Viewpoint: Obvious choice of candidates in Missoula’s Justice of the Peace
Susan Campbell Reneau
When voters go to their ballots to cast their votes right now, they have an obvious choice between the incumbent Justice of the Peace in Missoula’s Department 2 and myself.
I firmly believe anyone charged with a crime must receive a fair hearing and trial, but if they plead guilty or are found guilty in Justice Court, that person must serve their full punishment for the safety of the victims they harmed and for the community of Missoula as a whole. I believe this with my whole heart and soul.
Police officers, lawyers of victims, and sheriff deputies have told me repeatedly that convicted criminals are circulating in and out of Justice Court and other courts in Missoula to the detriment of our community and the safety of our citizens.
Road Court, funded from taxpayer money through federal and state grant dollars, gives drunk and drugged drivers a second chance and no or little jail time even if they have been convicted of multiple DUI convictions. The grant was approximately $900,000, as proudly announced by my opponent, yet only 26 participants have graduated.
That works out to a cost to us taxpayers of more than $34,600 for each convicted DUI offender, which is far more expensive then requiring them to sit in jail for their full term of punishment to think about what they have done to other people’s property and to other people they injured. The current JP thinks such programs are a good alternative to traditional punishment for those convicted of drunk or drugged driving. I do not.
If a person has been convicted of driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and causes bodily or property harm to a victim, and especially if they have been convicted multiple times, that person must suffer the consequences of their actions by harsh punishment that often includes jail time.
The victims that were injured don’t get to sit at home and enjoy their families and day to day activities if they have suffered great injury. Property that is damaged or destroyed will likely never be the same again even if repairs are done to it, and getting repairs done is a big pain in the neck for the victim.
Why should a convicted DUI offender be given a pleasant alternative to jail time or other more restrictive punishment when they harmed an innocent person or people? They shouldn’t.
The Justice of the Peace hears thousands of cases a year, and all of them involve the accused and the victim. Why has it become popular to care more about the well-being of the convicted criminal than the victim?
Justice Court hears cases involving people that have destroyed other people’s property, beat up spouses, children, or partners, and injured dogs and cats and other pets or farm animals under animal control citations. Justice Court also hears cases involving game law violations and customers angry with business owners or neighbors that are angry with each other over conflicts.
In all these thousands of cases, there is a victim or many victims. I believe if someone has been proven to have caused bodily or property harm to another person or animal, that person should fulfill their sentencing and what is owed their victim or victims.
When you go to the polls, if you haven’t already voted, think of the victims of crimes first and vote for someone that wants to make sure those humans and animals damaged are cared for first and not as an afterthought.
Justice is for all people who are wronged. A fair trial to make sure no one is falsely accused is vital, but so is the effort to make sure a victim of crime is cared for and heard.
I believe in justice for all, and that means for victims, too.