Lubbock Constable challenges law used to remove him from office

Lubbock Constable challenges law used to remove him from office following DWI

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LUBBOCK COUNTY, Texas -

Constable C.J. Peterson is fighting back while the Lubbock County Republican Party is trying to remove him from office after he was charged with a DWI. However, his attorney thinks the statute being used to remove him is unconstitutional. 

Attorney Rob Hogan says the statute doesn't have the right priorities in order. He's filed for a temporary and permanent injunction.

"You have a statute that is not limited to things that concern an officer's on-duty performance or an elected official's on-duty performance. But you have a statute that has a wide reach, even for matters of an off-duty performance and that is a big concern," Hogan said.

Peterson's BAC was .152 at the time of his arrest in early May, almost two times the legal limit. According to Texas law, an elected official who is proven to be a habitual drunk can be removed from office.

Sec. 87.013. GENERAL GROUNDS FOR REMOVAL. (a) An officer may be removed for:

(1) incompetency;

(2) official misconduct; or

(3) intoxication on or off duty caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage.

(b) Intoxication is not a ground for removal if it appears at the trial that the intoxication was caused by drinking an alcoholic beverage on the direction and prescription of a licensed physician practicing in this state.

The Chapter 87, Section 13 provision lets petitions be filed against officials. Hogan says that law shouldn't be applied to this case. 

"The case law says that it has to affect the things that you're doing inside the office, it's gotta make it so you can't exercise your office and do what the public has hired you to do. The statute that goes beyond that allows someone to be removed just for one instance of being drunk," Hogan said. 

He thinks the law needs to be updated.

"Our constitutional challenge based on the petition is based on the fact that this is an old law. It was put into place during the Prohibition days, obviously the law has changed in the United States and in Texas since then. This law has never been updated or reformed," Hogan said.

There's no trial date yet, and a judge will decide whether to suspend the enforcement of that statute temporarily

"As far as us and the Commissioners Court and Lubbock County we are just in a wait and see mode with the district attorney's office to let them proceed in the manner in which they do," Precinct 4 Commissioner Patti Jones said. "At this point, there's really no action on our part."

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