What Is Considered a Felony OWI in Louisiana?

The different types of impaired driving offenses in Louisiana that can lead to felony charges.

Similar to other states, Louisiana prohibits operating while intoxicated (OWI), sometimes called "driving under the influence" (DUI). The offense is defined as operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more, while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, or while under the influence of alcohol and prescription drugs. A Louisiana OWI is generally a misdemeanor but can also be a felony. This article outlines the factors that can lead to a felony charge as well as the possible penalties of a conviction.

Habitual Offender Felony OWI

A third or subsequent OWI offense in a ten-year period will be a felony. Prior convictions include many out-of-state convictions as well as offenses like vehicular homicide and vehicular negligent injury.

A third-offense felony OWI is punishable by one to five years in jail, a $2,000 fine, and vehicle forfeiture. The judge can grant probation unless the OWI involved an injury accident or a child passenger. Felony OWI probation generally requires completion of:

  • one year in jail or completion of the drug division probation program
  • 240 hours of community service
  • a driver improvement program
  • a 36-month license suspension
  • four weeks of inpatient substance abuse treatment, and
  • up to 12 months of outpatient substance abuse treatment.

A higher BAC can lead to longer license suspension periods, but offenders are generally eligible for a hardship license after installing an ignition interlock device.

Felony Charges for OWIs Involving Injuries and Deaths

Aside from the penalties resulting from an OWI charge, an OWI that involves injuries or deaths can lead to other felony charges.

Fatalities. Causing a fatality while impaired is considered vehicular homicide. This offense carries a $2,000 to $15,000 fine and five to 30 years in prison. The offender must serve at least three years in prison before probationary release. And, if the offender had a BAC of .15% or more or had a prior OWI offense, at least five years in prison must be served before release. Injuring another with a BAC of .20% or more is considered a "crime of violence" and carries enhanced penalties. Each victim—including unborn children—will result in separate, consecutive penalties.

Injuries. Causing a serious injury while OWI is considered first-degree negligent injury and carries up to $2,000 in fines and up to five years in prison.

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