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Judge finds LaPlace woman unfit for trial in fatal DWI case

Many people seek the assistance of legal counsel each year in Louisiana to defend against drunk driving charges. The court of public opinion often cannot fully distinguish allegations of law enforcement in a driving while intoxicated guilt. The criminal justice system, however, requires that a person be presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in the criminal proceeding.

The idea of the presumption of innocence is an important foundational concept that is intended to maintain the integrity of our justice system. Making the leap to guilty may be somewhat common in the court of public opinion, but when stories of wrongful convictions make the news, many people understand that the jump to guilt was not just in the wrongful conviction setting.

Our system has many other principles to keep the government in check so that a person is not thrown in prison for lengthy periods based upon gossip, or just a dislike for that person.

These principles are important protections against unreasonable government intrusions that serve as the very basis for the foundation of creating the government in the first place. That is, the foundational principles are more that technicalities.

Among the principles of justice are the ideas that a person be able to understand the nature of charges and to present a criminal defense. A judge recently applied this idea in a vehicular manslaughter and DWI case against a LaPlace, Louisiana, woman to hold off on allowing prosecutors to pursue charges for which the court found she was unable to properly defend against.

The woman is accused of driving with alcohol, methamphetamine and cocaine in her system and being involved in an accident in St. Charles Parish in May. Three people were killed in the accident.

The court found this week that the woman is unable to properly assist in her criminal defense. The woman will be required to undergo mental health treatment. She will be reevaluated for competency at a future date and is currently scheduled to appear again in court in November in the criminal case.

Source: The Times-Picayune, “Woman accused of DWI in crash that killed 3 in St. Charles Parish found unfit to stand trial,” Juliet Linderman, Aug. 15, 2013

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