Louisiana has strict laws on the books that outlaw the act of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In this state, the term used is Driving While Intoxicated rather than Driving Under the Influence. Nonetheless, this crime carries with it penalties that are designed to prevent drivers from engaging in this criminal behavior.
People who plan on driving in Louisiana need to understand what constitutes a DWI in the state. They also need to be aware of the legal consequences of driving after drinking or using drugs.
DWI in Louisiana
Louisiana defines Driving While Intoxicated in several ways. The first definition is driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or controlled dangerous substance drugs. It also is defined as driving a vehicle with a blood alcohol content or BAC of 0.08 percent or higher.
The third definition for DWI in Louisiana is driving a vehicle while under the influence of a combination of non-controlled drugs or alcohol. Non-controlled substances are those that drivers can obtain over-the-counter or by prescription.
Motorists who are found to have BACs of 0.15 percent or higher or 0.20 percent or higher face harsher penalties. The penalties are also enhanced as offenders incur more DWIs.
The BAC limits for commercial drivers in Louisiana is 0.04 percent or lower. Underage drivers in accordance with the state’s no tolerance laws cannot have BACs higher than 0.02 percent.
Louisiana DWI Cleansing Period
Louisiana differs from many states in that it offers DWI offenders a cleansing period. This period means that prior DWI convictions that are older than 10 years cannot be used against current DWI charges.
In essence, DWIs that occurred longer than 10 years ago cannot be taken into consideration when determining if an offender meets the criteria for an enhanced DWI. In 2008, the cleansing period in Louisiana was amended to extend the 10 year period to exclude all of the time that an offender spent between his or her arrest and the time spent on probation. This amendment can actually extend the period of time between the last and current arrest to longer than 10 years.
DWI Penalties in Louisiana
The penalties in Louisiana for DWI reflect the number of DWI convictions on a person’s record and the severity of each offense. They also depend on the number of DWIs on a person’s record within the last 10 years.
A first-time DWI conviction in Louisiana can result in penalties like:
- Six months in jail
- A fine of $300 to $1000
- Two years probation
- 30 hours of re-education and mandatory attendance at a substance abuse program
- Driver improvement course completion
- 32 hours of community service
If the person’s BAC was over 0.15, the sentence includes an additional 48 hours in jail that cannot be suspended. If the BAC was over 0.20 percent, additional penalties include a fine of $750 to $1000 and use of an ignition interlock device or IID on the offender’s car for 12 months.
A second DWI conviction in Louisiana results in:
- Fine of $750 to $1000
- 30 days of community service
- The same re-education requirements as a first conviction
- IID use for six months
If the BAC is over 0.15 percent, the penalties include a mandatory 96 hours in jail that cannot be suspended. If the BAC is over 0.20 percent, additional penalties include a mandatory 96 hours in jail and a fine of $1000. The person’s license also must be suspended for four years, and the offender must use an IID for three years.
A third DWI conviction in Louisiana results in:
- A fine of $2000
- One to five years in state prison
- 30 days of community service
- Mandatory evaluation to determine the severity of the person’s addiction
- Inpatient treatment for four weeks
- 12 hours of outpatient treatment
- Mandatory vehicle forfeiture
- Use of an IID
A fourth DWI conviction in Louisiana is a felony and leads to:
- A $5000 fine
- A minimum 10 years in state prison
- 40 days of community service
- Home incarceration for at least one year
- Electronic monitoring
- Vehicle forfeiture
- Mandatory inpatient treatment
Underage drivers convicted of DWI do not face the same penalties as adult drivers. Instead, they receive sentences like three months maximum in jail, a fine of $250 and suspension of their drivers’ licenses.
Implied Consent in Louisiana
Under the state’s implied consent laws, motorists in Louisiana must provide samples of their blood, breath or urine if law enforcement has probable cause for detaining them for DWI. They face both administrative and criminal penalties if they refuse to comply with this order.
The arresting officer can get a search warrant to obtain a sample of their blood to test their BAC level. He or she can then direct medical personnel to take that blood sample from the driver. The search warrant forces the driver to comply with the DWI testing.
Moreover, the driver can incur penalties like suspension of his or her license for one year. The license can be suspended for two years for a second refusal that occurs within 10 years of the first.
The driver can also be ordered to use an IID on his or her vehicle for the same period of time as the license suspension. The person’s refusal can also be used as evidence of his or her guilt at a court trial if necessary.
Additionally, the person can be ordered to pay a $300 to $1000 fine and spend 10 days to six months in jail. The offender can be eligible for probation if he or she serves at least 48 hours in jail, completes 32 hours of community service, and takes part in a substance abuse program and driver improvement course.
Driving while intoxicated in Louisiana is a serious offense that is met with criminal and civil penalties. Drivers can avoid this charge by knowing what the legal BAC limits are.
The DWI laws in Louisiana likewise extend to drivers of all ages including underage motorists. They also take into consideration the number of prior DWIs drivers have from in the state as well as other states.