December 6, 2020

seizures

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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