Louisiana prohibits driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, controlled substances, prescription medications, and even over-the-counter medications. This article explains the laws and defenses related to drugged driving as well as possible penalties.
Louisiana's impaired driving laws prohibit operating while intoxicated (OWI), sometimes called "driving under the influence" (DUI). For purposes of the state's OWI laws, intoxication means impairment, however slight, of the driver's ability to operate a motor vehicle.
The prosecution must prove actual impairment. Unlike some other states, Louisiana doesn't have a per se limit on drug metabolites (similar to the .08% alcohol limit) for drivers. So, to convict a motorist of driving under the influence of drugs, the prosecutor must prove that the driver was intoxicated. To accomplish this, the prosecutor might rely on evidence such as blood test results, expert testimony, and the arresting officer's observations.
Impairing substances. A Louisiana OWI can be based on intoxication due to controlled substances (like heroin and cocaine), prescription or over-the-counter drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol. The fact that a driver had a valid prescription for a drug generally isn't a legal defense to an impaired driving charge. However, there's an exception to this rule if the driver can prove that the medication didn't have a warning against possible impairment or a warning against use with alcohol.
First offense. A first drugged driving offense will result in ten days to one year in jail, $300 to $1,000 in fines, and a one-year driver's license suspension. If the judge grants probation, the offender might be able to avoid all but 48 hours of jail and obtain a restricted license with an ignition interlock device (IID).
Second offense. A second drugged driving offense carries 30 days to six months in jail, $750 to $1,000 in fines, and a two-year license suspension. However, in cases where the judge grants probation, the jail time can be reduced to 48 hours and the driver is generally eligible for a restricted license.
Refusal. Drivers who refuse to submit to a chemical test in violation of Louisiana's implied consent laws will face licenses suspension. This suspension is separate from the criminal penalties, but a restricted license is generally still available.