OWI/DUI in Louisiana: An Overview of Laws, Penalties & Fines

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In the state of Louisiana, operating while intoxicated (OWI) is defined as driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the legal limit of 0.08 percent or above, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Title 14 Section 98. In some documents, an OWI is called a DWI (driving while intoxicated) – both are considered to be the same act as drunk driving or OUI (operating under the influence) or DUI (driving under the influence) in another state. Penalties for a Louisiana OWI include incarceration, a fine, driver’s license suspension, installation of an ignition interlock device (IID), participation in a substance abuse program and participation in a driver improvement program.

First Louisiana OWI

Penalties for a first offense include between 10 days and six months of incarceration, a fine between $300 and $1,000, and driver’s license suspension of between 90 days and one year, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Sections 14:98.1, 32:378.2, 32:430 and 32:414. For an OWI with a BAC of 0.15 percent or above, an individual is required to spend a minimum of 48 hours in jail. For an OWI with a BAC of 0.20 percent or above, an individual must spend a minimum of 48 hours in jail, pay a fine between $750 and $1,000, suffer a two-year revocation of driving privileges and comply with a one-year IID installation.

An individual does not have to serve the 10-day minimum jail sentence if they are placed on probation with the minimum condition that they serve two days in jail and participate in a substance abuse program and a driver improvement program. The individual can also avoid jail time by being placed on probation and serving four eight-hour days of community service. At least half of this term must consist of litter abatement or collection, and the individual must also participate in a substance abuse program and a driver improvement program.

Second Louisiana OWI

Penalties for a second offense include between 30 days and six months of incarceration, a fine between $750 and $1,000, one-year driver’s license suspension and six months IID installation, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Sections 14:98.2, 32:378.2 and 32:430. At least 48 hours of jail time cannot be suspended.

If the individual’s BAC was over 0.15 percent, they must serve 96 hours in jail. If the individual’s BAC was over 0.20 percent, they must serve 96 hours jail time, pay a fine of $1,000, suffer four years' driver’s license suspension and comply with a three-year IID installation. If the individual is arrested for a second OWI within one year of the commission of their first, they must serve at least 30 days in jail.

An offender can see their period of incarceration suspended if they are placed on probation, serve 15 days minimum in jail and participate in a substance abuse program and a driver improvement program. Alternatively, the offender may be placed on probation and required to perform 30 eight-hour days of community service, at least half of which consist of participation in a litter abatement or collection program. The offender must also participate in a substance abuse program and a driver improvement program.

Third Louisiana OWI

Penalties for a third offense include between one year and five years of incarceration, a fine up to $2,000, substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and the requirement to install an IID while on probation and during substance abuse treatment, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Sections 14:98.3, 32:378.2 and 32:430. At least one year of jail time may not be suspended. An offender placed on probation must participate in 30 eight-hour days of community service. They must also undergo an evaluation to determine the nature and extent of their substance abuse and participate in recommended treatment.

An offender placed on probation may be placed in a home incarceration program for a minimum of six months. If an offender fails to complete substance abuse treatment, probation may be revoked, and they will be ordered to serve the balance of the sentence of imprisonment without credit for time served under home incarceration.

The court may order that the vehicle driven by the offender be seized, impounded and sold at auction. The vehicle is exempt from sale if it was stolen or if the driver at the time of the violation was not the owner, and the owner did not know the driver was driving under the influence of alcohol.

Severity of OWI Offense

Under Louisiana law, a first and second OWI are considered misdemeanors; a third or subsequent offense is considered a felony. In Louisiana, a felony is any crime for which an individual may be sentenced to hard labor, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 14:2.

Louisiana Pre-trial Adult Diversion Program

A first offender of a misdemeanor or nonviolent felony crime may be eligible for a pretrial adult diversion program, according to the Jefferson Parish District Attorney. The program may also be referred to as a DWI diversion program or a pretrial intervention (PTI) program, according to the East Baton Rouge District Attorney. The length of the program varies according to the severity of the offense.

Such a program usually lasts between six months and two years. Engaging in a PTI or similar program requires the individual to pay an enrollment fee, typically between $500 and $2,000, participate in a substance abuse evaluation and recommended treatment. An individual may be required to take a driver improvement course, install an IID, complete community service, be subject to drug testing and attend a Mothers Against Drunk Driving victim panel. If the defendant successfully completes the program, the charge may be dismissed.

