Recently we defended a young man from Mississippi who was charged with a second offense DWI in Thibodaux in Lafourche Parish. The young man had a prior offense (called a predicate offense) in Mississippi only a year before where he had pled guilty to a first offense DWI. Louisiana law requires that the District Attorney must provide documentary evidence establishing that the prior offense was proven according to the standards set by the Louisiana and U. S. Supreme Courts, to ensure due process and fairness. The young man had gone out to celebrate his graduation from a seaman’s school with friends and appeared intoxicated to the arresting officer. He faced mandatory incarceration, 30 days of community service, and stiff fines, as well as the U. S. Coast Guard’s refusal to issue him a seaman’s license, as a result of the second offense DWI charge.
Robert McMillin, of the offices of Bates and McMillin, prepared a “Motion to Quash” the bill of information, disputing the allegation that there was a valid predicate prior offense, which is an attack on the charge of DWI Second Offense, brought by the District Attorney. The prosecuting assistant district attorney cited a Louisiana case (Louisiana vs. Balsano) asserting that if the prior offense is valid in the foreign state, then Louisiana Courts must accept it, even if the prior conviction would be invalid under Louisiana law. Our brief was so strong and convincing that the assistant district attorney conceded the argument, and reduced the charge to a first offense. The judge accepted a plea to first offense, even granting counsel’s request for an Article 894 expungement to keep the matter off the client’s record, thus in this case, saving the young man’s career as a seaman.
We get many cases where persons charged with DWI hire a lawyer who is not knowledgeable about DWI law and the clients suffer consequences they should not, and would not, suffer if they had hired an attorney with experience and expertise in DWI. You get what you pay for.
Remember what is important: It is not the factual issue of whether or not the accused was intoxicated while driving. It is whether or not the Government, through the prosecuting District Attorney, can convict the accused of all of the elements of the charge, according to the Due Process standards set forth by the US and Louisiana Constitutions. In this case, competent counsel made sure that the State had to abide by the rule of law.