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DWI and Still Driving

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BATON ROUGE- Thousands of people arrested for driving while intoxicated each year, continue to drive on Louisiana roads.

According to state law an offender's license shall be suspended at arrest, not conviction. But over the past two years, we found thousands of people slip through the cracks. News 2 found knowing what to do when arrested for a DWI makes the difference between whether an offender can keep driving after an arrest. 

Current law requires anyone who refuses a breath test or anyone who blows over .08 to have their licenses suspended. We pulled the numbers for 2010 and 2011 and uncovered that doesn't happen all the time. During that time period, over 6,000 drivers who were arrested for DWI were still allowed to drive, even though they met criteria for license suspensions.

"It's an alarming number," said Floyd Johnson, the director for Mothers Against Drunk Driving.

From July 2010 until June 2011 the following arrests were recorded:

28,562 arrests - 3,283 still allowed to drive (no license suspension)

From July 2011 until June 2012 the following arrests were recorded:

23,647 arrests - 3,110 still allowed to drive (no license suspension)

Commissioner of the Office of Motor Vehicles Stephen Campbell weighed in on the numbers.

"All of the procedures were not followed," he said.

According to Campbell, an offender can request an administrative hearing to get their license back within 15 days of a DWI arrest. But, if the arresting officer doesn't show up to the hearing, the driver gets their license back.

Campbell said even if the DWI isn't good administratively, you could still face a criminal prosecution. When asked whether he thought it would be any good to prosecute criminallly since it wasn't good administratively, he replied "Stop... I don't know."

Campbell referred us to four others in the room during the interview. 

"Both of these years, the law that pertained allowed the division of administrative law to issue a subpoena for the arresting officer to be at the hearing," said Mike Barron with the Highway Safety Commission. "Between 50 to 60 percent of the recalls were because the officer couldn't show up."

In fact, the state realized it was such a problem, laws were changed this year. An officer no longer needs to show up for a DWI administrative hearing for an offender's license to get suspended.

Coming up tomorrow on News 2 at 10, a look at why some believe that law is unfair, and some defense lawyers are planning to file court action to stop it.


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