Control Controversy Closes Montgomery County's Drug Court Program; Case at Appeals Court

A huge controversy between Montgomery District Attorney Ellen Brooks and Chief Circuit Court Judge Charles Price has closed the county's drug court since March 21st.

Drug Court is where prosecutors take first offenders, giving them a chance to go through rehab and leave without a criminal record.

Brooks says she's concerned Price may try to allow first time drunk drivers into the system, and if that happens it will gut the state's DUI laws.

The DA is passionate about the battle against drunk driving. She's prosecuted dozens of defendants after fatal accidents in the last 30 years.

"I know what it was like before we had good DUI laws, and I do not wish to go back to that time where we wink at people who not only choose to get drunk but also choose to get behind a wheel," said Brooks

In mid-March, Judge Charles Price issued an order saying judges would take over running Montgomery's Drug Court.

"This order came out of the blue to my office," Brook said.

Brooks says if the judges take over the program some will let first time drunk drivers into Drug Court, which would mean even if they pleaded guilty, defendants would have no criminal record.

"It can't be used against you in any form or fashion. I don't think that's right with DUIs," said Brooks.

Brooks says she believes in trying to treat drunk drivers for their problems, but where she draws the line is erasing their record after the first offense.

"We need to make the punishment tough after that first offense so people will change their behavior," she said.

Brooks says Price's order would also violate the law because it would give judges powers that only prosecutors have, namely, deciding when a defendant should face trial.

"Prosecutors are members of the executive branch, and judges are obviously members of the judicial branch," she explained.  "Obviously, the legislature set it up that way to create checks and balances."

So in an effort to stop Price from proceeding, she's asked the State Court of Criminal Appeals to rule against him.

But until that's resolved, no one will go to Drug Court, and Brooks says that's keeping her office from trying to help people who might need saving.

We tried to speak with Judge Price Tuesday.

He was unavailable for comment.

We also contacted Mothers Against Drunk Driving about this issue. Their director declined to speak with us.