A program that allowed some drunken drivers in Louisiana to wipe their records clean in near-record time has been halted after Lafayette judges balked at continuing the program amid an ongoing federal bribery investigation.
The program, which involved so-called “immediate 894” handling of cases, is at the center of a pay-for-privilege scandal. The investigation has led to four federal indictments, including bribery charges against a former assistant district attorney and two former secretaries in the district attorney’s office.
District Attorney Mike Harson told The Daily Advertiser in an email that the “immediate 894” procedures have been discontinued.
“We no longer do them but only because the judges have discontinued their involvement,” Harson wrote.
The immediate 894 process allowed some misdemeanor offenders to have their offenses immediately wiped off their record after complying with special terms. It is named for the provision in the Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure – Article 894 – that allows a person charged with a misdemeanor to plead guilty with the understanding that the conviction will be set aside if special terms of probation, such as community service or substance abuse treatment, are met.
The FBI investigation is continuing in the bribery case.
Federal prosecutors have said Harson is not a target of the investigation, but Assistant District Attorney Greg Williams and Harson’s longtime secretary, Barna Haynes, have pleaded guilty to federal bribery charges.
Two others – Williams’ secretary, Denease Curry, and Elaine Crump, who worked at a local nonprofit agency that submitted falsified records of community service – pleaded guilty to having knowledge of the crime but failing to report it.