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Monday, September 01, 2014
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Editorial: Nothing short of a menace to other motorists

Last Modified: Friday, August 30, 2013 5:45 PM

Arrests last weekend by Calcasieu Parish sheriff deputies have once again trained the spotlight on the state’s laws governing driving while intoxicated.

In separate incidents, two men driving on roads in west Calcasieu Parish were stopped and arrested for 4th offense DWI. For David G. Prater, 58, of 825 Goss Road, Westlake and Michael P. Miller, 33, of 2930 Joel Road, Sulphur, it was the second time they were arrested on that violation. For those without a scorecard, they both have now been arrested at least five times for DWI.

Prater’s arrest was particularly unsettling, given the fact he was convicted in 2006 for vehicular homicide and sentenced by 14th Judicial District Judge Robert Wyatt to 15 years in prison.

Prater was charged in 2004 with vehicular homicide and fourth-offense DWI as the result of his actions that led to a three-vehicle crash on the top of the I-210 bridge that claimed the life of Joshua Martin of Sulphur.

According to evidence, Prater ran into the bridge’s median and stalled without signal lights. Martin was killed when his vehicle ran into Prater’s truck.

Prater served six years and nearly three months — or a little more than 40 percent — of his 15-year vehicular homicide sentence. According to Department of Corrections records, he was released from prison on June 17, 2012, for good time served. Prater was denied early release four years and eight months into his sentence.

He is on supervised good-time parole until March 21, 2021.

Wyatt also sentenced Prater to 10 years with all but 60 days suspended on the 2004 DWI charge. Wyatt said he was to be sentenced to home incarceration for the balance of the suspended sentence — so it appears Prater was also supposed to be under house arrest when he was arrested for his latest DWI.

When Miller was apprehended, the arresting deputy discovered Miller had an unplugged the vehicle’s Ignition Interlock Device, which is used much like a breath intoxilyzer, requiring the driver to provide a breath sample prior to starting the vehicle. If the result is greater than the pre-programmed level, the device prevents the vehicle from starting. Consequently, he was also arrested for tampering with an interlock device, and open container.

These aren’t anomalies. The weekend before Prater and Miller’s arrest state police apprehended Samuel Wade Dubois, 31, of Westlake for fourth-offense DWI. Alerted by other motorists regarding a vehicle driving erratically on Interstate 10, troopers stopped Dubois in Lake Charles.

Anyone who decides to drink beyond the legal limits, then drive is a potential tragedy that could lead to serious injury or fatal consequences for the driver, any passengers and innocent victims.

Anyone still drinking and driving following a fourth-offense DWI is nothing short of a menace to other motorists.

For too long, Louisiana’s state laws have been cavalier in addressing drunk driving. In some jurisdictions, prosecutors and judges have also been too lenient.

Fortunately, Calcasieu Parish District Attorney John DeRosier and members of the 14th Judicial District bench have, in the majority of cases, been tough in addressing repeat DWI offenders.

But law-abiding motorists, not the offenders, deserve the benefit of the doubt in all multiple DWI cases. And if the judicial system doesn’t see to that, then it’s time for state lawmakers to step in and set mandatory sentencing and prison time for those people who repeatedly drink in excess, then drive.

• • •

This editorial was written by a member of the American Press Editorial Board. Its content reflects the collaborative opinion of the Board, whose members include Bobby Dower, Jim Beam, Crystal Stevenson and Donna Price.

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