BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Processing and tracking DWI arrests is about to get easier and more accurate. The state is set to launch a new software prosecutors believe will lead to greater conviction rates.
Officers working DWI checkpoints go through a rigorous training process. It includes learning to administer and analyze field sobriety tests and the paperwork that comes with it is lengthy and can be time consuming.
The Executive Director for Louisiana Highway Safety Commission, John LeBlanc, who is a retired state police Lt. Col., says processing it can take days or more.
"Sometimes it would take 30 or more days before that report finally got to the city prosecutor or DA's office," said LeBlanc.
LeBlanc says the delay can sometimes allow the suspect to cheat the system.
"If a drunk driver stops and tests above the limit, they take his license and give a paper license until his hearing," said LeBlanc. "He can go down to the Office of Motor Vehicles the next day and say 'I lost my license. I need another one.'"
That's because the OMV worker may look at the system and see a clean record since the latest offense hasn't been entered yet, but change is coming.
The paperwork is being replaced with software that will allow officers to electronically enter DWI arrest reports. Once it is approved by a supervisor, it will then be forwarded directly to the District Attorney's office, the Office of Motor Vehicles and into the overall database.
Several agencies across the state have used the system as part of a pilot study. Baton Rouge Police Department has been using it the longest. Since October, officers have entered 790 DWI arrests into the system. The East Baton Rouge Sheriff's Office has entered 87, and the Louisiana State Police Troop A has entered 343.
Also, the current alcohol breath tester, the Intoxyilizer 5000 will be replaced with the newer, 9000 model. The results will be electronically linked to the reporting software.
District Attorney Hillar Moore says having all agencies on the same system will allow any officer to pull up someone's record and immediately see whether they are a repeat offender so that they can charge them properly.
"Every parish, all law enforcement agencies, judges who sent bonds, everybody I think will benefit by from this system," said Mooore.
The Louisiana Highway Safety Commission says it will also cut out potential errors in the paperwork that typically delay prosecution.
"It's going to cut down on the errors," said LeBlanc. "You won't have a handwriting issue where you can't read it, and there will also be prompts that if you forget to fill in the blanks it won't let you proceed."
The new system was paid for with a $6 million federal grant.
LeBlanc says the goal is to have it in place across the state by the end of the year.