Aug 26, 2013 11:37 PM by Erin Steuber
It can take just one drink to be considered drunk. And if you're caught driving, you're looking at a misdemeanor for the first and second offenses. Those carry fines and possible jail time. But third, fourth and even fifth offenses are felonies that carry fines, possible rehab and 10 to 30 years in jail.
"When you start seeing the second and third time, you have some serious substance abuse issues going on," said ADA Danny Landry. "Unfortunately, until they make the decision they don't want the penalties they will continue to offend."
But even after conviction, some offenders are given restricted licenses and breathalyzers are installed if they can prove they are the only means of making a living.
"We can not babysit people individually once they are convicted of these crimes," said State Representative Terry Landry. "But I also believe we can't arrest ourselves out of this problem, we have to educate."
The two men arrested in Calcasieu over the weekend are on their fifth offenses. Michael Miller was last convicted of OWI in 2008. He was sentenced to 10 years suspended, but went to jail for three.
Then there's David Prater. He's been arrested for fourth offense OWI's twice, one of them dismissed by the Attorney General. But in 2004, Prater was convicted of a fourth offense OWI and vehicular homicide. He was fined $5,000 and sentenced to 15 years of state supervision. If convicted for his arrest over the weekend, he'll have to serve that time in jail.
"These are people that have already violated the law," said ADA Landry. "So if you can suspend their license, or take it away from them, but if they decide to get behind the wheel, they're going to get behind the wheel."
According to ADA Landry it is possible to convict someone as a habitual offenders after their fifth OWI, meaning the possibility of life in prison.