The following case contains an example of how a misdemeanor conviction can become enhanceable if another similar charge is acquired.
James Ranna Jr. of Metairie was taken into custody last week and booked at the parish jail in Gretna with third-offense DWI, vehicular negligent injuring and two counts of hit-and-run driving. However, this was at least his fourth DWI arrest.
Ranna crashed into another car while the driver was waiting at a traffic light. Ranna fled the scene and was caught trying to hide his blue truck on the side of a house. The trooper investigating the accident said he did not detect any smell of alcohol on Ranna but noticed the suspect was shaking, stuttering and unsteady. Furthermore, Ranna reportedly performed poorly on the field sobriety test. Ranna’s blood alcohol content measured 0.0 percent, however, he allegedly admitted to taking the anti-anxiety medication Xanax, the muscle relaxant Soma and Roxicodone, a pain reliever. A urine sample was taken and sent to the State Police crime laboratory.
Ranna also reportedly had an alcohol ignition-interlock device on his vehicle. Such devices are designed to prevent a car engine from starting if an alcohol-impaired driver is behind the wheel. In order to start the car, the driver has to blow into the device and have 0.00 BAC.
As mentioned earlier, this DWI arrest is not Ranna’s first. In fact, he was convicted of DWI in 1993 and given a suspended six-month sentence and six months of probation. He was arrested again in 2007 but was charged with first-offense DWI. He pleaded guilty under Article 894, which lets first-time offenders expunge a DWI conviction from their public records for insurance or employment benefits. Some may wonder why he was not charged with DWI second-offense in 2007. The Louisiana DWI statute reads, “prior convictions shall not include a conviction for an offense of DWI if committed more than ten years prior to the commission for the offense of which the defendant is being tried.” Therefore, the prior (1993) DWI conviction may not have been used as a predicate DWI offense making the 2007 conviction a DWI first-offense. However, Ranna was arrested a third time in June 2011 and booked with second-offense DWI, which is a misdemeanor, because it had been less than ten years since the previous DWI conviction.
Source: The Times Picayune, “Three-time DWI suspect arrested again after crash in Metairie,” February 14, 2012.