Louisiana DUI and DWI

Baton Rouge DUI, DWI and OWI Attorneys

DUI, DWI, or OWI offenses can occur on the most unsuspecting nights.  Many people are not aware of the amount of alcohol that equals the legal limit of .08 blood alcohol content, but it is often much lower than you suspect.  For many women, simply having more than one drink can put you over the limit.  However, it is important to recognize that a DUI or DWI charge against you is not a conviction and there are still steps you can take to prevent it from remaining on your record.  Contact an experienced Baton Rouge DUI Lawyer at Rusty Messer & Associates for a legal consultation and professional legal protection if you or a loved one have been accused of a DUI or DWI.

DUI OR DWI LAWS IN LOUISIANA

Driving or operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated is a crime. This is true for every state in America, and for most countries of the world.  Louisiana law defines operating while intoxicated, or “OWI”, as operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration greater than .08 if you are over 21 years old, greater than .02 if you are under 21 years old, or if you are under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance with or without a prescription.

The laws are so strict because of the undeniable dangers of drunk driving. In 2017, nearly 11,000 people were killed in alcohol-related traffic accidents. This amounts to one American death every 48 minutes. Out of all traffic fatalities, roughly one-third are due to drivers being impaired from alcohol consumption.

If you have been arrested for DWI or DUI contact our Baton Rouge DUI law firm now.

What are the Two Classifications of Drunk Driving?

There are two classifications of drunk driving recognized in all 50 states, both statutory offenses.

The first is the original offense, known variably as driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while intoxicated or Impaired (DWI). This offense depends only upon the observations of the officer making the traffic stop. If the driver’s actions or control of the vehicle appear to be impaired, if the driver is slurring their speech, or if the driver fails a roadside sobriety test, then they can be charged with a DUI or DWI, no matter what their BAC.

The second classification of alcohol-impaired driving is a legal presumption that someone is intoxicated. This means that the driver was operating the vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. This offense has been applicable in Louisiana and all other states since 2002. A driver who is showing no signs of being physically impaired can still be charged because of their BAC.

If you have been accused of driving under the influence, hiring a skilled Baton Rouge DUI attorney at our firm can help protect your rights.

When a driver is pulled over by police for suspicion of driving under the influence in Louisiana, he or she may face a variety of penalties. If the driver’s BAC is above the legal limit or if they refuse to take a breathalyzer test, they can be arrested immediately. A first-time offender who is convicted of a DWI or DUI faces fines, possible jail time, and possible revocation of their driver’s license for up to one year. They must also get treatment or take alcohol education courses and have an ignition interlock device installed in their car.

With second and third convictions, the fines grow steeper, the jail time grows longer, and the period of time for which a license is revoked can be increased drastically. Third and fourth offenses are considered felonies in Louisiana and have mandatory jail time requirements. Commercial drivers who have more than one DWI may be permanently disqualified from having a CDL.

When you hire a skilled Baton Rouge DUI lawyer, your chances of minimizing the penalty or even keeping your record clean are exponentially higher. Call us and tell us about your particular case and we will tell you how we can help.

PUNISHMENTS AND PENALTY RANGES

Punishment ranges for DWI convictions vary dramatically based on prior DWI convictions as listed below:

  • First Offense: 10 days to six months in jail, which may be suspended in lieu of 48 hours in jail or 32 hours of community service, participation in a court approved substance abuse program and driver improvement program, installation of an ignition interlock device, a fine of $300 – $1,000, and other mandatory jail time requirements depending on the level of your BAC.
  • Second Offense: 30 days to six months in jail, which may suspended in lieu of 48 hours mandatory jail time, serving 15 days in jail or performing 240 hours of community service, participation in a court approved substance abuse program and driver improvement program, installation of an ignition interlock device, a fine of $750 – $1,000, and other mandatory jail time requirements depending on the level of your BAC.
  • Third Offense: One year to five years in jail and a fine of $2,000. All or part of the mandatory jail time may be suspended under strict conditions imposed by the court.
  • Fourth Offense: Ten years to thirty years in jail and a fine of $5,000. A portion of the mandatory jail time may be suspended under strict conditions imposed by the court.

