LAKE CHARLES, LA (KPLC) – $1.3-billion - that is the amount of money drunk driving cost tax payers in Louisiana last year. Sadly, in many cases, loss of life is the price others pay due to drunk drivers. But now, recently passed legislation looks to bring down both numbers.
In the past, before the year 2000, if you were charged with felony DWI you were looking at 15 years in prison, in some cases. But, high costs to the tax payers caused the penalty to change to a much lesser sentence.
"That system has not worked in deterring impaired drivers on our highways," said Calcasieu Parish District Attorney, John DeRosier.
According to DeRosier, 46-percent of all deaths on Louisiana highways are caused by drunk driving. New legislation in Louisiana has changed the punishment, in hopes of changing the outcome.
"As the law stands now, if you were brought to jail on a DWI fourth offense, the minimum sentence is seventy-five days in jail. The new law looks to change that to at least two years on lock down. For DWI third offense, the new minimum is one year behind bars. But, there are other options for a judge to consider. The first is jail time, but the judge will also be able to send an impaired driver to DWI, or drug court. The last option would be a residential facility, where one could receive treatment, complete courses, and most importantly, they would be forced to have a job to pay for their stay.
"For those who would not have a job we would find them a job, and provide transportation to and from. By staying there, we will help them and rectify their particular situation, but not on the taxpayers back," said State Senator, Willie Mount.
The new sentencing standards for DWI third and fourth offense will not go into effect until August.