Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is among the most common criminal offenses in Louisiana. Some people commit a DWI without realizing it, possibly because they overestimate their own driving skill or underestimate the impact of alcohol on their bodies. Others may knowingly get behind the wheel after drinking and just hope that they don’t encounter law enforcement on the way home.
If you got arrested for an alleged DWI offense, you probably feel worried about the impact of those criminal charges on your life. Like in most states, drivers in Louisiana face increasing consequences if they have previous DWI charges on their record.
What are the penalties for a DWI conviction in Louisiana?
As long as you don’t cause any property damage or hurt anyone, a first DWI charge will likely be a misdemeanor offense. If you plead guilty or get convicted, the penalties you face will include a fine of between $300 and $1,000, between 10 days and six months in jail, as long as two years on probation, community service and possibly a driving course.
A second offense is also a misdemeanor, but it will carry more significant penalties. The fine increases to between $750 and $1,000, the minimum jail time increases to 30 days (although the maximum jail time is still six months) and community service requirements also increase.
Third and subsequent DWI charges are felony offenses. A third offense carries a $2,000 fine and up to five years in prison, as well as five years of probation and the potential for the forfeiture of your vehicle. A fourth offense can mean a fine of $5,000, between 10 and 30 years in jail, and 320 hours of community service.
Increasing penalties make DWI defense more critical
Whether you face a first or fourth impaired driving charge, mounting an adequate criminal defense may be the only thing that prevents the worst impacts of these allegations on your life, including incarceration and the stigma of a criminal record.
Depending on your circumstances, your defense could involve challenging the evidence, providing an alternate explanation for your behavior, such as medical conditions or even challenging the legality of the initial traffic stop. The situation and evidence will inform what strategy works for your case, and the sooner you get help, the easier building an adequate defense strategy will be.