LA State Police make 197 drunk driving arrests over Christmas week

Published: Dec. 28, 2014 at 8:06 PM CST|Updated: Dec. 29, 2014 at 1:20 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - In 2014, LA State Police said they've arrested nearly 7,500 people for drunk driving across Louisiana.

Historically, the number of drunk driving arrests increases between Christmas and New Years.

"It's the hardest part of our job is telling someone that one of their loved ones isn't coming home," LA State Police Trooper Evan Harrell said.

That message is especially harder to convey during the holidays. However, unfortunately it's the holidays when state police arrest the most people for drunk driving.

"Especially in New Orleans you're going to see a lot of people going out to parties and you'll always see the numbers increase for fatality crashes, crashes or DWI use during these holiday seasons," Harrell said.

Harrell said in the past week Louisiana State Police arrested 197 people for driving while intoxicated across the state.

"When I was on the side of the road arresting these people, I would tell them ' first and foremost, you're actually one of the lucky ones,'" Harrell said.

He said many of those arrests came along with a crash. However, it can be extra hard for people to understand how getting pulled over, before hitting someone, could have saved their life and the lives of others.

"Nine out of 10, they actually think - they can't even stand up on their own, but when you ask them are you ok to drive? They'll say yes. And that's one of the sad parts is that alcohol - one of the first things it affects is judgement. So, these people really think that they're not doing something wrong," Harrell said.

A 2015 update to Louisiana DWI laws means more time behind bars for some offenders.

For example, up until now the first conviction of an underage DWI got the offender up to a $250 fine. The new law adds a minimum of ten days in jail, with 32 hours of community service. A second offense for an underage DWI and that minimum increases to 30 days in jail.

Also, present law says in many cases the state will pay the costs of substance abuse treatment. In 2015, offenders will have to pick up the bill unless it's their third conviction or a condition of probation.

"Each year we try and pass legislation that will help us do our jobs better because we totally rely on the people who make the laws and implement them, because as LA State Police, as troopers, we can only enforce the laws that are actually out there that are on the books," Harrell said.

To read the update to the DWI laws, click here.

"So go out, have fun, but have a plan," Harrell said.

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