Only 37% of drunk driving cases in Louisiana end in conviction, according to MADD report

Local News
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BATON ROUGE, La. (5/23/19)  A new Mothers Against Drunk Driving® (MADD) Court Monitoring Report found 37% of drunk driving cases in Louisiana end with a conviction for the original charges, while 62% are either dismissed, deferred or amended. Just 1% were found not guilty.

Observing courtroom proceedings is a longstanding tradition with MADD. In December 2018, MADD reached 100,000 cases followed as part of the nationwide Court Monitoring Program that began in 2015. MADD trains staff and volunteers to attend judicial proceedings involving drunk driving cases to ensure laws are being enforced and prosecuted to the fullest extent. The cases that are monitored do not involve injuries or deaths.

In Louisiana, court monitors found that 12% of the cases observed resulted in dismissals. Another 35% of cases were deferred, meaning the drunk driving offenders participated in a diversion program that allowed them to plead guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge with an opportunity for expungement once they completed terms of their probation.

“Putting monitors inside courtrooms helps MADD understand what happens to drunk driving cases and how we can help strengthen laws to better protect the public from this preventable crime,” said Asheba Brown, program manager of MADD Louisiana’s State Office. “For example, MADD strongly supports the use of ignition interlocks as part of deferred adjudication to make sure drunk drivers are truly changing their behavior while getting a second chance with their criminal record. The fact that 35% of Louisiana drunk driving cases are deferred convinces us that a law requiring these in-car breathalyzers as part of deferred adjudication is needed in our state.”

Louisiana court monitors also found that about 34% of drunk drivers had a BAC above .15, and three out of 10 drunk drivers had a BAC that was almost double the legal limit of .08 BAC.

The Court Monitoring Program is part of MADD’s Campaign to Eliminate Drunk Driving®, started in 2006, to support law enforcement efforts to protect the public from drunk driving.

Volunteers and staff document every step of the judicial process and enter the disposition, age, gender, outcome and other information about each case. Court monitoring is active in 15 states across the country, with plans to expand to other states as volunteers and funding become available. States with court monitoring are:

  • Arizona
  • Arkansas (new)
  • Colorado (new)
  • Connecticut
  • Georgia (new to the national database)
  • Illinois
  • Louisiana
  • Missouri
  • Nebraska
  • New Mexico
  • North Carolina
  • Ohio
  • South Carolina
  • Texas
  • Virginia

The new report reveals observations in nine states with court monitors who collected data over a one-year period in at least one jurisdiction (reports for each of the nine states can be found here). The results are from a diverse cross-section of jurisdictions across the country. Ultimately, MADD hopes to add enough volunteers and staff to monitor courts in every jurisdiction, in every state, to produce comprehensive statewide and nationwide reports.

Louisiana’s program consists of three staff and one volunteer who monitor misdemeanor DWI cases at assigned courts in some Tier I and Tier II parishes, either in person or with data from the courts’ public computers. Louisiana’s Court Monitoring Program is currently active in the following parishes: Avoyelles, Bossier, Caddo, East Baton Rouge, Iberville, Jefferson, Lafayette, Lincoln, Livingston, Natchitoches, Ouachita, Rapides, St Charles, St Tammany, Tangipahoa and West Baton Rouge.

By compiling results from the states with a Court Monitoring Program, MADD found a national average of 61% of drunk drivers convicted of their charges. The previous year, MADD’s court monitors noted a 68% conviction rate.

“Placing monitors in courtrooms helps us identify weaknesses so we can communicate our findings to prosecutors and judges. We use the data to tell the story of how drunk driving cases are being handled, and we can tell who takes them seriously,” said MADD National President Helen Witty. “We believe this important work will help improve the conviction rates of drunk drivers and, finally, help us put an end to this violent crime.”

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