January 18, 2021

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St. Charles Parish law enforcement officials want to put convicted, chronic drunk drivers on notice: If you get behind the wheel again while impaired they’re coming after your vehicle. 

St. Charles Parish Sheriff Greg Champagne and District Attorney Joel Chaisson announced at a news conference Wednesday that they will begin using a using a clause in Louisiana’s DWI law to seize vehicles driven by habitual drunk drivers.

Toilet-papered homes, egged vehicles, spray-painted road signs, paint-balled property manifest passion

If a person is convicted of DWI for a third time — including convictions in other jurisdictions — state law allows the district attorney’s office to impound and auction off the vehicle the offender was driving at the time of the arrest. 

The bulk of the sale proceeds, 60%, will go to the arresting agency. The rest is split between the district attorney’s office and the Louisiana Property and Casualty Insurance Commission’s efforts to reduce drunk driving and insurance rates. 

“It’s not about making money. It’s the deterrence factor,” said Champagne, who admitted that chronic drunk drivers get behind the wheel many times before they’re arrested. “We don’t catch everybody. We know that.”  

The law allowing such seizures has been on the books since the late-1990s, but Champagne wasn’t aware of it, and said neither were most of the law enforcement agencies he queried around the state. 

Champagne learned of it after Deputy Bobby McNulty brought it to the attention of Traffic Commander Sgt. Matthew Songy and Capt. George Breedy, an executive assistant to the sheriff. 

Seizures must go through due process, and there are some caveats. The car can’t be seized if it was stolen, if there’s still money owed to a financial institution or if it was owned by another person who did not know the operator was under the influence, Champagne said. 

Thus far, St. Charles Parish authorities have they’ve seized one vehicle and plan to look at a few other habitual offender DWI cases from the past three months, Champagne said. 

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A Massachusetts State Police trooper discovered more than a kilogram of heroin after pulling over a car with a “very dark window tint” on Interstate 90 in Sturbridge over the weekend, authorities said.

Trooper Michael Baroni was parked near Exit 9 on Interstate 84 in Sturbridge around 2:30 p.m. Sunday when he saw the black Volkswagen Jetta with the dark tint pass his location, according to a statement from state police.

State police said Baroni followed the car, ran its license plate and found the Jetta’s registration was revoked and the vehicle was uninsured. The trooper proceeded to activate his blue lights to stop the Volkswagen on the ramp to the Massachusetts Turnpike.

Baroni then approached the driver, later identified as 29-year-old Gianna Colussi, and learned there was an active warrant out for the Lawrence man’s arrest, at which point he was placed in handcuffs and escorted to the rear of the trooper’s cruiser, according to state police.

Before the Jetta was towed from the scene, troopers searched the car, and Baroni found a rectangular-shaped package in the trunk that contained roughly 1,100 grams of law enforcement believed to be heroin, authorities said.

Colussi was taken to the state police barracks in Sturbridge, where he was booked. A bail commissioner was contacted and set the man’s bail at $10,000, according to officials.

He is expected to be arraigned in Dudley District Court on charges of trafficking more than 200 grams of heroin, driving an uninsured motor vehicle, operating a car with a revoked registration and having an illegal window tint, state police said.

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