dwi first offense louisiana

First Offense DWI in Louisiana: Ultimate Guide

As you know, Louisiana DWI first offense charges and LA DWI laws can be harsh! This guide will teach you important information and things you should be aware of when charged with DWI in the state of Louisiana.

First-Offense DWI in Louisiana

Have you been arrested for a Louisiana DWI first offense? Read on to learn exactly what you can expect to happen. In addition to first offense charges, we will also look at what will happen if you’ve been arrested multiple times.

Arrested For Driving While Intoxicated In Louisiana: What You Need To Know

Can I Drive?

The first concern you may have after getting arrested for DWI is, “Can I drive?” The answer is yes – you can drive legally for 30 days after the date of the arrest for DWI in Louisiana.

The officer should have given you a temporary license which is a regular sheet of paper. It may say “Official Notice of Withdrawal of Driving Privileges.” Keep that on you at all times.

Why Did the Officer Take My Driver’s License?

Many people often wonder why an officer might take their license when pulled over for a DWI. The simple answer is that the police officer took your driver’s license to protect you. However, we know that it doesn’t feel this way in the case of a DWI arrest!

An officer will take your license because:

  • you may have refused to take a breathalyzer test
  • you tested above the legal limit
  • you’ve been arrested for DWI

Either way, you are facing a suspension of your driveling privileges. The next step from here is to request an Administrative Hearing to fight the proposed suspension. Please be aware that you have 30 days to make that request. This is why you can drive legally for 30 days as we mentioned previously.

IMPORTANT TO NOTE: When you hire a DWI lawyer such as the Barkemeyer Law Firm, he or she will take care of requesting and attending the hearing for you. It really pays off to hire an attorney. In doing so, you won’t have to worry and will have a better outcome in the end!

If you have not requested the Administrative Hearing by the end of the 30 day period, your license will automatically go into suspension. If you’re caught driving a vehicle at that time, you could be facing a Driving Under Suspension charge. That charge carries a one-year suspension of your driver’s license which will complicate your issues even more!

Driver’s License Suspension for First-Offense DWI in Louisiana

Reminder to all SEO content writers for other lawyers: Do NOT copy the information below and put on your attorney-client’s website as if they wrote it. This is unique content, written by Carl Barkemeyer. It is copyright content.

Losing your driver’s license is one of the most impactful consequences of a DWI. This is often the most confusing aspect of a DWI. These laws change all the time. However, I will describe the most common scenarios for someone who was arrested for DWI first offense. These laws apply only to Louisiana.

The most important concept to understand is that you can lose your driver’s license after a DWI arrest in two ways. First, the DMV can suspend your license for refusing the chemical tests and/or submitting over the limit. Second, you may be facing a suspension if you are convicted of the DWI in criminal court. Let’s break it down:

Refusing the Chemical Test (Breathalyzer, Blood, Urine)

  • If this is your first refusal and nobody was injured, your license could be suspended for 1 year.
  • If this is your first refusal and someone was injured or killed, your license could be suspended for 1 year.

DWI First Offense With Prior Arrests

In some instances, the defendant could be charged with DWI first offense even though he/she has been arrested for DWI before. This happens when the first DWI arrest results in a dismissal or no-bill due to the completion of a diversion program or other way.

  • If this is your second refusal, your license could be suspended for 2 years.
  • If this is your second refusal and someone was injured or killed, your license could be suspended for 2 years.

Submitting to the Breathalyzer or Other Chemical Tests

If you submitted to a breath, urine, or blood test and your blood alcohol content was over the legal limit, you will be facing a driver’s license suspension as follows:

  • If this is your first submittal over the limit, you are 21 years old or older, and your blood alcohol content was .08 – .149, then you are looking at a 90-day suspension.
  • For all ages, if this is your first submittal over the limit, and your blood alcohol content was over .149, then you are looking at a 2 -year suspension. This law changed recently in August 2023. It has not been updated on the DMV’s website.
  • If this is your first submittal over the limit, you are under 21 years, and your blood alcohol content was .02 – .149, then you are looking at a 6-month suspension.

