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The Louisiana DWI Guide

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Driving while Intoxicated

LSA-R.S. 14:98



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I just got arrested for a State of Louisiana DWI charge.  What happens now?


ISSUE ONE:  The Louisiana Implied Consent Proceeding:  Your Louisiana license (or your right to drive in Louisiana if you're not a Louisiana license driver) was most likely suspended for anywhere from 90 days to several years for failing (0.08  percent or greater) or refusing a breath, blood, or urine test under Louisiana's implied consent law. 

The length of the suspension depends on whether you failed or refused the test (refusals result in longer suspensions) and your prior DWI history. 


Read your paperwork carefully.  If you would like to challenge your suspension, you generally must make your request within 15 days of your arrest.  Speak to a Louisiana DWI attorney for more information about your appeal rights.


What is meant by the term "implied consent?"  Under Louisiana law, any person, regardless of age, who operates a motor vehicle upon the public highways of Louisiana shall be deemed to have given consent, to a chemical test or tests of his or her blood, breath, urine, or other bodily substance for the purpose of determining the alcoholic content of his blood, and the presence of any abused substance or controlled dangerous substance in his blood if arrested for any offense arising out of acts alleged to have been committed while the person was driving or in actual physical control of a motor vehicle while believed to be under the influence of alcoholic beverages or any abused substance or controlled dangerous substance.



ISSUE TWO:  The Louisiana DWI Criminal Case:  Separate from the implied consent suspension is the criminal charge for Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated (commonly referred to as DWI / DUI).  Louisiana law prohibits operating a motor vehicle when:

(a) The operator is under the influence of alcoholic beverages; or

(b) The operator's blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 percent or more; or

(c) The operator is under the influence of any controlled substance (illegal or prescription drug(s)); or

(d) The operator is under the influence of a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances (obtainable with or without a prescription); of

(e) The operator is under the influence of one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances (obtainable with or without a prescription).


Important:  The implied consent suspension proceeding and the criminal DWI case are completely separate from one another. 


Will my Louisiana driver license be suspended?


RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE:  Your Louisiana driver license (or your right to drive in Louisiana if you do not have a valid Louisiana license) may be suspended in the implied consent proceeding for 90 days or more failing or refusing a chemical (breath / blood / urine) test.  Again, you may challenge (seek to overturn) this suspension by requesting an administrative hearing within 15 days of your arrest. 



RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE:  If you are convicted of the DWI charge, you will also lose your license (or your right to drive in Louisiana if you don't have a valid Louisiana license) for a 90 days or more.  This suspension is separate and distinct from the suspension received for failing or refusing a breath, blood, or urine test.  Talk to your Louisiana DWI lawyer for possible suspension lengths for your situation.



Also keep in mind that your license can be suspended for a variety of reasons unrelated to a DWI arrest e.g. excessive tickets, hit and run etc.


What happens if I get caught driving while my license is suspended / revoked?


Driving while your license is under suspension should be avoided as it is a new crime.  Penalties include fines and possible jail time.


I really need to drive.  Will I be able to get a restricted license / occupational / conditional / probationary permit?


Maybe.  A "hardship license" is a restricted license issued in accordance with statutes or by court order to an applicant whose driving privileges are suspended.  The hardship license allows the applicant to drive during the period of suspension to earn a livelihood or to maintain the necessities of life.  For most DWI related suspensions, the installation of an ignition Interlock device will be required in order to obtain a hardship license.  Talk to your DWI lawyer about whether you qualify for a hardship license and how to apply.


Is a DWI in Louisiana a misdemeanor or felony charge?


In Louisiana, a first or second DWI within 10 years is a misdemeanor crime.  However, a third or greater DWI conviction in the past 10 years is a felony offense. 


What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of an Louisiana DWI charge?


Upon conviction of an Louisiana DWI offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including probation and substance abuse screening / treatment / education.  A range of minimum penalties is set forth below: 


within 10 years
  • up to 6 months in jail (two day minimum if BAC is 0.15 percent or more);

  • Several hundred dollars in fines;

  • possible community service;

  • loss of license for one year (two years with a BAC of 0.20 percent or more).

within 10 years
  • up to 6 months in jail (two day minimum; if BAC is 0.15 percent or more, four days minimum);
  • Up to $1,000 fine;
  • possible community service;
  • loss of license for two years (four years with a BAC of 0.20 percent or more).
within 10 years
  • up to 5 years in jail (45 days minimum);
  • $2000 fine;
  • loss of license for three years;
  • vehicle may be seized and sold.
within 10 years
  • up to 30 years in prison (75 days mandatory);

  • $5000 fine;

  • loss of license for three years;

  • auto may be seized and sold, substance abuse treatment.

