'Broken system' means few consequences for New Orleans drunk drivers, report states

Published: Jun. 24, 2015 at 9:38 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 24, 2015 at 9:48 AM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - A "broken system" allows repeat drunk drivers to remain on the road, according to the New Orleans Office of Inspector General.

Inspector General Ed Quatrevaux says they found serious flaws in every step in the process, from arrest through prosecution, sentencing, probation, and closing of drunk driving cases in Orleans Parish.

The inadequacies made it possible for some of the most dangerous repeat DWI offenders to remain on the road, according to the report.

The report examined DWI prosecutions in Orleans Parish dating back to 2007.

The OIG states that NOPD, the Orleans Parish Sheriff's Office and Traffic Court did not have adequate controls over the transfer of DWI records between agencies, which made it impossible to verify that all DWI arrests were prosecuted.

Evaluators say they found that city attorneys proposed sentences associated with second offense DWI in less than two percent of DWI cases, downgraded 84 percent of cases with high blood alcohol content readings so that lower penalties applied, and reduced DWI charges to reckless operation in 20 percent of cases.

The report also found that the rate at which the District Attorney's Office rejected felony DWI cases increased from 8 percent to 37 percent between 2010 and 2012; the most dangerous repeat offenders escaped felony prosecution, according to the OIG.

In addition, the report states that the court did not consistently require defendants to complete probation, despite the fact probation was the default consequence ordered by traffic court judges in 80 percent of DWI cases.

Quatrevaux says Louisiana law accommodates for the distinction between one-time and repeat DWI offenders. However, the report states that traffic court does not handle the cases with that distinction.

The city issued a statement based on the OIG report. It states:

"The City's top priority is public safety, and that includes efforts to improve the handling of DWI offenses. To that end, we have proactively taken steps to adjust the City's written policy and adopt national best practices that ensure DWI cases are enforced efficiently and consistently across the board. For example, the City implemented a new electronic case management system at Traffic Court in December 2014 and we are currently in the process of moving to an electronic ticket system for NOPD."

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