Louisiana DWI Laws May Get Tougher

Republican Senator Jonathan Perry said he plans to file controversial DWI legislation because Louisiana needs more aggressive DWI laws, especially for repeat offenders.  Louisiana has had one of the highest rates of alcohol-related deaths in the country.  In fact, alcohol-related deaths accounted for 45 percent of all road deaths in 2009, according to http://www.alcoholalert.com.

Perry said he wants to require that first-time DWI offenders spend at least 10 days in jail without any chance of suspension of the sentence, probation or parole, all of which are allowed now; second-time offenders spend at least 60 days in jail, an increase from 30 days; third-time offenders spend at least three years in jail, an increase from one year; and the maximum would be 10 years, an increase from five years.

Perry said he is aware that these tougher DWI laws could cost DWI offenders their jobs.  On the other hand, Perry said he has seen court dockets with many third and fourth-time DWI offenders being sentenced to 30 to 60 days of home incarceration.

Other current penalties for a DWI conviction may include fines, probation, community service, mandatory attendance at DWI or AA meetings, suspension, revocation or restriction of driver’s license, and installation of ignition interlock devices.

Currently, a charge of DWI becomes a felony when the offender has at least two prior DWI convictions within the last ten years.

Perry proposed his plans at a meeting of the Louisiana governor’s DWI-Vehicular Task Force, a panel that includes lawmakers and officials representing State Police, safety groups, prosecutor offices and others.  Any bill for DWI legislation would be considered during a session that begins in March in Baton Rouge.

If you are have been charged with DWI in Louisiana, contact Baton Rouge DWI Defense Attorney Carl Barkemeyer.

 

Source: The Advocate, “Longer sentence for first,” February 24, 2012.

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Felony and Misdemeanor Charges Brought After Fight During Mardi Gras in Louisiana

Dr. Glenn Stewart, a Louisiana physician and real estate developer, was booked into parish jail on one count of felony second-degree battery after he allegedly punched a woman, knocking her unconscious during a Lafayette Mardi Gras parade.

The fight occurred after the victim attempted to remove a banner from Stewart’s parade float, which featured a large cutout of the victim’s stepmother’s mug shot from her 2010 DWI arrest along with insulting comments.

Stewart was initially issued a misdemeanor summons for disturbing the peace by fighting at the scene, but the charge was later increased to a felony when a follow-up investigation found that Stewart knocked the woman unconscious.

The woman was also issued a summons for disturbing the peace and disorderly conduct.

A second man was also issued a misdemeanor summons for disturbing the peace by fighting after he intervened and began fighting with Stewart.

If you have been arrested or issued a summons, contact Baton Rouge Criminal Defense Attorney Carl Barkemeyer.

 

Source: The Advocate, “Doctor jailed on felony count,” February 23, 2012.

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DWI in Louisiana

The following case contains an example of how a misdemeanor conviction can become enhanceable if another similar charge is acquired.

James Ranna Jr. of Metairie was taken into custody last week and booked at the parish jail in Gretna with third-offense DWI, vehicular negligent injuring and two counts of hit-and-run driving.  However, this was at least his fourth DWI arrest.

Ranna crashed into another car while the driver was waiting at a traffic light.  Ranna fled the scene and was caught trying to hide his blue truck on the side of a house.  The trooper investigating the accident said he did not detect any smell of alcohol on Ranna but noticed the suspect was shaking, stuttering and unsteady. Furthermore, Ranna reportedly performed poorly on the field sobriety test.  Ranna’s blood alcohol content measured 0.0 percent, however, he allegedly admitted to taking the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, the muscle relaxant Soma and Roxicodone, a pain reliever. A urine sample was taken and sent to the State Police crime laboratory.

Ranna also reportedly had an alcohol ignition-interlock device on his vehicle. Such devices are designed to prevent a car engine from starting if an alcohol-impaired driver is behind the wheel.  In order to start the car, the driver has to blow into the device and have 0.00 BAC.

As mentioned earlier, this DWI arrest is not Ranna’s first.  In fact, he was convicted of DWI in 1993 and given a suspended six-month sentence and six months of probation.  He was arrested again in 2007 but was charged with first-offense DWI. He pleaded guilty under Article 894, which lets first-time offenders expunge a DWI conviction from their public records for insurance or employment benefits. Some may wonder why he was not charged with DWI second-offense in 2007. The Louisiana DWI statute reads, “prior convictions shall not include a conviction for an offense of DWI if committed more than ten years prior to the commission for the offense of which the defendant is being tried.”  Therefore, the prior (1993) DWI conviction may not have been used as a predicate DWI offense making the 2007 conviction a DWI first-offense.  However, Ranna was arrested a third time in June 2011 and booked with second-offense DWI, which is a misdemeanor, because it had been less than ten years since the previous DWI conviction.

In addition, he also has a 1998 conviction for drug possession with intent to distribute and a 2001 manslaughter conviction in the 1998, for which he was sentenced to five years in prison.

 

If you have been charged with DWI in Louisiana, contact Baton Rouge DWI Lawyer Carl Barkemeyer.

 

Source: The Times Picayune, “Three-time DWI suspect arrested again after crash in Metairie,” February 14, 2012.

