Drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test may be facing stricter penalties upon the approval of Gov. Bobby Jindal.

Drivers who refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test may be facing stricter penalties upon the approval of Gov. Bobby Jindal.


Louisiana lawmakers in both the House of Representatives and Senate have agreed to stiffen the penalties for drivers who refuse the breath test after they have been stopped on a suspicion of drunken driving, but Representative James Armes says that even this new bill has diminished from what was first passed by the House.


House Bill 445 received a unanimous vote for representatives before it moved on to the Senate, but senators then worked at amending the bill, which, in Armes’ opinion, “took the bite out of it."


"It’s not what it was when we voted on it,” said Armes. “A lot has been amended out that we felt strongly about.”


The bill that is now on its way to the governor’s desk was introduced by Houma Representative and Democrat Damon Baldone and will lengthen the time that a driver’s license is suspended upon the driver's refusal to take the breathalyzer test. The painless test involves a suspect blowing into the device, which then measures the amount of alcohol in the person’s system.


The suspension would increase what is currently a six-month period to one year. The bill will also deny the driver the chance to be granted what is known as a “hardship license” which permits the driver to operate a vehicle only to and from work or school. If there is a second or subsequent refusal within the next five years from the original incident, the bill also calls for an added suspension of the license.


According to Armes, the original bill called for an immediate arrest at the denial of taking the breathalyzer test.


“We have to do something about drunk drivers,” said Armes. “We have to crack down on them and protect the other drivers out there.”


In the following weeks the bill will be reviewed by Jindal. There are few who doubt that it will be vetoed as such a law has been a part of the governor’s legislative agenda. If passed, the changes are expected to become effective on Sept. 1.


Leesville Daily Leader