New Orleans and Southern Louisiana are known for permitting open containers in public, allowing bars to stay open 24 hours a day, and even having drive-thru daiquiri shops. Unfortunately, these may also be a cause of increased incidents of drinking and driving, which lead to a number of consequences, including auto accidents, DWI charges, and injuries or deaths.
As a New Orleans DWI attorney, the best advice I can offer is Do Not Drink and Drive. Unfortunately, not everyone adheres to my advice, and people do drive after they have had more alcohol or drugs than they should because they believe they are not impaired. Many of those who drive after one too many are caught by local police.
Based on my years of experience as a New Orleans attorney, here’s what the laws are for drinking and driving in Louisiana and what you can expect if you’re pulled over for a DUI here in the Crescent City.
What is the Difference Between a DUI & DWI?
There is no difference between a DWI and a DUI.
In Louisiana it is generally referred to as a DWI and means: the illegal driving of an automobile, truck, aircraft, boat or vessel while impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. If you are pulled over in New Orleans for suspicion of a DWI and charged by law enforcement for a DWI, they will call it “operating a vehicle while intoxicated.”
What is the Intoxication Level for Driving in Louisiana?
When you drink alcohol, your body absorbs alcohol into your blood. Your Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) measures how much alcohol is in your body’s system based on the weight per unit of volume. Sounds confusing, right?
Well, the simple way to put it is:
- How much did you drink?
- How fast?
- How much do you weigh?
There are approximate blood alcohol charts online that you can follow.
In Louisiana, if you are under the age of 21, you are considered above the legal limit while driving if your BAC is .02 or higher. If you are 21 or older, then you will be charged with a DWI if your BAC is .08 or higher.
How do you determine what your level is? If you are an adult of 21 years or older, and your BAC is under .08, then you can still be charged with a DWI if the police believe you have mixed your alcohol with other drugs or medications, or the officer believes that you are impaired as a result of your alcohol consumption (no matter your BAC level).
In other words, even if you blow below a .08 during a breathalyzer test, you can be arrested and convicted for DWI in Louisiana.
Implied Consent Law: What Will Happen if I Am Pulled Over for Drinking and Driving
When you’re pulling over as a suspected drunk-driver, the police will be conducting an investigation against you. As such, everything you say will be used against you as evidence of your guilt.
One of the most important pieces of information to know before you get behind the wheel of a car in New Orleans, in Louisiana, or really anywhere in the United States, is that if you are a licensed person operating a vehicle, you are consented to an approved chemical test, whether it is blood, breath or urine, in order obtain a driver’s license. This test helps law law enforcement to obtain evidence of your intoxication. It is called the “implied consent law” (La.R.S. 32:661).
If you consent to blowing for a breathalyzer test in Louisiana, and your BAC is below .08, there is a chance that your license will not be suspended. If you consent to blowing into the breathalyzer test in Louisiana and your BAC .08 or higher, then your license will be suspended for 90 days and you will be arrested for DWI. If your BAC is higher than .15, there are increased consequences in court and long suspensions of your license
If you refuse to provide a sample by breath then your license will be suspended for 365 days and you will be arrested for DWI.
In addition to the breathalyzer test, the officer will ask you for your driver’s license, insurance, and registration, just like any other traffic stop. It is important to have these documents ready and current.
The police will also ask whether you’ve had anything to drink recently. My best advice is to answer the questions of the law enforcement, but remember your rights: You always have the right to refuse to answer questions which might incriminate you. Do not get out of the car unless you are asked to by the officer.
In the event a field sobriety test is conducted, REMEMBER YOUR RIGHTS! Field sobriety tests are designed to collect evidence of your guilt. These tests are subjective ways for the officer to compare your drunken activity to a sober person. However, since the test is subjective both for you and the officer, there is no sure way to beat these tests.
Personally, I do not recommend submitting to field sobriety tests, but I am confident that if you refuse to do them, you will spend the night in jail.
How Do I Beat a DWI Charge in Louisiana?
By hiring an experienced New Orleans DWI lawyer, you have the opportunity to fight the DWI violation you were recently charged with.
You should hire a lawyer who is experienced in defending drunk driving charges in New Orleans immediately after your arrest because you only have 15 days from your arrest challenge the suspension of your driving privileges. This hearing will also help your DWI lawyer get necessary information by challenging the evidence of your arrest.
How Much Will a DUI Lawyer Cost?
Getting arrested or charged with a DWI is a scary situation and can cause anxiety on all levels. One of the most largest impacts will be on your finances.
When you hire a lawyer to help fight your DWI charge, there are a few factors that are taken into consideration to determine how much it is going to cost you. Each lawyer may have a different billing method, the rate will fluctuate from lawyer to lawyer, how much additional legal expenses there might be like filing and court fees, and the length of time it will take to resolve your DWI case.
Your lawyer may charge an hourly rate or may charge a flat fee. A flat fee is based on how long the lawyer believes it will take to fight your case from start to finish. This will also depend on whether you choose to plead guilty or not guilty. Some additional legal expenses may include additional work and personnel, including:
- Expert witnesses
- Travel-related expenses
When you are charged with drunk driving, there are hidden costs like insurance increases or driving classes. If you are convicted for drunk driving 3 or more times, you can lose your vehicle, your driving privileges, and essentially curtail your constitutional rights. Even one DWI conviction can have serious consequences at your job and will result in a criminal record.
If you are convicted for a first offense DWI, you run the risk of having your driving privileges suspended an additional 90 days by the judge, spending up to six months in jail, and up to a $1,000 fine in addition to court fees for a first offense.
The good news is that I can help you fight all these consequences. During the administrative hearing, we can can learn whether the arresting police officer followed all proper procedures. This could help to initially determine whether your driver’s license will be suspended.
Through my knowledge of the law, and experience with many types of clients, I will also do my best to help keep fines down and, most importantly, keep you out of jail.
What if I have Multiple Offense DWIs in Louisiana?
Some of the penalties in Louisiana could include:
- Driving privileges suspended for up to two years
- Court Required Sobriety
- Mandatory jail time
- Up to 30 years in prison depending on the repeated number of offense
- Possible loss of vehicle
- Possible fines up to $5,000
- Possible home confinement
- Possible substance abuse education or outpatient programs
- A possible felony criminal record
- Community service
Call an Experienced New Orleans DWI Lawyer Now
You have many opportunities to lessen a charge or have a DWI charge dismissed due to the many opportunities presented in and surrounding your case. If you have recently been released from jail as a result of a drunk driving charge in New Orleans, take a few minutes to call me at (504) 264-9492 for a consultation.
I am ready to take your call or e-mail and eager to help you lessen or beat your charge. There is no need to worry if you take the time to speak with an experienced drunk driving lawyer; I am here to answer your questions and take the next steps towards fighting your DWI charge.