Suspected Drunk Driving Jumper Falls Through Cracks

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When he was arrested in St. Tammany Parish in March 2009 for driving while intoxicated — his seventh drunk driving arrest in less than a decade — the suspect, then 41 years of age, had accumulated warrants for skipped court dates in three different jurisdictions, but no convictions for drunken driving. As a result, he was prosecuted in St. Tammany as a first-time offender.

Three years later, last weekend, the suspect was stopped again on suspicion of drunken driving before he jumped off the Causeway Bridge into Lake Pontchartrain. He was assisted out of the water by police and booked with DWI for the eighth time since 1999.

Convictions for driving while intoxicated build up for only 10 years. In 2009, he had yet to be convicted of any because he skipped his court appearances on the charges. So the district attorney dropped the sixth-offense DWI charge, which Louisiana State Police booked him with, to first-offense driving while intoxicated.

In June 1999, he was booked with first-offense DWI, didn’t show up for court, a warrant was issued for his arrest and the case remained pending for nearly a decade. Meanwhile, three months later, he was arrested twice for driving while intoxicated and charged each time with second-offense DWI. Both charges were refused by the district attorney.

With the June 1999 St. Tammany case still open, the suspect was booked in December 2001 with second-offense DWI in Jefferson Parish. He again failed to show up to court and another warrant issued and that case remains pending.

In August 2007, he was charged again with first-offense DWI in Jefferson Parish. Meanwhile, he was stopped in St. Tammany Parish in March 2009 on his seventh drunken driving arrest in less than a decade.

The court dismissed the 1999 charge, still pending and nearing a decade old, and the suspect pleaded guilty to first-offense DWI in September 2009. Two months later, in December of that year, he pleaded guilty to the 2007 Jefferson Parish first-offense charge.

After he was pulled out of Lake Pontchartrain last Sunday, the suspect was booked with third-offense DWI and released last week to the Jefferson Parish Sheriff’s Office for outstanding warrants on the 2001 arrest for drunk driving.

A conviction for a third-offense driving while intoxicated is punishable by one to five years in prison and a $2,000 fine. Punishments for a fourth offense and so on up jump significantly: 10 to 30 years for a fourth conviction.

If you or anyone you know has been charged with DWI, call Harmon Smith & Vourvoulias at 504-717-2093 immediately for a free consultation. Our experienced DUI lawyers are available to provide you the help you need to protect your rights.

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Categorized as Blog, DUI, DWI

By George Vourvoulias

George is a founding member and managing member of Harmon, Smith & Vourvoulias L.L.C., a New Orleans law firm. George concentrates his practice in maritime personal injury, construction litigation, personal injury, workers' compensation, medical malpractice, and DUI defense. George Vourvoulias's Google+ Profile