Keep in Mind

The time period above are what the law provides in black and white. The time periods are not negotiable with the DMV like sentences can be in a criminal court with a judge.

Nevertheless, just because you refused the breathalyzer or submitted over the limit, does NOT mean you’re driver’s license will get suspended. Our DWI lawyers are very good at finding technical defenses to the case, if one exists. Be sure to hire us soon after the arrest so we can request the Administrative Hearing and try to fight the proposed suspension. Remember, you are not a lawyer. Just because you think you have no case does not mean we think that.

Bail Amount for DWI First Offense

The bail for DWI first offense in is usually set by a judge. However, the amount that is set can be according to a scheduled bail.  We know this can be confusing. Just keep reading to learn everything!

In essence, the amount of a person’s bail will depend upon the parish where the DWI arrest took place.  Many times, the bail is set around $2500 for a DWI first offense. However, you can hire a bail bondsman to put up the bond for a reduced amount.

Helpful Fact: Typically, a bail bondsman will take only 10-12% of the bail amount. This amount covers his fee for putting up the entire amount. Learn more.

Louisiana DWI law and facts
DWI facts

What Does It Take to Get Charged with a Louisiana DWI First Offense?

Let’s go over some of the laws around getting charged with driving while intoxicated in Louisiana. Whether you live in LA or somewhere else, we know this will be super helpful!

Determining BAC

BAC, or blood alcohol content, is a term used for the way that Law Enforcement measures the amount of alcohol in your system. A person’s BAC is determined through a variety of different methods. 

Some of the methods used to determine BAC include:

  • field sobriety tests
  • blood samples
  • breathalyzer tests

The Implied Consent law means if you have a license from Louisiana, you’ve consented to these tests. Refusing a sobriety test will result in the loss of your driving privileges in Louisiana.

However, alcohol in the blood is not the only way someone gets a DWI. The officer can make an arrest for DWI if he believes the defendant is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. Alcohol in the blood is not even required to prove DWI, but it is a strong piece of evidence for the prosecutor.

Legal Blood Alcohol Limit In Louisiana

In Louisiana, anything 0.08% or above is presumed intoxication for those ages 21 and up. For those younger than 21, 0.02% is illegal.

What happens when you get your first DWI in Louisiana?

Whether you are hit with a DWI charge in Louisiana or any other state, your first DUI charge will be considered a misdemeanor offense. Your first DWI may have you punished with fines, community service, license suspension, and possible probation.

However, other factors can change the level or nature of your charge resulting in enhanced sentences or penalties.

Take a quick look at the DWI process in Louisiana in the helpful infographic below! We know you will find it super helpful in explaining your first offense charges.

what happens when you get a dwi in louisiana
The process when you get a DWI in Louisiana.

Penalties for DWI First Offense in Louisiana

Penalty for DWI First Offense in Louisiana

Generally, a Louisiana DWI first offense is called a “misdemeanor.” A DWI, which is often called an OWI or a DUI, is a misdemeanor in Louisiana that carries a maximum penalty of six (6) months in jail. In addition to the jail time, you could get a fine of up to $1000.00. Furthermore, the crime has implications on your driver’s license and may cause a suspension of driving privileges.

The penalty upon conviction of a first DUI offense in Louisiana:

Fines: $300 to $1,000 fine ($750 to $1,000 if BAC 0.20 or more)

Jail time: 10 days to 6 months in jail.

Drivers License Suspension: 12 months drivers license suspension (2 years if BAC 0.15 or more).

In addition, it’s possible for a first offender to receive 48 hours to six months in jail. 

DWI penalties also include:

  • Offenders could end up spending over 6 months in prison and/or be ordered to pay a fine of $300 to $1,000. The jail sentence may be suspended if the offender is placed on probation and completes a minimum of 32 hours of community service, 48 hours of jail time, take part in a substance abuse program that has been recommended by the court, and takes part in a proper driver improvement program or course. During this period of time, the court may order an offender not to drive a car except on the condition that an ignition interlock has been installed in the vehicle.
  • Offenders could get one to two years of probation, and in that period of time, they may or may not be allowed to drive their vehicles, unless with a hardship license.
  • The court may order the offender to take part in re-education programs. Attendance in these three programs is mandatory, and the offender is made to take an active part. The programs may include driver improvement program, substance abuse, and MADD victim program.
  • The community service offenders may be ordered to complete 16 hours of litter detail. This is not negotiable.