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Louisiana State Supreme Court Ruling in Baton Rouge

The state Supreme Court in Louisiana ruled in favor of defendant Gerald Chinn, who is awaiting trial in Baton Rouge on charges of attempted first-degree murder and felony criminal damage to property.  Chinn chose to waive his right to a jury trial, but the prosecutor in Chinn’s case intentionally chose a trial date that was less than 45 days from the date it was set.  However, last Friday the state Supreme Court ruled that a prosecutor cannot take advantage of a recently approved state constitutional amendment to prevent a defendant from giving up his right to a jury trial.  The ruling comes 15 months after Louisiana voters approved a constitutional amendment that requires criminal defendants who wish to give up their right to a jury trial to do so at least 45 days prior to trial.

The judge set the trial on the state’s requested date but also granted Chinn’s request for a judge trial, also known as a bench trial.  Then, the East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney’s Office appealed, and the state 1st Circuit Court of Appeal reversed the district judge’s decision stating that Chinn could not waive his right to a jury trial less than 45 days before the scheduled trial date.  Finally, the state Supreme Court reversed the 1st Circuit and reinstated the portion of the district judge’s decision, allowing Chinn to waive his right to a jury trial.

Justice John Weimer wrote for the high court that the “clear intention’’ of the drafters of the constitutional amendment was to “prevent last minute waivers by criminal defendants of the right to a jury trial.  However, the constitutional provision was not enacted to deprive a defendant of the right to waive a jury trial entirely, nor was it enacted to allow the fixing of trial dates in such a manner as to deprive a defendant of the opportunity to knowingly and intelligently waive the right to a trial by jury.”

If you have been charged with a crime, you need an attorney that knows the laws in Louisiana and how to apply them to your case.  Contact Baton Rouge Criminal Lawyer Carl Barkemeyer to discuss your case.

 

Source: The Advocate, “Justices back EBR defendant in appeal,” February 14, 2012.

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LSU Baseball Player Arrested and Charged with DWI

A freshman LSU pitcher has been suspended from the team after he was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated.

Carson Baranik was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on one count each of first-offense DWI, disobeying a red light, and reckless operation of a vehicle.

Baranik reportedly had glassy eyes, slurred speech, poor balance and an odor of alcohol.  Furthermore, he reportedly performed poorly on a field sobriety test and his blood-alcohol content was 0.144 percent.  For those under 21, a reading of 0.02 percent is presumptive evidence of drunken driving.

Baranik is the second LSU pitcher to be arrested on suspicion of DWI since January of last year.  In fact, another player was dismissed from the team after being arrested in January 2011 and booked on counts of DWI, reckless operation of a vehicle and disobeying a red light.

If you have been arrested and charged with DWI in Louisiana, contact Baton Rouge DWI Attorney Carl Barkemeyer to discuss your case.

 

Source: The Advocate, “LSU baseball player suspended,” February 12, 2012.

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DWI Arrests Expected this Mardi Gras Season

Law enforcement agencies across Louisiana are preparing for a DWI crackdown over the Mardi Gras season.  These law enforcement agencies will increase the number of patrol officers looking for drunken drivers and will conduct more DWI checkpoints.  Historically in Louisiana, the Mardi Gras season sees many deadly accidents related to DWI.

The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission has provided grants to police departments and sheriff’s offices for enhanced DWI enforcement from Feb. 5 through Mardi Gras day on Feb. 21.  Furthermore, police officers will be on the streets with the help of a new $350,000 RV that has been equipped to do DWI breath tests in the field, allowing officers to quickly process drunken driving suspects rather than returning to the office for each test.

The RV was first deployed as part of the Lafayette Police Department’s Alcohol Traffic Action Campaign and is already credited with helping boost the department’s DWI arrests.

If you have been arrested and charged with DWI in Louisiana, contact Baton Rouge DWI Lawyer Carl Barkemeyer to discuss your case.

 

Source: The Advocate, “Agencies plan DWI crackdown,” February 8, 2012.

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Two Arrested during Drug Stops in Louisiana

Two drivers were arrested on drug counts Thursday night in St. Francisville, Louisiana.  Officers with the Delta Drug Task Force made the arrest.

One driver was booked with possession with intent to distribute marijuana, possession of cocaine and possession of Oxymorphone, a prescription painkiller.

The other driver was booked with possession with intent to distribute synthetic marijuana, possession of crack cocaine, possession of hydrocodone and possession of a prescription drug not in its original container.

If you are facing drug charges in Louisiana, contact an experienced drug lawyer, Baton Rouge Criminal Attorney Carl Barkemeyer.

 

Source: The Advocate, “Group’s traffic stops net 2 drug counts,” February 4, 2012.

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Fugitive Arrested in Baton Rouge

Michael Dewayne Coleman was arrested last Monday after fleeing from U.S. Marshals the previous week after they tried to arrest him in Baton Rouge.

Coleman is currently booked in East Baton Rouge Parish Prison and will be taken to Pointe Coupee Parish Detention Center later.

Baton Rouge police and East Baton Rouge Sheriff’s deputies had been assisting U.S. Marshals with the search.

Coleman is wanted on two counts of resisting arrest and one count of escape. The warrant for his arrest is from a December incident in which Coleman fled from Pointe Coupee Sheriff’s deputies.

If you have been arrested or are facing criminal charges in Louisiana, contact Baton Rouge Criminal Lawyer Carl Barkemeyer to discuss your case.

 

Source: The Advocate, “Fugitive arrested in Baton Rouge,” January 30, 2012.

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