Louisiana’s Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties

Learn about the penalties for a first, second, and third OWI/DUI conviction in Louisiana.

Louisiana forbids a person from operating a motor vehicle, aircraft, or watercraft:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater.
  • while under the influence of any controlled substance
  • while under the influence of both alcohol and any legally obtainable drugs, or
  • while under the influence of alcohol.

A BAC-based OWI or “per se OWI,” does not require proof of actual impairment. But the volume of alcohol necessary to reach .08% can differ for different people.

Louisiana OWI Penalties

OWI sentences are based on the circumstances of the arrest and the number of prior offenses in the last ten years that the offender has. Certain serious traffic offenses like vehicular homicide or vehicular injury can increase OWI penalties.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense (felony)

Jail

10 days to 6 months

30 days to 6 months

1 to 5 years

Fines

$300 to $1,000

$750 to $1,000

$2,000

Ignition interlock device (IID)

Possible during probation

At least 6 months and during probation

During probation and treatment

Probation. Judges are authorized to suspend an OWI jail sentence and place the violator on supervised probation. However, offenders with two OWIs in one year or who were transporting a passenger under 13 years old are not eligible for a suspended jail sentence. Offenders who are granted probation must complete certain requirements.

  • First offense: 48 hours in jail or 32 hours of community service as well as completion of a substance abuse program and driver improvement program. House arrest is possible instead of actual time in jail.
  • Second offense: Driver improvement program, substance abuse program, and either 240 hours of community service and 48 hours jail or 15 days in jail. House arrest is possible instead of actual time in jail.
  • Third offense: One year in jail or drug division probation program, 240 hours community service, maintain employment, complete driver improvement program and treatment (four weeks inpatient and up to 12 months outpatient).

Excessive BAC. Drivers with a BAC of .15% or more must serve at least 48 hours in jail for a first offense and 96 hours in jail for a second offense. If the BAC was .20% or more, the driver must also pay a $750 to $1,000 fine, maintain an ignition interlock device for 12 months and serve a two-year driver’s license suspension. A second offense with a BAC of .20% or more also carries a $1,000 fine, a four-year license suspension, and a three-year IID requirement.

Forfeiture. A third OWI offense can result in the court ordering the driver’s vehicle to be seized and sold.

Driver’s License Sanctions

Every OWI conviction, chemical test refusal, and chemical test failure (a BAC of .08% or more) is reported to the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and can result in a license suspension. However, if a driver receives more than one suspension, they can generally overlap. In other words, the driver won’t have to complete both full suspension periods.

If the driver refuses or fails a test, the officer is supposed to immediately seize the driver’s license and issue a 30-day temporary license. Any request for a hearing to contest the suspension must be submitted within 30 days. After the 30 days, the DPS will suspend the driver’s license.

Failure. For a test failure of at least .08% but less than .20%, the DPS will impose:

  • First offense: 90-day suspension, hardship license available after 30 days of suspension.
  • Second offense in five years: 365-day suspension, no hardship license available.

For a first or second offense involving a BAC under .20%, the driver will immediately be eligible for an IID license.

A driver who had a BAC of at least .20% will be suspended for two years or four years if the driver had a prior violation. The driver will be eligible for a hardship license after installing an IID.

Test refusal. Louisiana’s “implied consent” laws require all drivers lawfully arrested for operating under the influence to submit to a breath, urine, or blood test. Drivers who refuse testing face immediate license seizure and a one-year suspension for the refusal. A driver with a prior refusal in the last ten years will be suspended for two years and must maintain an IID for six months. Unless the OWI involved injury or death, the suspended driver is immediately eligible for a hardship license after installing an IID.

A third chemical test refusal can result in $300 to $1,000 in fines and ten days to six months in jail. Offenders who are granted probation must serve at least two days in jail and complete 32 hours of community service and a driver improvement program.

The fact that a driver refused chemical testing can also be used by the prosecution to prove an OWI in court.

Conviction. Every driver who’s convicted of OWI will be suspended for the following periods.

  • First offense: 12 months with hardship license eligibility after providing proof of IID installation.
  • Second offense: 24 months with hardship license eligibility after completing 45 days of suspension and providing proof of IID installation.
  • Third offense: 36 months with hardship license eligibility after 12 months of suspension and providing proof of IID installation (or after completing 45 days of the suspension if the driver is enrolled in sobriety program).
  • First offense with BAC of .20% or more: Two-year suspension with a hardship license available after providing proof of IID installation.
  • Second offense with BAC of .20% or more: Four-year suspension with a hardship license available after 45 days of suspension and providing proof of IID installation (must maintain IID for at least three years).

Hardship license. A driver whose license is suspended due to an OWI conviction, test failure, or test refusal can apply or petition the court for a hardship license. The driver must prove driving is necessary for his or her livelihood or treatment. The hardship license allows the motorist to drive to and from only certain places (like work and school) and may require an IID.

Restricted license. Drivers suspended due to an OWI conviction are often eligible for an IID restricted license. This license may still have travel limitations and can be used only in a vehicle equipped with an IID.

Underage OWI

Drivers who are under 21 years old with a BAC of .02% to .08% are subject to the state’s underage OWI penalties.

First offense. A violator with no priors will face a $100 to $250 fine and ten days to three months jail. Offenders who are granted probation must complete at least 32 hours of community service, substance abuse treatment, and a driver improvement program.

Second offense. A second or subsequent underage OWI will result in a $250 to $500 fine and 30 days to six months jail. Offenders who are granted probation must serve two days in jail or 80 hours of community service, complete a substance abuse program, and a complete a driver improvement program. The judge can also order the offender to maintain an IID during the probation period.

Driver’s license. The driver’s license will be suspended for 180 days.

Implied consent. Under Louisiana’s implied consent law, any minor driver who an officer reasonably believes to have consumed alcohol must submit to a chemical test. An unlawful refusal will result in a one-year suspension for a first offense and a two-year suspension for a second offense.

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