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La. Man Jumps Off Bridge to Avoid 8th DWI

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By Andrew Chow, Esq. on March 14, 2012 9:47 AM

A Louisiana man jumped off a bridge to avoid his eighth DWI arrest -- only to be rescued from the choppy waters of the lake below and taken to jail, police said.

Thomas Robert Harter, 44, was swerving and speeding in a car as he crossed the Causeway bridge over Lake Pontchartrain near New Orleans about 5:40 p.m. Sunday, witnesses told police.

When a Causeway police officer pulled him over, Harter immediately got out of his car with his hands in the air, The Times-Picayune reports. He was wearing a green St. Patrick's Day necklace.

Thomas Robert Harter was swaying and smelled of alcohol, the Causeway's manager told The Times-Picayune. The officer began to conduct a field-sobriety test -- but the DWI suspect unexpectedly ran to the edge of the bridge and jumped off.

Police closed the Causeway's southbound lanes for about 30 minutes as rescuers searched for Harter. They found him clutching the base of the bridge about 20 feet below, The Times-Picayune reports. Crews threw him a life preserver and pulled him to safety.

Harter now faces charges of DWI, resisting arrest, and carless driving. He also has outstanding warrants for a hit-and-run and reckless driving, according to The Times-Picayune.

Harter's latest DWI arrest is his eighth, police said. One arrest took place in Pennsylvania in 1992, while the others were in Louisiana in 1999, 2001, 2002, 2007, and 2009.

In Louisiana, DWI convictions stay on a driver's record for 10 years, The Times-Picayune reports. Because of that, Thomas Robert Harter was charged with third-offense DWI in connection with his Causeway bridge-jumping incident. If convicted, Harter faces a two-year license suspension and the possible confiscation of his vehicle under Louisiana law.

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