Jindal Announces Priorities for Cracking Down on Drunk Drivers

The following is a news release from the Office of the Governor of the State of Louisiana:

BATON ROUGE – Today, Governor Bobby Jindal announced his new legislative priorities for cracking down on drunk drivers in the upcoming legislative session. Governor Jindal highlighted five bills he will pursue in the upcoming session that strengthen drunk driving laws in Louisiana. All five initiatives have been approved by the Governor's Homicide DWI-Vehicular Homicide Task Force.

Governor Jindal said, "Safety remains a top priority in our efforts to move Louisiana forward. We have a duty to protect our communities and roads so families can raise their children in a safe environment. These new initiatives will crack down on reckless drunk drivers and make our roads safer for our families."

State Police Superintendent Col. Michael Edmonson said, "The Louisiana State Police remains committed to reducing DWI-related injuries and deaths on Louisiana highways.  I applaud and support Governor Jindal's efforts to ensure that Louisiana has effective DWI laws on the books.  This legislation strengthens the consequences for those individuals who make the deadly decision to drive impaired and sends a clear message that is will not be tolerated in Louisiana."

Executive Director of the Louisiana Sheriff's Association Hal Turner said, "Law enforcement strives to make cracking down on drunk drivers a top priority, and with the package offered by the Governor we'll have more support as we continue our endeavor of creating a safer Louisiana."

Executive Director of the Louisiana District Attorneys Association Pete Adams said, "The District Attorneys are grateful that the Governor is supporting legislation to help us reduce driving while intoxicated offenses and deter offenders in Louisiana. Our partnership with the Governor's Task Force and the Highway Safety Commission has been productive in developing tools to reduce drunk driving and traffic safety casualties in our state.

Senator Willie Mount said, "I'm happy to join Governor Jindal in making our streets and communities safer with our efforts to crack down on drunk driving. By increasing the punishment of a number of DWI laws and providing our officials with even more tools for keeping the streets safe - we're taking some much needed steps for protecting all Louisianians."

State Representative Walt Leger said, "To better protect the citizens of our state – we need to make it crystal clear that when you're caught drinking and driving in Louisiana – you'll face the full brunt of our laws. This package of DWI legislation will give our law enforcement officials and our prosecutors more tools for keeping our streets safe."

Representative Rickey Hardy said, "We absolutely must deal with DWI's on the highways and byways of our great state swiftly as well as harshly.  They will not be tolerated.  The Governor and members of the Legislature are determined to accomplish that end."

Representative Jonathan Perry said, "As the father of four children, I appreciate the need for safety on the roads of this state.  With this set of bills, we'll send a clear message to the rest of the nation that Louisiana doesn't tolerate drunk drivers.  Following this session, our citizens can expect our DWI laws to be even tougher, so that we can protect the lives of not only our children, but of everyone who drives in Louisiana."

An outline of the initiatives that Governor Jindal announced today in Baton Rouge is included below:

1.      Suspend An Offender's Driver's License For Two Years After The Conviction Of Third Degree Feticide – An Accident Resulting In The Death Of An Unborn Child

Currently, if someone's driving a car while impaired and they cause an accident resulting in the death of an unborn child, there are no statutory provisions for suspension of their license.

Current law provides a fine of at least $2,000 and imprisonment of up to 5 years. However, Governor Jindal noted that individuals rarely get up to this amount of time, if they serve time at all, which means there is nothing in the law today to prohibit the full restoration of driving privileges, even when an unborn life is taken.

This bill will mandate a two-year suspension of the offender's driver's license and give offenders time to reflect upon the consequences of their actions when they choose to operate a vehicle on our streets impaired.

This bill is authored by Rep. Jonathan Perry.

2.      Require A Code Be Placed On Driver's Licenses Of Individuals Who Are Required To Have An Ignition Interlock Device Installed On Their Vehicle As A Condition Of Reinstating Their Driver's License

An ignition interlock device is an in-car alcohol breath screening device connected to the engine's ignition system to prevent the vehicle from starting if it detects an illegal blood alcohol level. In the case of multiple DUI-related/refusal violations, the law requires an interlock device be installed.

Under current law, drivers sentenced to receive an interlock device are not always putting them in all of the vehicles that they drive – as they are required.

Governor Jindal said, "In some cases, drivers are purchasing clunkers and having the interlock device installed in them while continuing to drive their own vehicle.  Some offenders are driving the vehicles of family members or other individuals who are not required to have an interlock device installed."

Currently, when law enforcement officials pull a driver over for any type of minor traffic violation, they have no way of knowing that an interlock device is required, unless they run the license for a full check through the OMV system.  This means drivers with multiple offense records could also pass by road check points in a vehicle that is not theirs without being detected. Reinstated licenses do not currently indicate any restrictions – like they do for hardship licenses.

This bill will require a code be places on an offender's reinstated license that can alert law enforcement that the driver should be driving with an interlock device.

Governor Jindal said, "This legislation closes a gap in current law and makes much more unlikely that repeat offenders will illegally operate any vehicle under the influence because they will have a much better chance of being caught. The fundamental goal of this bill is to make offenders think twice before using a family member's car or any other vehicle to circumvent the requirements imposed on them as a condition of their DUI sentence."

This bill is authored by Rep. Jonathan Perry.

3.      Premature Removal Of An Interlock Device Or An Offender's Failure To Renew An Interlock Contract Before The End Of Their Requirement To Have The Device Will Result In License Suspension

Currently, the Office of Motor Vehicles (OMV) has no statutory authority or recourse when they are notified that a driver has prematurely removed their interlock device or not renewed their interlock contract required as a condition of reinstatement of a license.

This bill will require that the OMV suspend a driver's license upon notice that the driver has prematurely removed their interlock device or allowed the contract to prematurely expire. The legislation will also require the OMV to mail notices to drivers that their license has been suspended until the department receives sufficient proof that their ignition interlock device was reinstalled.

The bill also specifies that all of the time the interlock was inactive does not count toward their total required time to have an interlock installed.

Governor Jindal said, "This law will ensure that offenders are no longer allowed to play games or ignore the consequences of their actions by finding loopholes in the system and trying to skate around doing the time for their crime."

This bill is authored by Rep. Walt Leger.

4.      Require School Bus Drivers To Report Their DUI-Related Arrests Within 24 Hours Of Receipt Or Prior To Their Next Shift - Whichever Time Is Shorter

Governor Jindal said, "The most essential part of a bus driver's duties is to safely transport our children through the careful operation of a vehicle. If they have jeopardized their driving record with a DUI offense, schools need to be immediately alerted so they can make other arrangements. We cannot take a chance when it comes to the safety of our children. We need strict and quick reporting requirements on the drivers we entrust to safely bring them to school and home again."

This bill will also specify that the failure of an offender to report their arrest within 24 hours or prior to their next shift – whichever is shorter – will result in the termination of the bus driver in cases where they are serving a probationary term under tenure law. For tenured employees, failure to comply with reporting will be grounds for a tenure hearing/review and potentially removal.

This bill is authored by Rep. Rickey Hardy.

5.      Restructure The Way That Proceeds From The Seizure And Sale Of Vehicles For 3rd And 4th DWI Offenses Are Distributed

Currently, after court and other costs are paid, all proceeds from these sales go to the Council on Automobile Insurance Rates and Enforcement (CAIRE) within the Department of Insurance for use in studying other ways to reduce drunk driving and insurance rates. This legislation will still dedicate 20 percent to CAIRE – and direct the remaining funds to law enforcement and agencies that shoulder the expense enforcing these driving-related crimes.

This bill is authored by Senator Willie Mount.