DUI in Louisiana: Laws & Penalties

Louisiana DUI laws state that DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) is a crime defined as driving a 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 for DWI in Louisiana 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.

Is a DWI a felony or a misdemeanor in Louisiana?

Open book showing the words DUI Law, which is meant to represent an attorney studying the laws and penalties that pertain to DWI in Louisiana

In Louisiana, a drinking and driving charge is considered a felony when the offender has at least 2 previous DWI convictions within 10 years.

  • A 1st DWI and 2nd DWI are misdemeanor crimes.
  • A 3rd DWI, 4th or subsequent 4th DWI are all felonies with enhanced penalties upon conviction.

DWI Cleansing Period

There is a “cleansing period” of ten years, after which a prior DWI conviction or plea in any state cannot be used against a person charged with DUI in Louisiana, 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. Learn more about getting a DUI out of state.

Penalties for DWI

What happens when you get a DUI in Louisiana?

When you get arrested for driving while intoxicated in the state of Louisiana, the consequences you face can include jail time, fines, probation, community service, license suspension, and more, depending on the number of prior DWIs within 10 years.

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.

The following are the penalties for the criminal charge of DWI. Click here for information on driver’s license suspension. This 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 (Misdemeanor)

A first-offense DUI in Louisiana is considered a misdemeanor with the following penalties upon conviction:

  • Fine: $300 to $1,000
  • Jail time: 10 days to 6 months
  • Probation: Up to two years probation (depending on the court)
  • Community Service: 48 hours, plus at least 32 hours of community service, half of which must be garbage pickup on the street
  • Re-education: Participation in a court-approved substance abuse program and a court-approved driver improvement program

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 (Misdemeanor)

A second-offense DUI in Louisiana is considered a misdemeanor with the following penalties upon conviction:

  • Fine: $750 to $1,000
  • Jail time: 30 days to 6 months (home incarceration is a possibility)
  • Probation: Up to 6 months, but 48 hours must be served in jail, along with community service and re-education programs.
  • Community Service: 240 hours
  • Re-education: Participation in a court-approved substance abuse program and a court-approved driver improvement program.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: 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 driver’s 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.

Third Offense DWI (Felony)

A third-offense DUI in Louisiana is considered a felony, with the following penalties upon conviction:

  • Fine: A fine of $2,000
  • Jail time: One to five years imprisonment with or without hard labor, one year to be served without suspension of sentence
  • Probation: Up to 5 years, but 1 year must be served in jail, along with community service and re-education programs.
  • Community Service: 240 hours
  • Substance Abuse Evaluation: A requirement to undergo an evaluation to determine the nature and extent of the addictive disorder
  • Substance Abuse Treatment: An order to comply with inpatient treatment for four weeks, plus up to 12 months of out-patient treatment
  • Home Incarceration: Probation for the full length of any suspended sentence plus home incarceration for a minimum of 6 months (An offender sentenced to home incarceration may be ordered to wear tracking devices and have curfew restrictions and electronic monitoring, at his expense.)
  • Forfeiture: The prosecutor may seize the offender’s vehicle and sell it, if he chooses.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: An ignition interlock on all vehicles driven by the offender shall be required.

Special penalty requirements for 3rd-time DWI:

  • If a sentence is imposed under the child endangerment law, then one year of the jail sentence cannot be suspended.

Fourth or Subsequent Fourth Offense DWI (Felony)

A fourth-offense DUI or “subsequent fourth offense” DUI in Louisiana is considered a felony, with the following penalties upon conviction:

  • Fine: $5,000
  • Jail time: A prison sentence of a minimum of ten years to a maximum of 30 years imprisonment (Two years must be served in prison without benefit of suspension.)
  • Probation: Up to 5 years
  • Community Service: 320 hours
  • Substance Abuse Evaluation: A requirement to undergo an evaluation to determine the nature and extent of the addictive disorder
  • Substance Abuse Treatment: An order to comply with inpatient treatment for four weeks, plus up to 12 months of out-patient treatment
  • Home Incarceration: Home incarceration for at least one year (An offender sentenced to home incarceration may be ordered to wear tracking devices and have curfew restrictions and electronic monitoring, at his expense.)
  • Forfeiture: Seizure of the vehicle the offender was driving (at the prosecutor’s discretion)

Special Circumstances Related to DWI Laws & Penalties

Call 985-643-0316 if you were arrested for DWI in any of the following parishes:

Call 504-259-7461 if you were arrested for DWI in any other parish in Louisiana, including:

Video Transcript

“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.”