BATON ROUGE - Nearly three years after our initial News 2 Investigative report which highlighted the need for a database that tracks drunk drivers, that system is close to becoming a reality.
Some recent high-profile arrests involving sixth and seventh DWIs have once again raised questions as to why the state doesn't have a DWI arrest database. However, if all goes as planned the system should be implemented by the end of the year. The issue now is syncing everything together.
As that happens, lawmakers are also tightening regulations on DWI offenders. State Senator Jonathan Perry is one of them, and said he believes tracking DWI offenders is a must. Perry is pushing a bill through the legislature to force anyone who gets arrested for a DWI to get booked into jail and fingerprinted. Right now, that doesn't always happen because first and second DWIs are misdemeanors.
"Here's what the bill is going to correct, it's going to correct the problem if someone gets arrested and four weeks later they do it again and under current law they don't know about the first DWI, this would put it in the system," Perry said.
That system he's referring to is ICJIS, or Integrated Criminal Justice Information System. Once online, it will track an offender's arrest through conviction statewide. Currently, about one third of the state is linked up to the system. The hope is to get all parishes and municipalities online by the end of the year.
"This is not an overnight thing," said Pete Adams, Executive Director of the District Attorney's Association. "It takes a while to get technology implemented. It's costly, at the local level and there is a lot of technical things that need to be done."
Adams has been working his entire career to make this database a reality.
"For the district attorneys, we are gradually rolling out several aspects of our portion of that and that includes the hookups for district attorneys, various courts, law enforcement agencies which will eventually happen across the state," he said.
As the system slowly comes online, lawmakers know even more needs to be done to keep people safe on the road.
"Louisiana is very far behind when it comes to DWI laws," Perry said. "A lot of people claim that it's our culture. I don't buy into that. I won't ever tell someone don't drink. But there's never a reason to drink and drive."
The system is being implemented with current budgets and grant money. The ICJIS Board is scheduled to meet again in July.