In a state where drive-thru daiquiri shops abound, it might seem odd to have to discuss drunk driving. Despite the seemingly lax view that drive-thru alcoholic beverages might conjure up, Louisiana frowns upon drunk driving. The penalties and stigma of drunk driving charges in Louisiana are good reasons for drivers to think twice before getting behind the wheel of a car after drinking at a parade, a cochon de lait, a tailgating party, or a house party.
The blood-alcohol concentration percentage of drivers who are thought to have consumed alcohol play a big part in the severity of consequences in Louisiana. A BAC of .08 percent or more is the threshold for drivers who are at the legal drinking age or above. The threshold for underage drivers is .02 percent and the threshold for commercial drivers is .04 percent. Consequences are more severe for drivers who have a BAC of .15 percent or more, and even more severe for those with a BAC of .20 percent or more.
Note that the time of the police stop and arrest is important. You have the right to call a lawyer before you answer any questions. You do not have a right to call a lawyer before you decide whether to submit to a field sobriety test or a breath alcohol test. However, you can always ask.
Drunk driving penalties in Louisiana include jail sentences, license suspension, fines, community service, alcohol assessments and treatments, ignition interlocks, and vehicle impounding. A first offense drunk driving conviction means a 90-day license suspension, a $1,000 fine, two days to six months in jail, and a possible ignition interlock device. A second conviction within 10 years, which is the washout period in the state, results in a one-year license suspension, 30 days to six months in jail, and a $1,000 fine.
A third offense and a fourth offense results in a two-year license suspension. Jail time for a third offense is 45 days to five years, while a fourth offense results in a 75 day to 30-year sentence. Ignition interlock device use is mandatory at third and fourth offenses. The fine for a third offense is $2,000 and for a fourth offense is $5,000.
Louisiana doesn’t have laws precluding defendants from being able to work with the prosecution for plea deals. These deals can include pleading guilty to reckless driving as a lesser alternative to drunk driving. It is up to the prosecutor to determine if a plea deal is acceptable for the case. Even then, it must ultimately be approved by the judge presiding over the case.
There are some instances in which pleading to a lesser charge isn’t possible. If a minor was in the car at the time of the traffic stop, if the BAC was elevated to .15 or .20 percent, or if there are prior convictions for drunk driving within the past decade, a plea deal usually isn’t possible.
Drunk driving convictions can affect a person’s employment, freedom, and finances. Consulting with a qualified drunk driving lawyer can help defendants to determine an appropriate course of action.