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With New DWI Laws, Louisiana’s Mardi Gras Culture Evolves
Many in Louisiana seek to prevent the deadly consequences of the state’s party culture, in part with stricter DWI laws.

Famous for its annual Mardi Gras celebration fueled by drinking, beads and late nights, it is no surprise that a Louisiana bar’s Web site quotes Oscar Wilde: “Moderation is a fatal thing — nothing succeeds like excess.” 

But many in Louisiana have had enough and see success in preventing the deadly consequences of the state’s party culture.

In 2008, 37% of all traffic-related deaths in Louisiana were caused by alcohol-impaired drivers. That number is high compared to the 32% of total crash fatalities due to alcohol in the entire U.S that same year.

Underage drinking in Louisiana is also a problem, costing the state more than $1 billion and leading to a total of 3,261 traffic accidents in 2007. Sixty-one of those accidents were fatal.

The Push for Change

To combat the grim statistics, police increasingly are using sobriety checkpoints in their communities. Community groups and initiatives are emerging due to federal grants that address illegal drinking behavior, most importantly underage drinking.

Louisiana drinking laws are also under scrutiny and changing. Last year a law was passed stating that refusal of a breathalyzer test results in the loss of one’s driver’s license for two years.

Louisiana’s Task Force on Driving While Intoxicated and Vehicular Homicide also supports the following proposed changes to toughen DWI laws:

    • Third DWI conviction punished by at least one year in prison; seizure of offender’s vehicle
    • Four or more DWI convictions punished by at least three years in prison
    • Failure of school bus drivers to report DWI arrests within 24 hours to school officials results in termination
    • Premature removal of ignition interlock device punished by license suspension
    • Coded license required for offenders required to use ignition interlock device
    • Breathalyzer test fee raised to $125

While these hard-hitting changes are being proposed, however, others in Franklinton, Louisiana, seek a change in legislation that would allow the sale of liquor on Sundays.

Attorney General James D. “Buddy” Caldwell has approved the change as of now. He cites the Sunday closing law as invalid based on a state statute that requires a local vote to be held in order for such a decision to be made.

Consult Counsel

Changes to drinking laws are afoot. If you were in an alcohol-related accident or have questions about Louisiana’s drinking laws, consult an experienced attorney in your area who can explain these laws and help you explore your legal options.

Keywords: Task Force on DWI, ignition interlock device, Breathalyzer test fee
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