Louisiana First-Offense OWI/DWI

Fines, jail, and license-related penalties resulting from a first-offense OWI in Louisiana.

Louisiana law prohibits operation of a motor vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater
  • while "under the influence" of alcohol or controlled substances, or
  • while under the influence of alcohol and a legally-obtainable drug (over-the-counter or prescription medication).

An OWI (sometimes called a "DWI") is a first offense in Louisiana if the driver has no prior OWI convictions that occurred within the past ten years. However, some serious driving-related convictions (like vehicular homicide) can act as a prior offense and increase the penalties for an OWI conviction.

Criminal Penalties

A first offense OWI is typically a misdemeanor. A conviction is punishable by ten days to six months jail, but house arrest may be possible instead of jail time. The convicted person will also have to pay $300 to $1,000 in fines. However, a first-offense normally has a number of hidden costs that people sometimes don't think about.

Probation. The court can suspend part of the jail sentence and place the offender on probation. Suspended jail sentences are not available for OWIs involving injuries or passengers who are younger than 13 years old. If the court grants probation, the offender must:

  • serve 48 hours in jail or complete 32 hours community service
  • complete a court-approve substance abuse program, and
  • complete a driver improvement program.

Excessive BAC. An OWI conviction involving a BAC of at least .15% carries a minimum 48 hours in jail. A driver with a BAC of .20% or more must serve the 48 hours in jail, pay a fine of $750 to $1,000, and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) for 12 months after license reinstatement.

Driver's License Suspension

An OWI incident can lead to license suspension several different ways. But if a driver receives more than one suspension, the suspensions generally run concurrently. In other words, the driver won't have to deal with back-to-back suspensions.

Conviction. The Department of Public Safety receives notice when a motorist is convicted of a first OWI and will suspend the driver's license for 12 months. However, the driver is eligible for a restricted license after installing an ignition interlock device.

Test failure. If the driver had a BAC of .08% or more, the arresting officer is supposed to seize the driver's license and issue a 30-day temporary license. Any objection to the suspension must be made within 30 days of seizure. The driver's license will then be suspended for 90 days. After 30 days of suspension, the driver can apply for a hardship license. If the driver had a BAC of at least .20%, the driver's license will be suspended for two years, but the driver can apply for a hardship license after installing an IID.

Test refusal. Louisiana's "implied consent" laws require all drivers lawfully arrested for an OWI to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test. An unlawful refusal will result in the driver's license being immediately seized and suspended for one year. The driver can still apply for a hardship license unless the OWI involved bodily injury.

Hardship license. A suspended driver may be eligible to apply for a hardship license if the driver's needs a license his or her livelihood. The hardship license authorizes the holder to drive to and from work, school, and home and may require an IID.

Restricted license. Some drivers may be eligible for an IID restricted license. The license requires the use of an IID but normally comes with fewer restrictions.

If not already installed, the court will also order an IID for the duration of the probation period.

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