Editorial: Nothing short of a menace to other motorists

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.