As you can see DUI and DWI offenses have serious consequences involving your license, fines and prison time.  Contact a dedicated Baton Rouge DUI attorney by calling Rusty Messer & Associates today.

AGGRAVATED AND ENHANCED DWI’S

As seriously as DWI’s are taken in Louisiana, aggravated DWIs are looked at even more severely by judges and prosecutors alike. The penalties are enhanced when the charge is aggravated, so let’s take a look at what can turn a simple DWI into an aggravated DWI.

BAC OF .15 OR HIGHER

The most common aggravating factor for a DWI is when a person has a breathalyzer reading of .15 or higher, or .20 or higher. And you must keep in mind that your actual intoxication level, or how drunk you may “feel,” is not an accurate indicator of what your breathalyzer readout will say. Someone who drinks regularly may not feel as intoxicated as someone who only drinks occasionally, but none of that matters for the purposes of DWI. If you blow higher than .15 on your test, you are presumed not only intoxicated, but the aggravating factor will significantly increase your possible penalties.

REFUSAL TO SUBMIT TO BREATHALYZER TEST

Many people forget that driving is a privilege, not a right. And when the state grants you a driver’s license, you are agreeing to submit to breathalyzer tests when they are requested of you. Should you refuse to take the test, there will be consequences. The first consequence is the Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend your license for up to a year, simply due to your refusal.

ACCIDENT WITH INJURIES

The third way that your DWI can become aggravated is when an accident that results in injuries is involved. When people are physically harmed, allegedly by your driving while intoxicated, you are looking at enhanced penalties. And keep in mind that the judge has a great deal of latitude in sentencing. There are minimum mandatory guidelines that they must follow, but the minimum and maximum penalties are quite different. And if you’ve injured someone, the judge may look upon that harshly and your sentence could reflect that harshness.

If you have been charged with any of these aggravating factors along with a DWI, contact us today so that we can discuss your defenses to your DWI and any aggravated enhancement. There are many times that we can get the aggravated charge downgraded to a simple DWI. This can happen simply by negotiating with the state to a downgraded charge in exchange for a plea, by contesting the BAC reading or contesting other evidence.

LOSING YOUR LICENSE – CONTACT OUR LOUISIANA DUI LAWYERS

After a single offense of DWI, a driver can lose their license for up to a year. Often, this revocation is due not to a court decision but to a decision by the Office of Motor Vehicles. If a driver is arrested for DWI, they are asked by the arresting officer to submit to a breathalyzer test. By blowing into the breathalyzer and showing a BAC of 0.08 or higher, a driver is automatically presumed to have committed a DWI. Even if they did not appear to be greatly impaired, their BAC was above the legal limit, and therefore they can be charged and sentenced for driving drunk.

Some people might decide that a good way to avoid this fate is to simply refuse to take a breathalyzer test. If they are able to function better than average while impaired by alcohol, then they know that a breathalyzer test would ruin all their chances of avoiding DWI conviction. However, refusing a breathalyzer test has consequences as well.

If a driver refuses to take a breathalyzer test, then the arresting officer can confiscate their license on the spot. They will report the situation to the Office of Motor Vehicles, who may decide to revoke the license for 180 days on a first refusal, and 545 days for each subsequent refusal. This is all possible without any court decisions or actions. You are entitled to an administrative hearing on your license suspension, but it has to be requested within 15 days of your arrest. If the case goes to court and the sentence is a revoked license, then the court will pass a separate order revoking the license for a specific amount of time.

There are provisions to allow you to keep your license. Installing an ignition interlock device will allow the OMV to issue you a restrictive license that permits you to drive only the vehicle with the interlock device installed. Louisiana law also provides for the application of a hardship license in certain circumstances.

