Articles Posted in DUI/DWI

On July 19, 2018, the court ordered our client’s driver’s license be reinstated because he was improperly arrested at a DWI checkpoint on Tchoupitoulas Street in New Orleans, Louisiana. DWI checkpoints on Tchoupitoulas Street are frequently conducted by the New Orleans Police Department, in part, because their station is nearby which makes transportation of the arrested fairly quick and easy.

When clients come to us and have been charged with a DWI, the first thing we do is look into all aspects of the arrest and charge. When a person is charged with a DWI at a checkpoint, an important consideration is the client’s constitutional rights.

At Cardone Law Firm, we believe that people should never be forced to deal with the injuries and costly medical expenses that come with an accident caused by a drunk driver. Unfortunately, drunk driving accidents happen all-too-often in the state of Louisiana. In the aftermath of an accident, innocent victims are left to deal with the consequences.

According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), 3,046 people were killed in Louisiana in drunk driving accidents between 2006 and 2013. Unfortunately, 2.5% of people in Louisiana have reported driving while under the influence of alcohol, which is higher than the national average of 1.9%. Louisiana also has higher fatalities in all age groups compared to national drunk driving accident rates.

When you are arrested for a drinking and driving (DWI), there are two separate tracks – a criminal track and an administrative track. The criminal track concerns fines, penalties, and potential jail time while the administrative track deals with the suspension of your driver’s license. The suspension of a driver’s license always presents a difficult situation, but this is especially true if your job requires you to operate a commercial motor vehicle or you have a Class A, B, or C Commercial Driver’s License (CDL).

CDL AND A DWI ARREST

When someone engages in improper conduct that injures you or a loved one, you’ll need to clear several hurdles to obtain compensation. Sometimes, the specific hurdles in your case may appear extraordinarily challenging or even impossible. Fortunately, though, many cases provide multiple different avenues for securing a verdict and damages award in your favor. With skilled counsel, you may be able to clear what seem like insurmountable obstacles. A case involving a tragic auto accident from Central Louisiana provides an illustration of this point.
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Drinking and driving occurs all too often, especially in the state of Louisiana. According to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, more commonly known as MADD, there were 5,339 arrests in Louisiana last year for DWIs. According to a national poll conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Louisiana ranks well above average in citizens who report driving after drinking too much. Impaired driving has become a growing national concern over recent years spawning new legislation increasing the penalties for driving while intoxicated. This article will provide you with a overview on a Louisiana DWI and the penalties you can expect to face if arrested for a DWI.

DWI STANDARD  

Each DWI case is unique in its own way. A first-offense DWI charge contains its own set of challenges for the accused driver that are different from those faced by drivers accused of second-, third-, or fourth-offense DWI. In one recent case originating in Jefferson Parish, a man convicted of misdemeanor first-offense DWI lost opportunities to challenge the way the state prosecuted his case because he did not follow the correct court procedures or observe the court rules, which led the Louisiana Court of Appeal to leave his conviction in place.

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The Louisiana Court of Appeal recently refused to throw out a man’s conviction on third-offense DWI despite his arguments that one of his prior convictions should not have counted against him in his current case. Although there were certain things the judge in the previous case did not tell the man about criminal law and trial procedure, none of those pieces of information was required by the Constitution, so the conviction was properly included as part of the basis for the man’s current charge.

Damion Billups’ most recent DWI case began when a state trooper observed him speeding along a rural road in Northeastern Louisiana. When the trooper stopped the driver, he thought the driver appeared intoxicated, put him through some field sobriety tests, and, based on those results, arrested the man for DWI. The state charged the matter as a third-offense DWI, since Billups had two previous DWI convictions, one each in 2008 and 2010. The driver challenged the charge brought against him, arguing that his 2010 plea was unconstitutional and that this offense should not count against him. After the trial judge concluded that both prior offenses were validly counted against the man, Billups entered a conditional guilty plea and was sentenced to one year of hard labor.

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The Louisiana Supreme Court recently upheld a driver’s conviction and sentence to 25 years of hard labor for DWI, fourth offense, even though the jury in the driver’s trial consisted of only six people. The high court’s decision clarified that, in situations like this, when the driver’s mandatory hard labor sentence only arose from a multiple-offender sentencing enhancement, and the crime charged on the original indictment contained a range of possible sentences both with or without hard labor, the trial court’s empaneling of a six-person jury was not an error and did not require giving the driver a new trial.

The events leading up to this decision started with a traffic stop in Bogalusa in 2011. A state trooper pulled over a pickup truck that had been weaving erratically down the road. The driver, Gerald Dahlem, smelled of alcohol, slurred his speech, and displayed glassy, bloodshot eyes. A blood alcohol level test revealed that Dahlem’s BAC was .180.

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While it may not be common, there are certain circumstances when Louisiana law allows a private citizen to stop another citizen for a suspected violation of the law. In a decision from last fall, the Louisiana Court of Appeal concluded that this aspect of the law made the stop of a suspected drunk driver legal, even though the citizen who made the stop was an employee of a fire department who used his vehicle’s emergency lights to make the stop and used physical force to restrain the driver at the scene.

At first, most of the facts of the case may sound fairly ordinary. Detective Darryl Sanders was driving his marked SUV early on June 18, 2011, when he spotted a white Ford Ranger proceeding in an erratic fashion north of Baton Rouge. Sanders turned on his lights and pulled the vehicle over. The driver, Michael Pratt, exhibited slurred speech and was belligerent toward Sanders. Sanders used physical force to restrain Pratt. Deputy Scott Courrege also responded and administered field sobriety tests, which the driver failed. Pratt refused a chemical breathlyzer test and ultimately was arrested for DWI.

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When you are arrested on suspicion of DWI, you may have the choice to submit to or refuse a chemical blood-alcohol test. If you choose to refuse, there may be certain consequences that go with refusing, such as the suspension of your driver’s license for a year. However, in some cases, you may be entitled to an immediate reinstatement of your license, as opposed to waiting for a year to pass. One driver arrested in Ascension Parish was entitled to such an immediate reinstatement, according to the Louisiana Court of Appeal, since the state failed to show that he had been previously arrested for DWI within the last 10 years.

The driver who contested his license suspension was Jay Veasman, whom law enforcement officers arrested for DWI in April 2013. Veasman was informed of his rights and elected to refuse a chemical blood-alcohol test. The state suspended Veasman’s license, and an administrative law judge determined that the suspension was proper. A trial court judge, however, disagreed and reinstated the driver’s driving privileges.

The state Department of Public Safety appealed but lost. One aspect of the case that favored the driver was the plea deal he worked out in his criminal trial. Although he was originally charged with DWI, Veasman and the state agreed to an arrangement in which the state dropped the DWI charge, and the driver pled guilty to Careless Operation of a Motor Vehicle. Since the impaired driving-related charges were dismissed, the 2013 incident alone could not stand in the way of the man’s immediate license reinstatement.

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