Special Penalties

  • If it is discovered that the BAC level of an offender is 0.15% or above, then the offender would have to serve an additional 48 hours of jail time which unlike the other one mentioned earlier cannot be suspended for any reason.
  • In the event that the BAC level is 0.20% or above, the offender would have to spend 48 hours in jail and would be made to pay a fine of about $750 to over $1,000. Also, an ignition interlock system would have to be installed in the vehicle of the offender for two years.
  • If it is found out that a child endangerment law has been violated, a number of the jail sentences that have been listed cannot be suspended.


dwi first offense in Louisiana
DWI first offense in Louisiana

How long do you go to jail for DWI in Louisiana?

For first offense DWI, a judge may sentence you to 6 months in parish jail. However, the judge usually suspends that time and places convicted defendants on probation for one to two years.

The Louisiana law provides that 48 hours of that time cannot be suspended. This is unless the defendant does 32 hours of community service, half of which must be litter abatement.

For second offense DWI, the 6-month sentence is the same. The only difference is that there is a minimum mandatory 30 days in jail, which really is a big deal! This jail time can be suspended if the defendant completes 240 hours of community service. However, it’s important to note that the defendant must serve 48 hours in jail on second-offense DWI in Louisiana.

Jail Time for Blowing Over .15

Louisiana law provides that if the defendant blows .15 or above, the judge must order at least 2 days in jail. Therefore, you could go to jail for DWI first offense for at least 2 days if you blew .15 BAC or above. Bear in mind, this law is applied differently in every jurisdiction. Every case, defendant, facts, judge are different. We try to keep our clients from doing the 2 days in jail where possible. If it is impossible to avoid, we will ask the judge to consider home incarceration or allow our clients to do the 2 days in jail on the weekend.

What Is the Cleansing Period for DUI?

Generally, according to Louisiana DUI laws, there is what is referred to as the “DWI cleansing period.” This is a ten-year period which means that all DWI convictions within and outside Louisiana that are ten years old cannot and would not be used against the offender. The ten-year period starts when probation or the sentence ends from the previous conviction up until the date of arrest for the new DWI charge.

For instance, if you were convicted of a previous DWI on January 1, 2012 and received probation that ended January 1, 2014, then any new DWI you received until January 1, 2024 could be used against you.

Important Fact: The ten-year period starts from the date of arrest of the current DWI and goes back to when the defendant completed probation or parole on previous DWI conviction.

DWI 10 year cleansing period
Louisiana has a 10-year cleansing period for DWI convictions.

Violation of the Child Endangerment Law

This Louisiana DWI laws on child endangerment clearly states that if the passenger in the vehicle is a minor between the ages of twelve (12) or below when the driving while intoxicated crime is committed, sentence suspension cannot work. This basically means that offenders would have to complete their jail sentence if a minor is a passenger in the vehicle when the crime was committed. Therefore, even for DWI first offense, you may have to serve 30 days in jail if a child was present during the stop. We try to get the prosecutor to not apply the child endangerment statute whenever possible.

Louisiana DWI First Offense: License Hearing Process

The hearing process is quite straightforward in Louisiana just like most other states. First, the evidence against you that has been forwarded to the department would be carefully reviewed by the judge. The officer would also be present at the hearing as he or she would be called upon to testify. Hiring a well-trained and experienced DWI lawyer would ensure that you’re case is presented in the best light favorable to you.

