Calculating When an Old DWI Ceases to ‘Count’ Against You Under Louisiana Law

Calendar2When you’re facing a DWI charge, one of the many important factors you need to consider is which of your previous DWI convictions will (or won’t) “count” against you for purposes of determining how severe a punishment you should face for your current charge. The Louisiana Court of Appeal recently addressed such an issue, concluding that a trial court properly sentenced a southeast Louisiana man as a four-time offender, even though two of those four DWIs happened more than a decade before the current incident.

In July 2011, a Lafourche Parish law enforcement officer pulled over Randy Easter’s Chevrolet pickup truck after observing the vehicle traveling erratically. When the deputy approached Easter, he noticed that Easter slurred his words, smelled of alcohol, and was unsteady on his feet. A blood test result eventually calculated the driver’s blood alcohol content at 0.19 percent.

That encounter was not Easter’s first with law enforcement. The driver had three previous charges for driving drunk:  one each from 1999, 2000, and 2008. The state charged Easter with DWI, fourth offense. The driver argued that his first two offenses should not count against him due to their age and that he should be facing a charge of DWI, second offense, not fourth offense. The trial court rejected this argument, and Easter ultimately received a sentence of 15 years in prison and a $5,000 fine.

The driver appealed his conviction and renewed his argument that he should not have been facing a fourth-offense charge. Louisiana law recognizes a 10-year “cleansing period,” meaning that, if your DWI is more than a decade old, it does not factor into the charge or punishment you face for your current DWI arrest. The driver pointed out that, although he pled guilty to his first two charges in October 2001 (which was less than 10 years before his current arrest), the statute, as it existed back then, did not exclude the period of time the accused person spent awaiting trial from the calculation of the 10-year period, so his 1999 and 2000 occurrences should have been cleansed.

The appeals court rejected this argument for two reasons. First, the trial court correctly used the version of the statute as amended in 2008, not the version that existed in 2001, to calculate Easter’s 10-year cleansing period, even though two of the driver’s offenses happened before 2008. This meant that the starting date for the cleansing period was October 2001, and the trial court correctly counted the first two offenses against him.

Even if the trial court should have used the older version of the statute, the driver’s argument still would have failed. Both versions of the law contain several events that stop the cleansing-period “clock” from running. One of these is being on probation. Easter was placed on three years probation after his 2008 incident. When subtracting those three years from 2008 to 2011, Easter’s first two offenses counted against him, regardless of whether the cleansing period’s start date was his arrest dates or his conviction dates.

Certainly, the best strategy to avoid a criminal sentence for DWI is to avoid drinking and driving. If you find yourself or a loved one facing a DWI charge, planning a strategy for defending yourself involves many things, including analyzing how severe a penalty you could face if convicted. For answers to these and other DWI questions, talk to the Louisiana DWI attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm. Our DWI/DUI attorneys have many years of experience advising and defending those facing drunk-driving related charges.

For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 1-888-89-CARDONE (1-888-892-2736).

More Blog Posts:

Louisiana Court of Appeal Reduces Driver’s Sentence Because Trial Court Did Not Follow Statute, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Feb. 12, 2015

6 Month Prison Sentence for Misdemeanor First Offense Drunk Driving Conviction Not Excessive, Appeals Court Rules, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, Aug. 20, 2014