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Repeat DWI convictions may upgrade Louisiana homicide charge

A criminal history can have an enormous impact upon a Baton Rouge defendant's case. Criminal charges and punishments can increase substantially, with a string of prior arrests and convictions. This is extremely detrimental for defendants with past DWI convictions accused of present day alcohol-related offenses.

A male driver was arrested following an accident Lafayette police blamed on drunk driving. A 50-year-old woman was fatally injured in the crash. The accused man, convicted twice of DWI in 2005 and 2012, had been driving with a suspended license while awaiting trial on a third drunk driving charge.

The trial, set to begin next month, also includes driving with a suspended license and open container charges. The outcome could alter charges the man faces for the fatal accident. The 43-year-old driver was booked on vehicular homicide and DWI charges, which could be bumped up to a fourth-offense DWI with a conviction.

Prosecutors also might be able to elevate the vehicular homicide charge to a violent crime. That depends upon whether the defendant's blood alcohol content level at the time of the crash was at or above 0.20 percent. Authorities are waiting for results from a toxicology test administered after the accident.

The alleged drunk driver reportedly ran a Lafayette stop sign and smashed his SUV into the victim's car. The man was booked into jail after a judge set bail at $101,000. A conviction for vehicular homicide might include a prison term up to 30 years, the same maximum term as a conviction for a fourth-offense DWI.

Prosecutors must back allegations with evidence to obtain a DWI conviction. Criminal defense attorneys may challenge how evidence was collected or tested. As the report indicated, a BAC level can have an immense influence on what charges are brought and subsequent penalties with a conviction.

Defense attorneys work to eliminate or chip away at charges and penalties to minimize damage.

Source: The Advocate, "Man charged with vehicular homicide in Lafayette crash" Lanie Lee Cook, Jan. 11, 2015

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