Once the evidence presented has been carefully reviewed by the hearing officer, he or she will decide as to whether the evidence that has been provided by the arresting officer is valid. If on the other hand, the evidence presented by your defense attorney is valid, then your driver’s license would be reinstated immediately. If after careful consideration by the hearing officer and the evidence presented by the arresting officer is valid, you may be required to apply for a Louisiana hardship license. You will have to meet the stipulated requirements during the 30-day period. Offenders that are granted a hardship license would be required by the court to install an ignition interlock system on their vehicles. As an offender, you are responsible for the cost of installing and also maintaining the ignition interlock system. It is important that you bear in mind that you will be required by law to hire the services of a professional ignition interlock installation company to carry out the job.

Louisiana DWI And Commercial Driving

If you are driving a commercial vehicle and it is discovered that your blood alcohol level (BAC) level is about 0.04% or higher, you will be arrested and charged with DWI law violation. Basically, Louisiana DWI laws state that commercial drivers are not required to have a BAC level of 0.04 or higher. If as a commercial driver, it is discovered that your BAC level is greater than the legal percentage, the arresting officer will immediately issue you an out-of-service order which will see you not being able to drive for a day.

Louisiana DWI and CDL License
Louisiana DWI and CDL License

If on the other hand, it is discovered that you are guilty of driving while intoxicated with a BAC level of 0.4% or greater, your commercial driver’s license would be revoked for twelve months. If it is discovered that you are transporting hazardous materials, your CDL or commercial driving license would be revoked for three years. Commercial drivers that are arrested for a second DWI offense would have their commercial driving license revoked for life. This basically means that they would no longer work as commercial drivers.

Commercial Drivers

Commercial drivers are at risk of losing their job if charged with a DWI case for the second time. Aside from the fact that you could spend years in jail, you may be required by the court to pay a fine. As mentioned earlier, you could be made to pay over $5,000 depending on the number of times you have violated the Louisiana DWI law.

DWI Under 21

If you are 21 years of age and have been charged with an underage DWI case with a BAC level of 0.02% or greater, your license would be seized and suspended for about 180 days. If you are charged with a Louisiana DWI case while still under 21 for the second time, your license would be suspended for 365 days which is a year. If on the other hand, it is discovered that your blood alcohol concentration level is about 0.08% or higher, you will be made to face the penalties individuals over 21 years of age will face.

underage dwi
Underage DWI in Louisiana

DWI Blood Test

According to the laws of the state, an officer of the law can only draw blood for a BAC test if they have a warrant to do so. Also, they can request to draw your blood for a chemical test if there are serious bodily injuries that are in connection to the DWI case. Blood can also be drawn if you give them the opportunity to do so. This basically means that except on the condition that there are bodily injuries, a police officer would need to have a warrant before he or she is able to draw blood to carry out a test.

Impact a DWI Conviction Can Have on You

While we have discussed some of the penalties that you could face if you are charged with a first DWI offense, it is important that you bear in mind that a DWI conviction can have a negative impact on your professional and personal life. First, it is important that you remember that your information and crime could be published in newspapers. Basically, each week prisons in Louisiana release a list of new inmates to newspapers. With your personal information published in these newspapers, you could bury your chances of getting that dream job. Generally, no employer would love to hire an ex-convict. Things could go from bad to worse if you are the breadwinner of the family. Irrespective of the time spent in jail, your image is tarnished. Even if you are retained at your current job, your chances of getting that promotion you deserve become narrow.


If you are planning on applying for insurance coverage, you will find it surprising to know that they are able to access criminal records and driving records. This means that getting a DWI first offense could ruin your chance of getting decent insurance. Insurance companies are private companies. They can terminate a policy at will due to your DWI arrest. They can also increase the premiums if they think you are a more risky driver. If you are convicted of DWI or refused the breathalyzer, you would be required to obtain additional insurance coverage called SR-22, even for DWI first offense.

Workplace Consequences of a DWI in Louisiana

DWI (also known as a DUI in some states) can get you in a lot of trouble. Jail time, fines, and community service are standard punishments for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Being convicted of a DWI can leave a pretty nasty mark on your professional record and harm your future employment opportunities. Depending on the number of offenses, a DWI conviction can be classified as a misdemeanor or a felony. Any number of offenses, however, can permanently affect your life in many negative ways:

1) Immediate termination: Depending on who you work for, you may be fired immediately upon conviction of first-offense DWI. Not every company does this, of course, but it is a concern, especially if you wish to move to higher ranks in your company. The CEO of a company getting a DWI would surely reflect very poorly on the business.

