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Louisiana’s DUI/OWI Laws and Penalties: What You Need to Know

Understanding the laws and penalties for driving while intoxicate the influence (DWI), driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI), or operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Louisiana is essential to avoid legal issues. Penalties for first, second, and third offenses can be severe. 

If you’re charged with DWI in Louisiana, it’s important to know the consequences and consider consulting with a DWI defense law firm in New Orleans for guidance and to prepare for legal proceedings. John Radziewicz has years of experience in fighting against DUI charges and is dedicated to work for your defense to help ensure the best possible outcome in your case

In fact, he’s been arrested for DWI. Twice. He KNOWS what it’s like to be in your shoes. 

What is a DWI/OWI in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) or OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) have no legal differences. They are generally considered the same and refer to drunk driving, which is considered a moving traffic violation. There’s a specific process that happens after charges and offenses, typically enforced by the Louisiana State Police, can lead to arrest. 

When arrested for DWI, penalties vary depending on the offender’s blood alcohol level and can include fines, license suspension, and even jail time. A DWI or OWI conviction can seriously affect your life, given its potential for severe consequences.

Louisiana's DWI/OWI Laws

In Louisiana, driving laws strictly prohibit operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that exceeds specific legal limits. For adults aged 21 and over, it is illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08% or higher. 

The legal limit for individuals under 21 is lower, set at 0.02% to reflect stricter standards for underage drivers. 

Additionally, drivers of commercial vehicles must adhere to an even more stringent limit, with a BAC threshold of 0.04% or higher. These laws are designed to enhance road safety by discouraging impaired driving and reducing alcohol-related accidents.

Louisiana First-Offense (Misdemeanor) OWI/DUI Penalties

In Louisiana, the penalties for DUI offenses vary by the number of times an individual has been convicted:

1. First-Offense DUI (Misdemeanor):

For a first offense, which is a misdemeanor, penalties include fines ranging from $300 to $1,000, which increase if the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds 0.20%. Offenders may also face a driver’s license suspension, up to six months in jail, and mandatory community service.

2. Second-Offense DUI (Misdemeanor):

For a second DUI offense, also a misdemeanor, the fines range from $750 to $1,000. Offenders must serve a mandatory minimum of 48 to 96 hours in jai, depending on their BAC, undergo a longer license suspension, perform community service, and install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle for six months.

3. Third-Offense DUI (Felony):

A third DUI offense is considered a felony with a $2,000 fine, one to five years in prison (the first year usually needs to be served in jail), a three-year license suspension, and community service. The prosecutor may sell the offender’s vehicle, and an IID must be installed on all vehicles the offender uses.

4. Fourth-Offense DUI (Felony):

For a fourth DUI offense, a felony, the penalties include a $5,000 fine, a jail sentence of ten to thirty years, community service, confiscation of the offender’s vehicle, and additional penalties if child endangerment violations are involved.

Each offense may include the installation of an IID at the offender’s expense and various durations of license suspension.

What is an Aggravated DWI in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, DUI penalties are less severe for a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) under 0.15%. However, aggravated DWI charges apply for a BAC over 0.15%, having a minor in the vehicle, causing property damage while driving drunk, or driving with an expired license. These offenses are taken seriously because they pose significant risks to others. 

Aggravated DWI can lead to large fines, a two-year license suspension, and a mandatory 32 hours of community service. These penalties can impair your background check and impact employment opportunities and other privileges.

Refusing a DUI Blood, Breath, or Urine Test in Louisiana and Its Possible Penalties

At a DUI checkpoint in Louisiana, you must stop as directed by the officer during a pullover and provide your driver’s license, registration, and insurance upon request. You are not obligated to undergo field sobriety or chemical tests unless there is a warrant.

Refusing a blood, breath, or urine test in Louisiana leads to an immediate license suspension and can be used against you in court. The penalties for refusing are:

  • First offense: 1-year license suspension
  • Second or subsequent offense: 2-year license suspension.

How Long Does My DWI Stay On My Driving Record in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, a DUI cannot be expunged from a driving record, but the arrest and can conviction can be expunged for court records. Being an at-risk driver stays on your record. However, insurance companies differ in how far back they look at driving records and whether they consider only OWI arrests or convictions.

Underage OWI Laws in Louisiana

In Louisiana, there is a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under 21 who consume alcohol while driving. Penalties for underage OWI include a fine of up to $100, a driver’s license suspension for 30 to 90 days, and mandatory participation in a substance abuse program.

How Long Is Jail Time for DUI Arrests in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, you will remain in jail for a DUI until you post bond, which assures the court you’ll appear for your DWI hearing. A judge sets the bail amount and depends on whether it’s a first offense or a felony DUI. The judge will also consider any additional charges like hit and run or drug possession. For second or greater offenses, an IID is a condition of your bond.

Why You Need an Attorney for a DUI/OWI Case in Louisiana?

If you’re arrested for DWI in Louisiana, you have only 30 days to request a hearing from the Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS&C) to prevent your driver’s license from being automatically suspended. This request must be made in the city or parish where the citation was issued. Besides the administrative hearing for your driving privileges, you’ll also need to attend a criminal court proceeding to address DUI penalties.

Hiring an attorney with an impressive track record for cases like yours is vital and can help dismiss the charges. They can guide you through the legal process, defend your rights, and work to reduce the consequences of your DUI/OWI charge. They can also represent you in court and negotiate for lesser charges or penalties.

Contact Our New Orleans DUI/OWI Lawyer Today!

Understanding Louisiana’s DUI/OWI laws and penalties is important to avoid serious consequences. Knowing the legal limits helps you make informed decisions. If you’re charged with a DUI/OWI in Louisiana, getting an experienced attorney quickly is vital for protecting your rights. 

Contact us at 504-264-9492 to schedule a consultation and start your defense.