You decided to get behind the wheel of a car after drinking too much alcohol. You caused an accident and got arrested. You learned later that the impact of your car against another caused someone to lose their life. Now you are facing charges of DWI and vehicular manslaughter.
Continue reading to learn what you need to know about facing charges following a DWI accident.
What Is a DWI?
Louisiana law defines a DWI as operating a motor vehicle, watercraft, or aircraft while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) for these charges is .08% or greater. Harsher DWI penalties stem from a BAC of greater than .15% or greater than .20%. This is known as enhanced punishments.
DWI vs DUI
In some states, there are separate charges for DUIs and DWIs. In Louisiana, they are both used in reference to driving while intoxicated or impaired. A DUI (Driving Under the Influence) refers to the driver’s behavior at the wheel while a DWI (Driving While Intoxicated) is the technical aspect of the impairment or blood alcohol content (BAC).
Even if the driver’s BAC is below the legal level to drive, they may still be driving recklessly.
What Are the Penalties for a DWI Accident?
It is possible to get charged with a misdemeanor or a felony. The penalty for DWI in Louisiana varies depending on how many previous DWI convictions you may have had in the past.
The first DWI offense is considered a misdemeanor conviction. The penalty for this defense includes a $300 to $1,000 fine, 10 to 180 days in jail, a maximum of two years probation, and 48 hours of community service (half of it garbage pickup). The suspension of your driver’s license will last for 12 months with a hardship license and an ignition interlocking device install.
For higher BACs, there are enhanced penalties. If you had a BAC of .15% or greater, you will have to serve an additional 48 hours of jail time. If it’s a BAC of .20% or higher, you will have to serve the additional 48 hours of incarceration, plus a higher fine ($750-1,000) and 12 months of having an ignition interlock device in any vehicle you drive.
Sometimes, additional charges can be added to your DWI. This includes having a DWI charge that involves a child endangerment violation.
A second DWI offense is also considered a misdemeanor. The penalty for the second defense is a $750 to $1,000 fine, 30 to 180 days in jail, 6 months of probation, and 240 hours of community service. Probation for this offense translates to 48 hours in jail, community service, and driving re-education.
Driver’s license suspension for a second offense is 24 months with a hardship license after a 45 suspension and an IID installation.
Re-education consists of participating in a court-approved substance abuse program with a driver education program. An IID can get added to your punishment for up to 6 months.
Testing for a higher BAC will add to the punishment. A BAC of .15% means that you will have a mandatory 96 hours in jail. A BAC of .20% or higher involves the mandatory 96 hours of jail time, $1,000 fine, 4-year driver’s license suspension, and 3 years with an ignition interlocking device.
Additional charges may be added to your DWI offense if negligent injury or vehicular homicide were a part of your DWI accident. Your charges might upgrade to a one to five year stay in prison, where six months are without parole. You may also have to pay a $2,000 fine on top of the original charge.
A third DWI offense is considered a felony. A felony conviction for a third DWI consists of:
- $2,000 fine
- One to five years in prison (one year without parole)
- Maximum 5 years on probation
- 240 hours community service
- Substance abuse evaluation
- Substance abuse treatment
- Home incarceration ( 6 months probation, 6 months house arrest)
- Forfeiture/seizure of your vehicle
- Ignition interlocking device on all owned vehicles
If child endangerment plays a factor in your arrest, you may face up to one year in jail without suspension.
A fourth DWI offense is also a felony. The possible penalties for a fourth offense are:
- $5,000 fine
- Minimum 10 years, maximum 30 years prison sentence
- Two year minimum without suspension or parole
- Up to five years of probation
- 320 hours of community service
- Substance abuse evaluation and treatment
- Up to one year of house arrest
There is a possibility that you will deal with the forfeiture/seizure of your vehicle. You may also face having an ignition interlocking device placed in all owned vehicles.
Things You Need to Know
You have the right to remain silent. Other than identifying information, you don’t have to say anything to the arresting police officer or anyone you might come into contact with before you’re released on bail or given the chance to talk to a DWI attorney.
When you get a driver’s license you agree to something known as implied consent. This means that an arrest following a DWI car accident drivers are required to submit to a chemical (breathalyzer, blood, urine) test to determine BAC. If you refuse to take the test, your license will automatically get revoked and then suspended for one year. It doesn’t matter what your BAC might’ve been.
Most Louisiana drivers can apply for a hardship license or a restricted license once their IID gets installed. This is a temporary driving privilege with special conditions while their driver’s license is suspended. It is only available when there is a need based on livelihood and treatment.
DUI/DWIs that you may have gotten in other states are upheld in Louisiana due to the Interstate Driver’s Compact.
How Can a DWI Lawyer Help?
There are several things that a DWI lawyer can help you with when you find yourself dealing with drunken driving charges.
A DUI lawyer can help to get charges dropped. We can help you get a not guilty ruling in court to avoid a conviction and a jail sentence. A criminal defense attorney, like Carl Barkemeyer, can help you to avoid having a misdemeanor or felony on your permanent record.
Hire a DWI Attorney Today
Louisana law only allows a DWI attorney to request a hearing to save your driver’s license from suspension for 15 days following a DWI accident. The sooner you hire an attorney to go over your case, the better off you will be.
Contact Carl Barkemeyer, Criminal Defense Attorney today to get started.