Denham Springs man with 12 DWI arrests considered first offender at first of two DWI arrests last weekend _lowres

Jeffrey L. Blough

A man who has racked up 12 drunken-driving arrests in the past 33 years was able to post bond at the Denham Springs Police Department on Saturday — the first of two times he was arrested that night following car crashes — because a criminal background check told police he was a first-time offender, an officer said Friday.

Jeffrey L. Blough, 51, was arrested twice between Saturday night and early Sunday morning after he wrecked vehicles on two occasions in Denham Springs and Baton Rouge, respectively.

According to Denham Springs police spokesman Glenn Lemoine, officers arrested Blough on Saturday evening after he wrecked his vehicle in the parking lot of Carom Inn, a hotel on Home Depot Drive in Denham Springs. When the patrol officer responded to the crash, he noticed Blough was intoxicated and took the Denham Springs man into custody, Lemoine said.

Blough was booked at the Police Department on a first-offense DWI because the department’s criminal history check revealed no previous DWI arrests. The check goes back only 10 years from the time an offender finishes probation on the last conviction, Lemoine said.

East Baton Rouge Parish District Attorney Hillar C. Moore said in Louisiana, a person must be convicted of DWI within a 10-year period for the charge to be reflected in any subsequent DWI arrests — resulting in an offender being prosecuted for second-offense or third-offense DWI, for example.

Most of Blough’s DWI arrests appear to stem from the 1990s. Still, Blough was arrested Oct. 10, 2009, on a DWI count, according to Baton Rouge police. It remains unclear why this incident did not show up and if Blough was ever convicted on the 2009 DWI count.

Because Denham Springs police did not see his previous DWI arrest Saturday night, Blough was booked on a misdemeanor DWI, as well as on open container and parking in a handicapped parking spot, Lemoine said.

Lemoine said at that level, no judge signs off on bail, noting that low-level offenses are posted on the wall with corresponding bails. A first-offense DWI bail is set at $1,500.

After the booking paperwork was complete Saturday night, someone put up bond and picked up Blough from the Police Department, Lemoine said.

“They have to have a licensed driver, and we have to make sure (the driver is) not impaired, as well,” Lemoine said. “Once they leave, obviously what happens from that point is out of our control. You can’t deny them bond.”

Lemoine said whoever comes to pick up an impaired driver has to take responsibility for that person from then on.

In Blough’s case, three hours later, he was again in the driver’s seat and again in a vehicle crash, Baton Rouge police said. This time, the wreck involved two other people in another car.

Shortly after midnight Sunday, when Blough was driving a black Chevrolet Suburban westbound on Interstate 12 at Millerville Road, he crashed into an outside retaining wall and then struck another vehicle, carrying two people who had to be taken to the hospital as a result of the wreck, a Baton Rouge Police Department report says.

Blough was arrested on a third-offense DWI, taking Blough’s 2009 arrest into account, and he was booked into Parish Prison early Sunday morning, where he remained Friday afternoon on a $63,500 bail.

Blough has been arrested 10 times on DWIs before last weekend. Though the disposition of each DWI count remains unclear, he did time in prison for a fourth-offense DWI charge in 1998.

A 19th Judicial District Court judge sentenced Blough to 13 years in jail, then suspended 5½ years with the stipulation he serve five years’ probation after finishing 7½ years in prison.

Among the conditions of probation, Blough had to attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings three times a week and work 150 hours of community service.

According to court records, on Dec. 1, 2004, Blough pleaded guilty to second-offense DWI in Ascension Parish and was sentenced to six months in prison. He was housed on that count in the St. Helena Parish Jail but was not released until June 2005. He claimed in a lawsuit that the St. Helena Parish sheriff at the time, Ronald “Gun” Ficklin, prolonged his imprisonment at that jail. The case was settled in October 2008.

Follow Danielle Maddox Kinchen on Twitter, @Dani_Maddox4.