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What is a DWI?

DWI in Louisiana Explained

When it comes to states with the most DUI or DWI arrests, Louisiana is somewhere in the middle of the pack. Not the worst state for driving under the influence but not the best either. 

However, if you’ve been arrest for a DWI, it doesn’t really matter how many people face legal trouble for this offense. You’re most likely concerned with understanding what you are arrested for and charged with and how to defend yourself. 

So what is a DWI exactly? Is it the same as a DUI? Read on to learn more about this offense, the possible penalties you may face in Louisiana, and what to do if you’re facing a DWI charge.

What is a DWI? 

Before we go any further, let’s get to the question of the hour: what exactly is a DWI? When you think of getting into legal trouble for drinking and driving, you most likely hear the term “DUI” or driving under the influence. A DWI is the exact same thing. 

The only difference between DWI and DUI is the terminology used. While DUI stands for “driving under the influence”, DWI stands for “driving while intoxicated.” In Louisiana, these offenses are the same thing. 

The state of Louisiana defines driving while intoxicated as the following: 

Operating any motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, vessel, or other means of conveyance when:

  • The operator is under the influence of alcohol
  • The operator’s BAC is 0.08 or more 
  • The operator is under the influence of a controlled substance that is listed in Schedule I, II, III, IV, or V of the Louisiana state statutes
  • The operator is under the influence of a combination of alcohol and legally obtainable prescription drugs (with or without a prescription)

Essentially, if you are driving anything in the state and are under the influence, you can be arrested and charged with DWI, whether you have a driver’s license or not. 

DWI Penalties

The penalties for DWI increase in several different situations, including when your blood alcohol is over .15 or over .20 and if it is a subsequent DWI offense. The more impaired you are (based on BAC) and the more previous offenses you’ve had, the tougher your penalty will be. 

No matter if its your first offense or fifth, DWIs are extremely expensive

First Offense DWI

Your first DWI offense in Louisiana is a misdemeanor offense. Potential penalties include a fine between $300 and $1,000, 10 days to 6 months in jail, up to two years of probation, community service hours, and participation in a court-approved substance abuse program and a driver impairment program.  

There are also enhanced penalties for having a BAC between .15 and .19. If your BAC is within this range, you will receive an additional 48 hours of jail time.

If your BAC is over .20, you will receive a mandatory sentence of at least 48 hours in jail, a fine between $750 and $1,000, and an ignition interlock device that requires you to blow into a device that tests your breath for alcohol before you can drive your car. You’ll have to have this device installed for 12 months. 

Second Offense DWI

Your second DWI offense is also a misdemeanor, but the penalties start increasing. The fine can be between $750 and $1,000, jail time is 30 days to six months, probation is up to 6 months (but 48 hours must be served in jail), you will have to complete 240 hours of community service, participate in substance abuse and driver impairment programs, and may have to have an ignition interlock device. 

Like first offense DWIs, penalties also increase for a BAC over .15. If your BAC is over .15, then you must serve 96 hours in jail. If it is over .20, then you must serve 96 hours in jail, pay a $1,000 fine, and your license is suspended for four years, and once you get it back, you must install an ignition interlock device for three years.

Third Offense DWI

Your third DWI offense is going to be upgraded to a felony. As a result, your penalties are going to be stiffer, including a fine up to $2,000, one to five years imprisonment, up to five years of probation (one year must be served in jail), community service, and impairment education programs.

You’ll also have to undergo a substance abuse evaluation and complete substance abuse treatment for four weeks, potential forfeiture of your vehicle, and an ignition interlock device on any vehicles that you have access to and drive.

Fourth and Subsequent DWI

Your fourth DWI (and any you get after that) also are felonies. The penalties include a fine of $5,000, a minimum of ten years in prison (with a maximum of 30 years), up to five years of probation, 320 hours of community service, substance abuse evaluation and treatment, and forfeiture of the vehicle you were driving at the time of the DWI. 

If you have a child in the car, are under the age of 21, or have a CDL license, your DWI penalties will be more severe for all DWI offenses. For example, if you have a child under the age of 12 in the car at the time of the DWI, you are almost guaranteed time in jail. 

Contact a DWI Lawyer

Now that you can answer “what is a DWI?”, if you are faced with DWI charges, you know how serious the penalties can be. Don’t try to navigate the criminal justice system on your own. A DWI can have life-altering penalties, including jail or prison time, large fines, license suspensions, and court-ordered substance abuse treatment. 

If you are in need of an attorney, contact the Barkemeyer Law Firm. We focus on DWI cases.

Carl Barkemeyer wrote the published book on DWI: Practical Information for the Accused and Attorneys in Louisiana. He regularly gives lectures and advice to other attorneys regarding how to successfully defend clients for DWI.

Louisiana DWI & Criminal Lawyers

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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, and all of Louisiana.

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

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