CrimeTracker Investigation: DWI arrests and prosecutions in New Orleans

NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - At Bar Tonique on North Rampart Street, specialty drinks were in the works. They are part of the bar's efforts to curb drinking and driving.

"If you come in to Bar Tonique and tell us you're the designated driver if you're with a group of people we offer you free, 'Temperance' cocktails, which Temperance cocktails are mock-tails, or fake cocktails, it looks like you're drinking, but you're not," said bartender Adrienne Miller.

In a city where police still encounter far too many intoxicated drivers, it is a welcome move.

"[We] don't want anybody, we don't want to encourage drinking and driving. We really, honestly don't," Miller said.

"Right now, if your blood alcohol level exceeds .08 you're DWI, and the next level's .15, and the next level is .20, and each one of those is a different ring of hell, and it gets worse for you the more you register," said FOX 8 Legal Analyst Joe Raspanti.

FOX 8 requested statistics on the number of DWI arrests and prosecutions, and they are up.

The New Orleans Police Department made 1,479 DWI arrests in 2014. The number was slightly lower in 2013 at 1,410 arrests.

"Every legislative session it gets more and more onerous for the drunken driver, and the laws are getting tougher," Raspanti said.

Still, even with harsher penalties, the system continues to see repeat offenders.

"Once it gets to be third offense, it leaves the Traffic Court building and should go over to the felony building at Tulane and Broad, and that's when the district attorney gets involved. When you get to the third and fourth offense, those are felonies, there's mandatory jail time involved with that," Raspanti said.

The legal system aside, Bar Tonique is encouraging better behavior.

"If you feel inebriated, if you feel like you're not safe, we call people cabs all the time - we don't mind," Miller said.

"It's an amazing thing to me that someone who especially has gotten a DWI already goes out and gets another one, and I've been doing this for 25 years, but people do it, and I think it's more of an addiction problem, than a penalty problem," said Raspanti.

And local law enforcement said it will not let up on its enforcement in hopes of reducing the number of drunken drivers on area streets.

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