Denton County Criminal Court Judges handle Misdemeanor crimes and in some cases DWI’s that have reached the level of felonies. Hence, one of the first questions I asked of Judge David Garcia was his opinion of the light sentence rendered by a Texas judge to a 16-year-old from a wealthy family who was convicted of killing four people in a drunk-driving accident.
It has become known as the “Affluenza defense” because it was argued that the boy was spoiled as a result of being given everything he wanted by his rich parents.
“Part of a judge’s role is to make decisions that help to rehabilitate offenders. However, in order for a person to be fully rehabilitated, there must be consequences to the act that broke the law,” Garcia said. “If someone is found guilty of a serious crime, simply letting them go with a slap on the wrist will not teach them anything. Experience has shown that merely ordering rehab for someone doesn’t work. Jail time will make them understand the consequences of their actions.”
Garcia went on to say that judges represent the law for the entire community and the decisions they make should be consistent for everyone, rich or poor. Although that may sound like something every judge would agree with, it’s evident that one Texas judge didn’t see it that way.
Nevertheless, the time I spent having lunch at my home with Judge Garcia convinced me that he means exactly what he says. David Garcia has served as the judge of the County Criminal Court #3 in Denton County since his appointment on September 1, 1997, just after the additional court was created to handle a huge backlog of cases. In 1998, he ran successfully for a full four-year term and has been reelected three more times. The criminal courts no longer have a backlog.
Garcia received his JD from the University of Texas School of Law in 1984 and a BA from Texas Tech University in 1981. Prior to taking the bench, he was in private practice in Denton. He currently serves on the Court of Criminal Appeals Judicial Education Committee and the Judicial Advisory Board for the Texas Association for Court Administration. Moreover, he is a member of the Judicial Section of the State Bar of Texas, the Texas Association of County Court at Law Judges, the Denton County Bar Association, and the American Judge’s Association.
He also teaches a course at the College of Judges. This is a week-long course that’s given to new judges in order to familiarize them with how to prepare affidavits of blood evidence search warrants in DWI cases, which judges must sign in order for a technician to draw blood. “When we sign such a warrant, our goal is to ensure that there were reasonable grounds to believe a crime was committed,” he said. In a typical case, an officer will call the judge for an affidavit if a person is suspected of having alcohol in his system while driving, but refuses to take a breathalyzer test on the scene.
It’s quite evident that Judge Garcia is very proud when he speaks of his role in the Denton County Veterans Treatment Court Program (VTCP). The Court is a treatment and supervision program designed to help our combat veterans returning from overseas deal with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) and other combat related mental issues that have led to their entry into the criminal justice system. The purpose and hope of the program is to identify those veterans who can and want to be helped. If successful through intensive court supervision, the veteran will receive the treatment and counseling necessary to address the underlying mental and psychological problems that have contributed in some degree to the offense they are alleged to have committed.
Additionally, the District Attorney’s Office will dismiss their criminal case after they have successfully completed their court supervised treatment, thereby allowing them to clear their criminal record. The objective is to allow the community as a whole to benefit by returning a veteran to society who will have the life skills necessary to deal with their PTSD related issues and avoid further problems with the law. “I volunteered to serve as the Veterans Court Judge and will supervise the process and the participating veterans. The supervision is intensive to ensure that they are following their treatment plans and that the safety of the community is protected. It is not a ‘get out of jail free’ card, nor is it easier than probation. It is a comprehensive and coordinated program to assist the veteran in getting help for the issues that led to the criminal activity,” Garcia said, adding, “These veterans have sacrificed so much for us. We need to help them make the necessary adjustment after the trauma of combat.”
Judge Garcia is running for reelection in the March 4, 2014 Republican primary.
Bob Weir is a long-time Flower Mound resident and former local newspaper editor. In addition, Bob has 7 published books that include “Murder in Black and White,” “City to Die For,” “Powers that Be,” “Ruthie’s Kids,” “Deadly to Love,” “Short Stories of Life and Death” and “Out of Sight,” all of which can be found on Amazon.com and other major online bookstores.