Have you or a loved been arrested for driving while intoxicated (DWI) in New Orleans? It doesn't matter whether the New Orleans Police Department or the Louisiana State Police pulled you over, DWI cases generally follow a similar path through the court system in the "Big Easy." FindLaw has put together some information about a New Orleans DWI case including the law, potential criminal penalties and license suspensions.
New Orleans DWI Charges
You can find the DWI laws in Louisiana Revised Statute 14:98. It states that a DWI means you were operating a motor vehicle when under the influence of alcohol, or controlled dangerous substance drugs, or, when a person's blood-alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or greater.
Every case is different depending on the facts and circumstances. However, here are some standard penalties for a first-time alcohol or drug-related driving crime in Louisiana.
First-Time Louisiana DWI
A first-offense DWI is considered a misdemeanor with the following penalties:
- Up to six months imprisonment or a fine of $300 to $1,000
- 48 hours in jail
- Up to two years probation
- 30 hours of driver's education
- Community Service
- BAC over .15, then an additional 48 hours of the jail sentence;
- BAC over .20, then 48 hours of mandatory jail, plus a fine of $750 to $1,000, and an ignition interlock device must be installed for a period of 12 months
At the Scene
If a New Orleans police officer thinks you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol, he can ask you take a series of roadside tests. If you perform poorly on these tests, you'll be arrested and brought to jail.
Implied Consent and Refusal
In Louisiana, every driver has already given consent to give a blood or breathe sample if an officer suspects they are intoxicated. This is known as implied consent.
If you refuse to take the chemical test, your license will be suspended for 180 days; if you are stopped for suspicion of DWI/DUI and take the breath test and the results show a .08 percent or higher, your license will be suspended for 90 days. Your suspension will be automatic unless you've requested an administrative hearing with the DMV.
License Suspension: Act Fast
After a DWI arrest, you have only 15 days to ask for an administrative hearing from the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Once you request the hearing, the DMV will have to prove that the suspension is lawful before your license will be suspended. Missing this deadline will result in the automatic loss of your driving privileges for a minimum of 90 days -- without exception. What many people do not realize is that this suspension is entirely separate from the state's criminal proceeding and can take place even before being convicted of drunk driving.
This will be your first appearance whether it's a misdemeanor or a felony. The judge will inform you of the charges and set bail. She may impose additional conditions such as alcohol testing. You will enter a plea of not guilty, guilty, or no contest. You can hire a lawyer, represent yourself, or ask for a public defender. Finally, the judge will set a pretrial conference.
Pretrial Conference: Misdemeanor/ Felony
Pretrial conferences are where the plea negotiations take place. In a misdemeanor, it'll happen after the arraignment, but before trial. In a felony, they happen before the preliminary hearing. If your attorney and the prosecutor can't come to a compromise, you will have a trial. The prosecutor must prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury of twelve people.
Remember, if you've been arrested for a DWI you can expect a number of serious penalties. Before making any decisions, you should at least consider speaking with a New Orleans criminal defense attorney to discuss your options.