2) License Suspension: In most states, your driver’s license will be suspended upon conviction of a Louisiana DWI. Many states do allow exemptions for driving to/from work, but this cannot be counted on in every case. Public transportation may not be reliable or even available, creating major problems for you in your workplace.

3) Loss of Car Insurance: Your insurance company may not cover people with DWI’s on their record. This can have an impact on your career, especially if you are required to operate heavy machinery while on the job. Even if your insurance is not terminated, it will surely become more expensive. This all becomes even more inconveniencing if you are covered by an employer’s company insurance. Their insurance may also increase, causing them to have to either pay more or fire you.

4) Loss of a professional license: Professional licensing agencies must be alerted upon arrest for a 1st DWI. Professional licenses include those given to doctors, lawyers, nurses, etc. Losing a license like this will surely lead to getting fired.

5) Applying for a new job: Most job applications require the disclosure of any previous arrests. This will surely tarnish your application and you will likely be eked out by a candidate who doesn’t have any previous arrests. A first-offense DWI will stay on your record for many years, the length depending on the state in which it was issued.

What’s the difference between DUI and DWI in Louisiana?

DWI and OWI are the same charge in Louisiana. They stand for Driving While Intoxicated and Operating While Intoxicated. The actual true name of the charge in Louisiana is Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated which is found under La RS 14:98. The DWI statute involves driving while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. DWI first and second offense are misdemeanors. DWI third offense and fourth and subsequent offenses are felony charges. Read more.


Does DUI affect credit score?

Although a DUI conviction tends to affect many things in your life, a DUI conviction or arrest should not affect your credit score. Usually it will not show up on a credit report, as a conviction stays on your criminal record.


Does DUI ruin your life?

A DUI does not have to ruin your life. If you get a DWI lawyer, fight your case, make good decisions and negotiate a good deal, you may be able to go on with your life with relatively little change. If your lawyer can win your case or get the charges dropped, you won’t even have a DUI conviction on your record.

Louisiana DWI Expungement

Generally, a Louisiana DWI expungement means that the arrest and/or conviction has been removed from the public view. While most people believe that an expungement will take off their criminal history, it is important that you remember that security agencies, employers, and other agencies may look at the history to find the crime that was committed. Banks, employers, as well as professional licensing companies, require individuals to provide or present documents of convictions prior to this time. If an offender has been given an expungement file, the employer or educational institute may him or her to provide their expungement documents.

Not every first-offense DWI is eligible to be expunged. Eligibility is based on how the case was resolved. Some DWI cases result in a dismissal, and some by conviction. That is why it is very important to have a competent DWI attorney help you through this. DWI expungements don’t just happen after a case is over. You must file a Motion to Expunge, pay the filing fees, and wait several months if the judge grants it. This is a lengthy process.

What Should You Do If Convicted of DWI?

If you are convicted of a 1st offense DWI in Louisiana, be sure to successfully complete all of the required conditions of probation. Otherwise, the judge could order you to serve 6 months in parish jail. Also, pay your penalties and do your time. Classroom attendance is of utmost importance, so make it to every class. Finish your community service.

DWI Information

Given that every DWI case is different, it is not advisable to give a lot of weight to the information you read online about DWI. Most of what you read about DWI won’t even apply to your case. The information could be outdated, applicable to different state laws, written by bots, or written by an SEO content writer in India. We provide some information just to give you an idea of the issues in a DWI case. We advise you hire a DWI lawyer to give you any valuable advice. We offer paid consultations if you don’t or can’t hire a lawyer at this time but just need a little knowledge and advice for your specific case.

Steps After Arrest:  Learn about the DWI process and the various steps that should be taken.

Before Court:  Depending on your specific case, there may be things we can do now that will help the outcome in your case, such as evaluations and classes. Certainly, we must request the Administrative Hearing.

