Louisiana’s OWI/DWI Laws and Penalties

How Louisiana defines “operating under the influence” and the consequences of a conviction.

In Louisiana, you can get an OWI (operating under the influence) for operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft:

Although “OWI” is the term used in the state statutes, many people also refer to operating under the influence as a “DWI,” short for driving while intoxicated.

Louisiana DWI Penalties

A person who’s convicted of an OWI faces a range of possible penalties that depend on the number of prior offenses the person has that occurred within the last ten years. Prior vehicular homicide and vehicular negligent injury convictions can increase these penalties.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense (felony)

Jail time

10 days to 6 months

30 days to 6 months

1 to 5 years

Fines

$300 to $1,000

$750 to $1,000

$2,000

Ignition interlock devices (IIDs)

Judge can order during probation

6 months minimum and during probation

During probation and treatment

OWI Probation

A judge can normally set aside part of an OWI jail sentence and place the convicted person on probation. However, probation isn’t an option for offenders with a prior OWI that occurred within the same year or who were transporting a child under the age of 13 years at the time of the offense. OWI offenders who receive probation must complete certain requirements, which may include a minimum amount of jail time, community services, and substance abuse treatment.

Enhanced Penalties for a High BAC

Drivers who are convicted of an OWI that involved a BAC of .15% or greater must serve a minimum of 48 hours in jail (or a minimum 96 hours for a second offense). And for a BAC of .20% or more, the driver must also pay a fine of $750 to $1,000, maintain an IID for 12 months, and serve a two-year driver’s license suspension. A second-offense OWI with a BAC of .20% or more will result in a $1,000 fine, four-year license suspension, and three-year IID requirement.

Driver’s License Penalties and Implied Consent

In Louisiana, an OWI can lead to two types of license suspensions: one resulting from the arrest and another resulting from a conviction. However, the two suspensions run concurrently. In other words, the suspensions overlap, so the driver doesn’t normally have to complete the two full suspension periods.

BAC Test Refusals

At the time of a DWI arrest, Louisiana’s “implied consent” law allows an officer to request a breath, blood, or urine test to determine the amount of alcohol or drugs in the person’s system. An unlawful refusal will result in immediate license seizure and one-year license suspension. A driver with a refusal in the prior ten years will be suspended for two years. A third refusal can result in criminal penalties.

BAC Test Failures

A driver that takes the test and produces a BAC of .08% or greater, will be suspended for 90 days. However, a hardship license can be available after 30 days of suspension. A repeat offense within five years will result in a 365-day suspension without a hardship license.

OWI Convictions

Additionally, after a DWI conviction, notice will be sent to the Department of Public Safety to suspend the driver’s license. The driver’s license will be suspended for 12 months for a first offense, 24 months for a second offense, and 36 months for a third offense. However, the driver is eligible for restricted reinstatement after installing an IID.

Hardship and Restricted Licenses

In most OWI cases (except those involving injuries or deaths) the suspended driver can request a hardship or restricted license and regain some driving privileges during all or a portion of the suspension period.

Underage DWI

Drivers who are under the age of 21 and are caught driving with a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08% face a 180-day license suspension and may have to install an IID. Additional, underage offenders are looking at the following possible penalties:

  • First offense. $100 to $250 fine and ten days to three months jail. Probation requires 32 hours community service, substance abuse treatment, and a driver improvement program.
  • Second offense. $250 to $500 fine and 30 days to six months jail. Probation requires two days in jail or 80 hours of community service as well as a substance abuse program and driver improvement program.

Underage drivers who receive probation might be able to avoid some of these penalties but will have to complete substance abuse treatment, a driver improvement program, and community service or a short jail sentence.

As Louisiana is a zero-tolerance state, any driver under the age of 21 who an officer reasonably suspects has consumed any alcohol is required to submit to a breath or blood test. An unlawful refusal will result in a one-year suspension for a first offense and a two-year suspension for a second offense.

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