Louisiana Revised Statute 14:98 states the law of DWI. Driving While Intoxicated is defined as operating a motor vehicle when under the influence of alcohol, or controlled dangerous substance drugs, or, when a person’s blood-alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or greater, or
- When a person is under the influence of a combination of alcohol and a non-controlled dangerous substance, or
- When a person is under the influence of one or more drugs which are not controlled, and which are obtainable with or without a prescription. Learn more about DWI and drugs.
If the driver of the vehicle has a blood alcohol over .15, or the next level, .20, then penalties are harsher.
The penalties are “enhanced,” or made harsher, as one goes from a first to a second, to a third, to a fourth, to a subsequent fourth offense for DWI.
At the third offense level, the DWI becomes a felony, as opposed to a misdemeanor crime, which is what DWI first and second offenses are.
The Goal of a DWI Criminal Defense Attorney
Below are the goals of a competent DWI lawyer in succession.
- To attempt to successfully defend the DWI charge and get a not guilty verdict
- To attempt to avoid a jail sentence which is not suspended
- To avoid a felony conviction
- To minimize other punishments besides jail
- To avoid the record of a DWI or other charge being made public and/or to have it expunged so that your insurance company and employer will not see it on a background check
With the foregoing in mind, the following is a general summary of the penalties incurred with the various categories of DWI. It is not intended to be definitive or all-inclusive but to give a general idea of the penalties faced by the offender. A good DWI defense attorney can frequently find ways to lessen the severity of any punishment.
DWI Cleansing Period
There is a “cleansing period” of ten years, after which a prior DWI conviction or plea in any state, including Louisiana, cannot be used against a person charged with DWI, for enhancement of charges. However, in 2008 the law was amended to extend that ten-year period by excluding all time spent between date of arrest and time spent on probation, which can extend the time period to use prior arrests for many years longer than ten years. Note that it does not matter in which state the charged person incurred the prior DWI.
Penalties for DWI
The following are the penalties for the criminal charge of DWI. Click here for information on driver’s license suspension. The following is not intended to be a legal education in every aspect of the DWI law regarding penalties. It is intended to give you enough information to see what you are facing.
First Offense DWI
A first-offense DWI charge is considered a misdemeanor with the following penalties:
- Up to six months imprisonment or a fine of $300 to $1,000
- 48 hours in jail
- Up to two years probation (depending on the court)
- About 30 hours of re-education involving mandatory attendance and completion of three courses in substance abuse, driver improvement, and a MADD victims impact program
- Plus at least 32 hours of community service, half of which must be garbage pickup on the street
Special penalty requirements for 1st-time DWI:
- If the BAC is over .15, then an additional 48 hours of the jail sentence cannot be suspended.
- If the BAC is over .20, then 48 hours of mandatory jail, plus a fine of $750 to $1,000, and an ignition interlock device must be installed for a period of 12 months.
- If a violation of the child endangerment law has occurred, certain of the jail sentences cannot be suspended.
Second Offense DWI
A second-offense DWI charge is considered a misdemeanor with the following penalties:
- A minimum fine of $750 to $1,000
- 48 hours of the sentence must be served without benefit of suspension
- The most onerous penalty is 30 days of community service.
- The same re-education requirements exist in the case of a second time DWI.
- Be advised that certain judges impose a six month ignition interlock requirement if the BAC was deemed “high” by whatever standard the individual judge imposes. This is not related to any suspension imposed by the Department of Public Safety.
Special penalty requirements for 2nd-time DWI:
- If the BAC is over .15, then 96 hours of the jail sentence must be served.
- If the BAC is over .20, then 96 hours of the jail sentence must be served, and the fine is $1,000. The drivers license is suspended for 4 years, and an ignition interlock device must be installed for at least 3 years.
- On the second offense, if there is a charge of Negligent Injury or Vehicular Homicide, certain jail sentences are mandatory. When a second offense is combined with a negligent injury charge or a vehicular homicide charge, the prison term for the second offense becomes one to five years, with or without hard labor, and a fine of $2,000. Six months must be served without benefit of suspension or parole.
- The child endangerment penalties of the first offense also apply in the case of a second offense.
Is a DWI a felony in Louisiana?
In Louisiana, a DWI charge is considered a felony when the offender has at least 2 previous DWI convictions within 10 years. A 3rd DWI, 4th or subsequent 4th DWI are all felonies with enhanced penalties upon conviction.
Third Offense DWI (Felony)
A third-offense DWI charge is considered a felony, with the following penalties:
- A fine of $2,000
- One to five years imprisonment with or without hard labor, one year to be served without suspension of sentence
- 30 days of community service
- A requirement to undergo an evaluation to determine the extent of the addictive disorder
- An order to comply with inpatient treatment for four weeks, plus 12 months of out-patient treatment
- Probation for the full length of any suspended sentence plus home incarceration (An offender sentenced to home incarceration may be ordered to wear tracking devices and have curfew restrictions and electronic monitoring, at his expense.)
- The prosecutor may seize the offender’s vehicle and sell it, if he chooses.
- If sentence is imposed under the child endangerment law, then one year of the jail sentence cannot be suspended.
- An ignition interlock on all vehicles driven by the offender shall be required.
Fourth or Subsequent Fourth Offense DWI (Felony)
A fourth-offense DWI charge or “subsequent fourth offense” DWI is considered a felony, with the following penalties:
- A fine of $5,000
- A prison sentence of a minimum of ten years to a maximum of 30 years imprisonment
- 40 days of community service
- Two years of the sentence must be served without suspension or parole.
- Home incarceration for at least one year
- Electronic monitoring
- Seizure of the vehicle the offender was driving
- Additional penalties are imposed if there was a violation of the child endangerment law.
Special Circumstances Related to DWI Laws & Penalties
Call 985-643-0316 if you were arrested for DWI in any of the following parishes:
Call 985-503-2344 if you were arrested for DWI in any other parish in Louisiana, including:
- Ascension Parish
- Bossier Parish
- Caddo Parish
- Calcasieu Parish
- Baton Rouge Parish
- Iberia Parish
- Lafayette Parish
- Livingston Parish
- Monroe Parish
- Rapides Parish
- St. Landry Parish
- St. Martin Parish
- Washington Parish
“I’m James Bates, DWI defense attorney. As a DWI criminal defense attorney, let me tell you my priorities in defending you.
First: to have the dwi charges dropped, or have you found not guilty at a trial;
Second: to prevent a jail or prison sentence;
Third: to keep a misdemeanor or felony conviction off your record;
I work in all the courts and have a successful record of defending DWI charges. I have been successful at preventing imprisonment and getting help for many of those persons I have represented who have drinking or drug problems. They needed help, not imprisonment. Let me help you. Contact my office for an appointment.”