All 50 states have now instated a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit of .08 in regards to DWI charges, as well as a .04 limit for commercial drivers. Louisiana sets the BAC limit at .02 for underage drivers, with a level of .15 for aggravated charges, which may be accompanied by heavier penalties. Louisiana DWI laws also apply to drivers found to be under the influence of intoxicants other than alcohol, including hallucinogens or prescription drugs, with the charges and penalties the same as they are for alcohol.
Penalties for a first offense under Louisiana DWI laws include a license suspension of up to 90 days or a six month suspension for underage offenders. The penalties can also include jail time of up to six months and fines of up to $1,000 in addition to court costs. Louisiana is also one of the many states that may require an ignition interlock device to be installed in the offender’s vehicle, even for first offenders. This requires drivers to pass a breathalyzer test prior to starting the vehicle engine.
Second-time offenders are subject to a mandatory 48 hours in jail or 48 hours of community service in addition to a hard 45-day suspension of driving privileges. Jail time may be increased to up to six months, and the license suspension can be extended to a full year. Second offenders may also be subject to fines up to $1,000.
The lookback period in which judges can consider prior DWI offenses when issuing a sentence is 10 years.
Third and fourth DWI convictions are considered felony offenses under Louisiana state law and can result in harsher penalties and mandatory jail time. A third conviction carries a mandatory jail sentence of 45 days, which can be extended up to five years, and a fourth conviction carries mandatory jail time of 75 days, extendable up to 30 years at the discretion of the court. Both convictions may involve a two-year license suspension. For fourth offenses, the offender’s vehicle may be confiscated by the courts. Other penalties include fines of $2,000 for a third conviction and $5,000 for a fourth conviction, community service and court ordered inpatient substance abuse treatment for six weeks. Both convictions may include home incarceration, rather than jail time, at the discretion of the court.
Louisiana is one of many states that has an implied consent law, which means that by operating a vehicle you have already given your consent to submit to a blood, breath or urine analysis if an officer of the law has reason to suspect that you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The method of testing is chosen by the officer, and the chemical analysis results are admissible as evidence in court. Refusing to comply with these tests will result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license, in addition to penalties for any DWI conviction. A first time refusal of chemical analysis results in a license suspension of 180 days. The penalty is raised to 545 days for the second offense.
In some cases, it is possible for a defendant to receive a lesser conviction of reckless driving involving alcohol, also known as a “wet reckless,” rather than being convicted on drunk driving charges. A lawyer may be able to create a plea bargain to reduce the charges to this lesser conviction, with milder resulting penalties.