Hardship License:  You may be eligible to obtain a hardship license to continue driving.

Long Term Consequences:  DWI is not like a traffic ticket that you pay and be done with. It has lasting effects on your driving and criminal record that can affect your future.

Criminal Record:  It is important to protect your criminal record the best way possible.

DWI Expungement:  The expungement process is how we remove an arrest and/or conviction from your criminal record.

Employment Issues:  Some employers will not hire people with DWIs on their record.

DWI v. DUI:  They are essentially the same charge because they fall within the same statute.

Attorney Cost:  Our costs very from case to case.

Felony DWI:  DWI 3rd and 4th offense is a felony in Louisiana.

DWI Reductions/Dismissals:  We try to get the DWI either dismissed or reduced if possible. If we can’t, we try to get it so that an expungement can be filed eventually.

Penalties for DWI:  The penalties can include jail time, probation, community service, classes, treatment, license suspension, and more.

Louisiana DUI Attorney
Louisiana DUI Attorney

DWI Attorney In Louisiana

When charged with a first DWI in Louisiana, it is advised that you hire the services of a well-trained and experienced DWI attorney. One of the key factors to having a more positive outcome is having professional representation in court.

Most people that have refused to hire the services of a professional have suffered greatly. In the long run, most have spent and lost more than they envisaged. There are a number of reasons why you should hire the services of a DWI defense attorney. Here are a few:

  • A DWI attorney will ensure that you are represented in court. Before appearing in court, an experienced DWI defense attorney will gather crucial evidence on the case at hand.
  • As earlier mentioned, once you are arrested and charged with a DWI offense, you have 30 days to request for a hearing. Your Louisiana DWI attorney will certainly help you file this request and ensure that any penalties are limited.

Download our DWI Book

DWI: Practical Information for the Accused and Attorneys in Louisiana
DWI: Practical Information for the Accused and Attorneys in Louisiana

Published in June 2023, DWI: Practical Information for the Accused and Attorneys in Louisiana provides useful information to those who have been arrested for DWI in Louisiana, rather than the typical SEO-driven content found on the internet.  This book can be purchased in the Kindle format on Amazon. I provide a free copy to my clients after they hire me.

What To Look For In An Experienced DWI Attorney

An experienced Louisiana DWI defense attorney is one that has a number of years in the industry. He or she would be able to come up with a strategy to see acclaimed offenders free from all charges. While this isn’t something that happens all the time, it certainly is only possible when you hire an experienced lawyer. And these situations do occur from time to time.

If you have a family member or loved one that has a first offense DUI case, it is advised that you hire a defense attorney to handle the case. It is also advised that you tell the truth when you hire the services of a defense attorney.

You do not have to hide anything from your attorney. The information you divulge is confidential. Additionally, any information that is concealed may further narrow your chances of leaving the courtroom free and with your license reinstated.

Furthermore, it’s important to hire a first offense DUI attorney with courtroom tactics and strategies capable of turning the situation in your favor.

Reach out to the Barkemeyer Law Firm for a consultation. We will offer our informed idea of the criminal process in Louisiana and enable you to learn more about your Louisiana DWI first offense charges.


Louisiana DWI & Criminal Lawyers

criminal lawyer

Louisiana criminal lawyers and DWI attorneys at the Barkemeyer Law Firm providing legal defense services for clients in Baton Rouge, Ascension, Livingston, Tangipahoa, Port Allen, Alexandria, New Orleans, Lafayette, Metairie, Kenner, Gretna, Hahnville, Chalmette, Slidell, St. Tammany, St. Charles, St. John, St. Bernard, Mandeville, Covington, Shreveport, Bossier, Jefferson, Monroe, Lake Charles and all of Louisiana.

DISCLAIMER: The information on this website is not formal legal advice nor does it create an attorney-client relationship.

criminal defense law firm that accepts credit cards

Louisiana DWI And Criminal Law Firm

Barkemeyer Law Firm has multiple locations in Louisiana. Click Office Locations to find out which office is right for you.

© 2024 Barkemeyer Law Firm