Governor Bobby Jindal announced seven legislative proposals to crack down on DWIs that have been be approved by the DWI-Vehicular Homicide Task Force. These bills will be proposed as a part of the Governor's 2012 Legislative Package.
Governor Jindal said, "Every year we continue to build on our efforts to make Louisiana roads safer for our families. These initiatives will increase penalties for multiple offenses and provide law enforcement officials with more flexibility to get impaired drivers off the road."
Sen. Jonathan Perry said, "With these proposals, we will continue to aggressively strengthen our laws and address DWI fatalities in Louisiana. I look forward to working with Governor Jindal and the Legislature in getting these bills passed."
Sen. Bodi White said, "It is our duty to do what we can to make Louisiana streets safer, and the important proposals put forward by the Governor and the DWI Taskforce will add another level of protection for our people."
Sen. Fred Mills said, "This is much needed legislation and I want to thank the Governor and the DWI Task Force for the work they have done. This legislation will help protect the health, safety, and welfare of the citizens of Louisiana."
An outline of the legislative proposals Governor Jindal announced today is included below:
1. Give Law Enforcement Officers Ability To Use Multiple Tests To Assess Impairment
Sen. Fred Mills will author this legislation. Current law is not clear in addressing the issue of whether multiple tests can be legally used by an officer on drivers impaired by drugs or alcohol. Breathalyzer tests cannot detect the presence of drugs in an offender's system, and after a breathalyzer test is given, the law is not clear on whether an officer can also request and use in court a subsequent blood or urine test. This legislation will allow an officer to employ additional tests to assess the extent of drug or alcohol impairment, and the refusal of any tests would give rise to a driver's license suspension under the Implied Consent Law.
2. Require Persons Who Refuse or Fail Chemical Tests to Serve Driver's License Suspension
Sen. Jonathan Perry will author this legislation. Prior to the implementation of Act 605 of 1992, Louisiana had a pure "two-track" driver's license suspension law. One track was the Implied Consent Law which suspends driving privileges for those arrested for DWI that fail or refuse a chemical analysis test. The other was the criminal procedure track which was invoked only upon conviction of a DWI charge.
A successful defense of one track was not an automatic defense on the other track. However, Act 605 changed that and introduced a new defense tactic. A dismissal, acquittal, completion of a pre-trial diversion program or plea to a lesser offense on the criminal procedure track enabled the offender to reinstate their driving privileges under the Implied Consent Law track. Repealing Act 605 will require a person who refuses a chemical test or submits to and fails such a test to serve a driver's license suspension, unless a successful defense is made at the Implied Consent Law hearing.
3. Require Substance Abuse Disorder Evaluation for First and Second DWI Offenders
Sen. Fred Mills will author this legislation. In order to tailor an appropriate sentence for DWI offenders, a sentencing judge needs to determine whether alcoholism or occasional substance abuse is a factor. This legislation will require a substance abuse disorder evaluation be performed by DHH for first and second offense DWI offenders. Currently, the evaluation is only required for third and subsequent DWI offenses.
4. Make It Illegal to Operate a Vehicle With Detectable Amounts of Illicit Drugs in a Person's Body
Sen. Jonathan Perry will author this legislation. This will make it unlawful for a person to operate a vehicle if that person has any detectable amount of any controlled dangerous substance in their system which has not been medically prescribed. Louisiana will join 15 states with such laws for illicit drugs.
5. Extend the Ten-Year Period That Allows Enhanced Penalties for Repeat DWI Offenders
Sen. Bodi White will author this legislation. Current law provides enhanced penalties when a person commits a second DWI offense within ten years of committing their first offense. For purposes of the ten year period, the time during which an offender is awaiting trial, on probation or incarcerated in a penal institution is not counted, thus extending the ten year period to begin once their probation or incarceration has ended.
However, current law includes the time an offender spends on parole in that ten year period. Because many offenders convicted of felony DWI end up on parole rather than probation, these parole periods should be excluded from the ten year period. This legislation will exclude the time an offender serves on parole.
6. Equalize Penalties for Persons With Two DWI Offenses
Sen. Jonathan Perry will author this legislation. Currently, if a person is convicted of a second offense DWI or vehicular negligent injuring, then they must have their license suspended for two years. However, they are eligible for a hardship license after 45 days and upon providing proof that their car has been equipped with an ignition interlock device.
Also, if a person is convicted of a second offense DWI and had a blood alcohol concentration of .2 percent or more, then their driver's license must be suspended for four years. However, the offender is currently eligible for a hardship license throughout the entire four year period, upon providing proof that their car has been equipped with an ignition interlock device. The 45 day waiting period is not required.
This legislation will amend this second provision so that a person convicted of a second offense DWI with a blood alcohol concentration of .2 percent or more will only become eligible to receive a hardship license 45 days after their license was suspended, and not just anytime throughout the four year period.
7. Address Penalties for Persons with Three DWI Offenses
Sen. Jonathan Perry will author this legislation. Under current law, a person with a third DWI offense has his or her driver's license suspended for three years upon a plea of guilty or conviction. The offender can apply for a restricted driver's license after twelve months if the vehicle has been equipped with a functioning ignition interlock device.
Currently, these DWI offenders reporting for DWI or drug court must report for work to fulfill court requirements. Legislation will permit only third DWI offenders enrolled in a Louisiana DWI or drug court and in good standing, to be eligible to apply for an ignition-interlock-hardship-restricted driver's license by order of the presiding judge after 45 days of suspension. The offender would only be allowed to drive for purposes of maintaining a livelihood or attending chemical dependency treatment sessions or meetings. A judge can revoke the driving privileges at his discretion. These DWI offenders will be under heavy supervision and drug screening by DWI court staff throughout the state.