Home Incarceration for an OWI

An individual sentenced to home incarceration on probation for an OWI may be subject to electronic monitoring, curfew restrictions and at least one home visitation session a month, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 14:98.5. The court may also require the offender to get a job and participate in a driver improvement program. Further, the offender may be limited to participating only in these activities outside their home: work, religious services, substance abuse treatment group meetings and a driver improvement program.

Louisiana Sobriety/DWI Courts

In some parishes, Louisiana has Adult Drug Courts, while in other parishes, it has Sobriety/DWI courts, according to the Louisiana Specialty Court. These types of courts serve roughly the same function. A sobriety/DWI court is for offenders with multiple OWI convictions. Participants in a specialty court agree to intense supervision, and frequent and random drug testing. They must also attend a substance abuse treatment program and accept help with job placement, housing and education.

Louisiana’s Cleansing Period

Louisiana has a 10-year cleansing period, also known as a look-back period. A prior OWI conviction 10 years outside a current charge cannot count against the defendant to increase their penalties, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 14:98. Louisiana will count an out-of-state OWI, DWI, OUI, or DUI as a prior OUI if the law under which the individual was convicted is substantially the same as Louisiana’s OWI laws.

Louisiana DUI Laws for Drivers Under 21

Louisiana prohibits drivers under 21 from driving with a blood alcohol concentration between 0.02 percent and 0.079 percent, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 14:98.6. This type of offense is sometimes called UDUI, underage driving under the influence. A driver under 21 who is arrested while driving a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 percent can be charged by the arresting officer with a standard adult OWI.

Penalties for a first underage OWI include 10 days to three months jail, a fine of $100 to $250, 180-day driver’s license suspension and IID installation. If the driver is placed on probation, they must complete 32 hours of community service and participate in substance abuse treatment and a driver improvement program.

Penalties for a second underage OWI include 30 days to six months in jail and a fine of $250 to $500. If the driver is placed on probation, they must serve two days in jail or complete 80 hours of community service, as well as participate in a substance abuse program and a driver improvement program.

Chemical Test Refusal

Louisiana is a zero tolerance state that imposes penalties for refusing to consent to a chemical test, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 32:661. Penalties for refusal to take a breathalyzer test or chemical test for a standard OWI or an underage OWI include 10 days to six months of jail time and a fine between $300 and $1,000, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 14:98.7. The individual’s jail sentence will not be suspended unless they serve two days in jail and participate in a substance abuse program and a driver improvement program.

Alternatively, the individual can be placed on probation with the requirement that they perform 32 hours of community service, at least half of which consists of participation in a litter abatement or collection program. They must also participate in a substance abuse program and a driver improvement program.

Further penalties include one-year driver’s license suspension for a first offense, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 32:667. For a second or subsequent refusal, the individual will suffer a two-year driver’s license suspension for a refusal occurring within 10 years of the prior refusal date. An individual who had their driver’s license suspended for a first or second OWI, and either refused to submit to the test or took the test and had a BAC of less than 0.20 percent, shall be eligible for a restricted license once they have installed an IID. A restricted license is a license for an individual whose vehicle has been equipped with an IID.

Hardship Appeal of License Suspension

An individual can apply for an economic or medical hardship appeal of a driver’s license suspension, according to Louisiana Revised Statutes Section 32:415.1. This option is available if the Louisiana Office of Motor Vehicles does not grant the individual a regular restricted license. The individual should make this particular appeal in the district court of the parish in which they reside.

A condition of this hardship license is installation of an IID. An individual who is granted a restricted license because they made an economic or medical hardship appeal will be allowed to operate a motor vehicle to earn a livelihood or treat their medical condition.

Expungement of OWI Arrest Record

If an individual completed a pretrial intervention program for an OWI, they must wait five years from the date of their arrest to expunge the record of their arrest, according to Louisiana Code of Criminal Procedure (CCRP) Article 976. An individual with a misdemeanor OWI conviction must wait until five years after they have completed their sentence to apply for expungement, according to Louisiana CCRP Article 977. An individual with a felony OWI conviction must wait until 10 years after they have completed their sentence to apply for expungement under Louisiana CCRP Article 978.

Change of OWI Criminal Record

A first-time offender can change their criminal record to state they were found not guilty of an OWI under certain circumstances. The applicable statutes are CCRP Article 893 for a felony OWI and CCRP Article 894 for a misdemeanor OWI. In order to change their record, the individual must complete their probation, complete a drug or sobriety court program, not engage in future criminal conduct, pay court costs and file an affidavit of compliance with the clerk of court. An Article 893/894 change is different from an expungement because the arrest, conviction and acquittal remains visible on the individual’s record.