Governor Bobby Jindal signed four new laws today to crack down on DWIs. Each bill was approved by the DWI-Vehicular Homicide Task Force and part of the Governor's 2012 legislative package.
Governor Jindal said, "These new laws build on our past efforts to make Louisiana's communities safer by enhancing penalties for multiple offenses and giving law enforcement officials more flexibility to remove drunk drivers from the road."
HB 781 by Representative Steven Pylant gives law enforcement officers the ability to use multiple tests to assess a driver's impairment. Breathalyzer tests cannot detect the presence of drugs in an offender's system, and after a breathalyzer test is given, current law is not clear whether a refusal for a subsequent test qualifies for suspending an impaired individual's driver's license. This new law will clarify an officer's authority to employ an additional test to assess the extent of drug impairment, and the refusal of a test or tests would give rise to suspension of the offender's driver's license.
SB 306 by Senator Bodi White extends the ten-year period that permits enhanced penalties for repeat DWI offenders. Prior to Governor Jindal signing this law, offenders on parole benefitted from their parole periods being included in the ten-year period, protecting them from tougher penalties down the road. This new law will exclude the time an offender serves on parole from the ten-year period, extending the time that prevents them from benefiting from lesser penalties for reoffending.
SB 485 by Senator Jonathan Perry makes a detectable amount of illicit drugs in a person's blood system a contributing factor to vehicular homicide. Many impaired drivers on Louisiana's roads drive under the influence of illegal drugs. This new law will assist prosecutors go after offenders who have committed vehicular homicide and have illegal or unprescribed drugs in their blood system.
SB 486 Senator Jonathan Perry addresses penalties for persons with three DWI offenses enrolled in DWI or drug courts and restricts reinstatement of driving privileges for multiple offenders arrested for a DWI.
Third offense DWI offenders enrolled in a DWI or drug court must report for work to fulfill court requirements and be subject to heavy supervision and drug screening by court staff. This bill will authorize judges to permit or revoke the ability of these type offenders to possess an ignition-interlock-hardship-restricted driver's license for driving to and from work or for attending chemical dependency treatment sessions or meetings.
Additionally, this bill will prevent repeat DWI offenders who refuse a breath test or chemical test from having their driver's licenses immediately reinstated if they are pled down to a lesser charge or dismissal. Previously, the law incentivized repeat offenders to refuse a breath test, weaken the prosecution by avoiding chemical evidence, and thereby increase their chance of a lower criminal charge or dismissal. The law allowed the offender in that case to immediately regain his or her driver's license with full driving privileges. This bill removes that incentive for repeat offenders and will require these offenders to go through an administrative driver's license hearing that can result in a restricted driver's license requiring an interlock device on their vehicle.