The holidays, especially New Year’s Eve, are a time for fun and celebration. When you don’t celebrate responsibly, the consequences can be devastating. A charge of driving under the influence, or DWI, is a black spot on your record, but it doesn’t have to be the end of the road. Knowing the law can help you survive the fallout from a DWI.
In Louisiana, a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% is the legal minimum for a DWI. Exactly how much alcohol is this? Although factors like age, sex, and weight affect your BAC, generally, drinking two drinks within an hour will raise your BAC to .05. Drinking more than one drink per hour after this point will raise your BAC to beyond .05.
Those under 21 are considered to be DWI at only .02%, and commercial drivers have a limit
of .04%. If you’ve had more than 3 drinks in two hours (One beer, one mixed drink, or one glass of wine all count as 1 drink.), wait a while before getting behind the wheel. Remember, being under the influence of any drug while driving carries the same penalties as driving while drunk.
What happens if you’ve had a few too many and do get pulled over? Louisiana is an implied consent state. This means as a driver, you have given implied consent to be given a blood alcohol test. If you refuse to take a BAC test, you’ll be subject to a fine and an automatic license suspension–even if it’s your first offense. If you have a DWI already and refuse to take a BAC test, you’ll be given a longer license suspension and a minimum of two days in jail.
The sentence given for a DWI depends largely on the number of previous offenses. A first offense carries a $1,000 fine, a jail term of 2 days to 6 months, and a license suspension of 90 days (longer if you’re under 21). A second offense means $1,000 fine, 30 days to 6 months in jail (though this may be suspended to 2 days), and a license suspension of a year.
A third DWI conviction is a much more serious matter. For starters, a third offense is considered a felony. The fine is increased to $2,000. You will be incarcerated for a minimum of one year and perhaps up to 5 years, although some of that time may be suspended. Your license will be suspended for 2 years. You will also be subject to mandatory in-patient substance abuse treatment for 6 weeks, out-patient treatment for 1 year, and 30 days of community service.
Beyond the third conviction, you will be charged with another felony. The fine will be increased to $5,000. The incarceration period ranges from a minimum of 75 days to 30 years. Your license will be suspended for an additional 2 years. The community service will be increased to 40 days, and you will again face in-patient substance abuse treat for 30 days and out-patient treatment for 1 year. Additionally, your vehicle may be seized and sold.
If you receive a suspended license but are enrolled in court-ordered substance counseling, it may be possible to obtain an interlock ignition hardship license. If you have at least three offenses, or two offenses with a high BAC of .20%, you must wait at least 45 days after suspension. This requires your vehicle to be installed with a device that measures BAC before it starts. An interlock ignition hardship license gives you limited driving privileges, allowing you to drive to and from work and substance abuse treatment.
Overall, the consequences you face for a DWI can range from upsetting to life altering. Courts have some leeway in range of penalties you can be subject to. If you face a charge of driving while intoxicated, having the right lawyer is invaluable to minimize the penalties you face.