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Louisiana lawmakers back DWI bills, Gov. Jindal signs six into law

Over the past years, fatal crashes in the state of Louisiana have decreased 34 percent. Alcohol-related crash injuries have decreased 17 percent. But with 288 deaths in alcohol-related crashes in 2011, and with Louisiana ranking in the top 10 states for overall alcohol-related fatal crashes, lawmakers want more to be done.

Lawmakers in the House and Senate have recently supported a number of proposals cracking down on drunk driving. Earlier this month, Governor Bobby Jindal signed six separate bills into law, each addressing intoxicated drivers. According to Jindal, the new laws will enhance penalties for various offenses and give law enforcement officers more "flexibility" in removing drunk drivers from the road.

One measure, which addresses third-offense DWIs, permits judges to issue ignition interlock systems and restricted driver's licenses after 45 days if the offender is in good standing. The previous law required those convicted of a third DWI offense to have their licenses suspended for three years.

Another bill allows law enforcement to target those who drive with illegal or non-prescribed drugs in their system. The third bill permits officers to use preliminary breath tests for both drunkenness and drug impairment. Under previous law, officers are not allowed to test for drugs with a Breathalyzer and it was uncertain whether refusal to submit to other testing could result in a license suspension. Other bills that have been backed seek to toughen penalties for repeat offenders.

As our readers know, drunk driving is an issue that is constantly receiving the attention of lawmakers. Though it is understandable that lawmakers and the public want offenders punished and kept off the roads, defense attorneys know that it also important to protect the rights of the accused. DWI defense has the goal of ensuring that the government meets its burden of proof for all charges and that the punishment is appropriate for the crime. Prosecutors wield a lot of power in these cases, and it is critical for defendants to be prepared when facing charges.

Source: Shreveport Times, "Louisiana lawmakers crack down on drunken drivers," Sheila V. Kumar, June 13, 2012

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