Will my defense lawyer be able to plea bargain / negotiate my Louisiana DWI charge down to another (lesser) offense?

Possibly.  Your lawyer will discuss your case with the prosecuting attorney and make every effort to minimize the consequences.  Often times, your only option will be to plead to the charge or take your case to trial.

Will an Louisiana DWI go on "my Official Driving Record?"

Yes.  A DWI conviction will go on your Louisiana Official Driving Record (ODR) and will stay on your record for 10 years. 

Just how much jail / prison time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DWI in Louisiana?

The amount of incarceration (jail or prison time) received will depend on a number of factors, including (but not limited to) the following:

•  your prior driving record especially your DWI history (including any DWI's outside of Louisiana) within the past 10 years;

•  your level of intoxication / BAC (BAC of 0.15 or greater can generate greater penalties);

•  whether there was an collision involved;

•  whether there was bodily injury to another person in the accident;

•  which Louisiana parish or court your case is in;

•  what judge you are sentenced by;

•  whether there was a passenger / child in your car (especially a child under 12 years of age);

•  whether the judge feels you have accepted responsibility for your actions.


I am licensed to drive in a state other than Louisiana and I was cited for a DWI in Louisiana.  Will my driver license be suspended?

Louisiana only has the authority to suspend your right to drive in the State of Louisiana.  However, Louisiana and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact."  Louisiana will report a DWI conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming your home state has also adopted the Compact).  Your home state will then generally take action to suspend your license.

This also works in reverse.  If you are a Louisiana licensed driver and you are convicted of a DWI charge in another state, Louisiana will suspend your license if it learns of the conviction. 

Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device in my car?


An ignition interlock device (IID) is an alcohol breath screening device that is connected to the vehicle's ignition system to prevent the vehicle from starting if it detects a blood alcohol level above a preset limit.  An IID may be required to be installed in a vehicle prior to the reinstatement of driving privileges as a condition of the reinstatement of your driver's license. 


Speak to your Louisiana DWI lawyer for more information about whether the IID requirement applies to you.

What will an Louisiana DWI do to my insurability?

If your insurance company finds out about your DWI one of two things are likely to happen.  Either your Louisiana insurer will raise your rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed.  Your insurance company will learn of your DWI charge if you have to file an SR-22.

What is an SR-22 / Financial Responsibility Insurance?

An SR-22 is a form from an Louisiana licensed insurance company certifying that you have purchased liability insurance that meets the minimum required coverage limits.  The SR-22 provides proof to the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles that you are adequately insured.  If you cancel your insurance or the insurance company cancels your policy before SR-22 requirement period is over, the company must notify the SOMV that the certificate is canceled. 

You must file and maintain proof of future financial responsibility for three years from the date of a DWI conviction.  If you refused to submit to a chemical test, you will be required to file proof of future financial responsibility by submitting an SR-22 before your license can be reinstated.  Speak to your Louisiana DWI lawyer about whether will need to file an SR-22.

Are there special concerns for licensed pilots who get a Louisiana DWI?


Yes.  The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has strict reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including Louisiana DWI convictions and certain statutory summary suspensions.  Learn more here.

I missed my Louisiana court appearance.  What do I do now?

Failing to appear (FTA) for court is to be avoided.  When you miss a court appearance, bad things follow.  At a minimum, the Louisiana court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (commonly known as a bench warrant). Any bond that was posted is typically forfeited.  Sometimes, failing to appear will result in a new criminal charge as well.  Talk to your attorney as soon as possible.  Often, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant.  A new court date will then be scheduled for you.

Can I represent myself in court on my Louisiana DWI and / or other criminal charge(s)?

Yes.  You have a constitutional right to represent yourself on any criminal charge no matter how serious including a Louisiana DWI.  Keep in mind that Louisiana DWI defense is a complex area of the law as shown by the information in this site.  If you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer, you definitely should apply for a court appointed attorney to represent you.  You have no right to court appointed counsel at the implied consent license proceeding.

Copyright 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Websites, including this one, provide general Louisiana DWI - drunk driving information but do not provide legal advice or create an attorney / client relationship.  General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation.  Consult qualified Louisiana DWI lawyers for advice about any specific problem or Louisiana DWI charge that you have.  Louisiana attorneys are governed by the Louisiana Rules of Professional Conduct.  This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules.  Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way.  No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way.  Not board certified.  This site is not a solicitation; rather, it is purely informational.


Louisiana DWI lawyers provide drunk driving (DWI) and criminal defense services to the communities of:  New Orleans, Baton Rouge, Shreveport, Lafayette, Lake Charles, Kenner, Bossier City, and Monroe and Caddo Parish, Bossier Parish, East Baton Rouge Parish, Lafayette Parish, Ouachita Parish, and Orleans Parish.


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