anything other than a felony, and Biden specifically stated that he did not consider drunk driving to be a felony.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) has called for a moratorium on all deportations, including for those with criminal convictions or charges, and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg’s immigration plan would implement enforcement efforts only “on people who have committed serious crimes.”
Although Texas law prohibits so-called “Sanctuary City” or “Sanctuary County” policies, it is unclear as to whether arrestees with deportation orders are correctly identified when processed through the Harris County Jail.
In 2017, Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez (D) announced that his department would no longer participate in the voluntary federal 287(g) program, under which deputies are trained to identify suspects with deportation orders.
Democratic presidential candidates Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Buttigieg have both promised to end the 287(g) program altogether.
Earlier this week, Sheriff Gonzalez implemented a new “cite and release” policy for certain misdemeanors, but DWI offenses were not listed as eligible for immediate release, indicating that DWI suspects will still be arrested and processed through the county jail system.
Since most first and second offense DWI charges are classified as misdemeanors in Texas, criminal court judges can impose minimal bond conditions for pretrial release, particularly in Harris County where a federal judge has approved a consent decree curtailing the use of bonds to compel court appearances.
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Holly Hansen is a freelance writer living in Harris County. Her former column, “All In Perspective” ran in The Georgetown Advocate, Jarrell Star Ledger, and The Hill Country News, and she has contributed to a variety of Texas digital media outlets. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Central Florida with a degree in History, and in addition to writing about politics and policy, also writes about faith and culture.