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.
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:
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.