Serial drunk drivers and the law

CALCASIEU PARISH, LA (KPLC) - Last week, Captain Chris Guillory of the Louisiana State Police, Troop D, explained how they arrest someone just about every day for a DWI.

Many are repeat offenders, but law enforcement continues to work with the District Attorney's Office to get drivers under the influence of alcohol or drugs, off the streets.

In general, District Attorney John DeRosier said his office is seeing more DWI cases.

"Right now, we're close to a 50-50 ratio of impaired drivers being impaired from half from alcohol and half from chemical substances," DeRosier said.

But they're also seeing an increase in felony DWIs. In Louisiana, offenses one and two are misdemeanors; three and four are felonies.

Police say they're arresting more people for DWIs, but are the laws too lenient?

DeRosier said laws have changed over the decades. The 80s and 90s saw more jail time. Then the philosophy changed to enrolling people in substance abuse treatment.

"That hasn't worked entirely either, relative to the concept of keeping impaired drivers off of the roads," said DeRosier.

But history may be repeating. DeRosier thinks we might be heading back toward those stiffer penalties.

"So, what I propose to do and have started doing is kind of bringing the pendulum back toward the middle," said DeRosier.

Current mandatory minimum is one year jail time for a third DWI offense and two years for fourth offense or greater.

And DeRosier thinks we need greater mandatory minimums along with the state's enforcement of substance or alcohol abuse treatment, "Because even though it was court ordered in the past, often times it never happened."

DeRosier hopes the combination of higher mandatory minimums and enforced treatment will help.

"And eventually, I think you'll get to the right mix of rehabilitation and punishment to the point where people say 'You know, it's not worth it to get behind the wheel of an automobile when I am impaired.' Our function as I see it is not to put impaired drivers in prison. Our function is to keep impaired drivers off of the highways of the state of Louisiana and keep everybody safe," said DeRosier.

There's also a DWI court and drug court program that DeRosier said is effective. However, law enforcement, the DA's office and the court all have to determine whether or not the individual will benefit from the program which does cost money.

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