Jenifer Englade, the woman responsible for a tragic Memorial Day weekend car accident that left three dead, should not have had a valid driver’s license. The case against Englade has uncovered a loophole in the Louisiana judicial system that allows certain DWI offenders their license back after 30 days.
Normally, if a DWI offender pleads guilty under Article 894, the driver would be required to complete a court-ordered probation–often including alcohol counseling or drug treatment, as well as community service–before the state Office of Motor Vehicles would reinstate that driver’s license.
In 2009, in an effort to make it more difficult for DWI offenders to get their driver’s licenses back, state Rep. Henry Burns enacted new legislation: instead of a notice being sent to the OMV only after the terms of the probation are complete and the conviction is set aside (under Article 894), Burns’ amendment made it so a notice is sent within 30 days of the plea itself (before the probation is completed). Burns thought that by making the office aware of people who had admitted to DWIs immediately after they occurred, it would make it easier for the office to keep track of those drivers and ensure they stayed off the road.
However, the OMV interpreted this new legislation differently, taking the notice after 30 days to signify that the conviction had been set aside. In many cases, as with Jennifer Englade, this meant that within 30 days of pleading guilty to a DWI, a first offender can have their license reinstated.
Now, Jennifer Englade is no first time offender. The LaPlace woman had two DWIs in 1999, and one in 2012 before her most recent, and most serious, conviction. However, in many states including Louisiana, there is legislation that affords drivers a clean record if they stay out of trouble for 10 years. In Englade’s case, that wipes both of her 1999 convictions off of her record, and explains why she was considered a first-time offender on her third DWI, a little more than a year ago (June 12, 2012).
Another troubling issue that, if heeded, could have saved multiple lives was that on Englade’s third DWI (in 2012), the woman refused the breathalyzer test.
Louisiana is an implied consent state, which means that having a valid drivers’ license implies the driver’s willingness to take a breathalyzer test; if the driver refuses, their license is automatically suspended for a minimum of one year.
So how was Englade driving (under the influence of cocaine, methamphetamine, and a BAC of .15%) less than a year after her last DWI? Her one-year suspension was set aside when she invoked Article 894.
Now that this issue has been unearthed, state Rep. Burns is calling for measures that ensure those at the OMV understand the purpose of the 30 day notice. Hopefully this time these measures will make it harder for DWI offenders to drive, not easier.
If you or anyone you know has been involved in a DWI or DUI don’t hesitate to contact Seth Bloom at Bloom Legal (504) 599-9997 for your free consultation.