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Once-abandoned statewide DWI database potentially back in the works

In 2004, a project known as the Integrated Criminal Justice Information System (ICJIS) was proposed, developed, and abandoned. With its failure came a corresponding inability to track DWIs across counties in the state of Louisiana. Prosecutors, members of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and thousands of citizens were disappointed.

A system that links the databases of police departments across county lines would enable police to more easily access previous DWI convictions. This could be a very effective tool in reducing repeat offenses. Drunk-driving claims the lives of thousands of people nationwide each year. This year, a three-time DWI convict killed seven people in an accident in which he was driving drunk. Keeping repeat offenders from slipping through the cracks and being booked as first offenders could go a long way in keeping the streets safe.

Now, eight years later, the ICJIS is back on the table. It seems state legislators have begun to recognize the potential value of such a system. The ICJIS board has been called to reconvene and to submit a status report at the 2013 regular session.

The technology necessary to implement an integrated system already exists. All that is left to be worked out are the politics and finances. Contracts must be awarded and lawmakers and policymakers must be brought into accord with one another regarding the necessity and economic feasibility of building a statewide police information database.

As ammunition, those pushing for the system might need only point to the recent case of seven potentially avoidable deaths. Had the man responsible been sentenced appropriately after his second DWI arrest, perhaps the tragedy would not have occurred.

While such a system might prove useful in reducing DWI deaths, it is important to remember that each and every person charged with DWI deserves a proper defense.

Source: The Advocate, "Lack of state DWI system hampers tracking," Joe Gyan Jr., July 24, 2012

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