If you have any questions about your breathalyzer test or your DUI arrest, please get in touch with our highly experienced Baton Rouge DUI lawyers.

FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS

When an officer or highway patrolman makes a traffic stop, he or she is always wary of the possibility that the driver could be impaired. As such, a police officer is allowed to arrest a driver for DUI even if their BAC is not over the legal limit. To do this, the officer must be able to prove that the driver’s ability to operate a motor vehicle was impaired by alcohol or by drugs. To determine whether or not a driver is impaired, police officers observe his or her driving behavior to see if it appears impaired in any way.

IMPAIRED DRIVING

Drivers who are swerving within or across lanes and drivers whose speed constantly fluctuates to large degrees are more likely to be intoxicated and more likely be stopped by officers. Similarly, slurred speech is another sign of intoxication, and will often lead to a field sobriety test. If the driver fails the field sobriety test, and the officer determines that he or she is unfit to operate a motor vehicle, then the driver’s license could be confiscated on site and revoked for a year by the Motor Vehicle Division.

STANDARDIZED FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS

There are three required standardized tests, and then a host of others an officer may administer which may depend on the situation.

The first is the one leg stand, which tests the driver’s balance. While this is a standardized test, it often does not offer conclusive evidence of a person’s sobriety or inebriation. Persons with injuries, medical disabilities, severe weight issues, and persons who are senior citizens cannot be fairly judged to be intoxicated if they fail this test. As highly skilled Baton Rouge DUI attorneys, we can defend you and point these things out to prove your innocence.

The second test is the walk and turn and also assesses the driver’s balance as well as their coordination and ability to walk a straight line. Like the previous test, however, it often gives inaccurate results. The percentage of sober people who have been arrested based on the results of this test is higher than one would expect from a standardized method of determining sobriety.

The third and final test is the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. In Baton Rouge, Louisiana, as well as in most parts of the country, this is considered to be the most effective and most scientific of the three standardized field sobriety tests. The term nystagmus refers to involuntary twitching of the eyeball. Horizontal gaze nystagmus refers to lateral twitching, which is most noticeable when the eye is focused on objects to the side, and can be caused by a disturbance in the inner ear system or in oculomotor control, both of which are affected by the consumption of alcohol.

BREATHALYZER TEST / REFUSAL

Perhaps the most common and well-recognized method used to determine whether or not a person is driving or operating a motor vehicle illegally is the breathalyzer test. Used in Baton Rouge, Louisiana as well as cities and states across the country, breathalyzer tests are deemed one of the most reliable ways to determine a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC). Although considered reliable, they are not 100% accurate and have recently come under increased scrutiny for giving false results.

When a person is stopped for suspicion of driving under the influence, that person must prove their sobriety by performing a field sobriety test and taking a breathalyzer test. A person can be arrested for DWI if their driving ability is proven to be impaired. If a driver has a BAC that is at or higher than 0.08, then he or she is presumed to be intoxicated. It is illegal in every state for a person to be operating a motor vehicle with a BAC higher than .08, no matter how impaired or otherwise they may appear.

When a person has been drinking and driving and suspects that he or she might have a BAC over the legal limit, then he or she may decide to refuse to take a breathalyzer test. This is an option, but most state laws have consequences for that course of action. In Louisiana, a person who refuses to take a breathalyzer test or otherwise let their BAC be determined is subject to having their license revoked.

TRUSTED BATON ROUGE DUI LAWYERS AND DWI DEFENSE ATTORNEYS

If you have been arrested on suspicion of DWI, do not hesitate to contact our Baton Rouge DUI attorneys at Rusty Messer & Associates.  DWI arrests are frightening because not only can they result in criminal convictions, but they can directly impact your daily life.  You run the risk of losing your driver’s license after a DWI arrest which can complicate your job situation and your family life.  Do not live in fear of your future – contact experienced Baton Rouge DUI lawyers at (225) 963-9638 today, they can help walk you through the process.

CONTACT A CRIMINAL DEFENSE LAWYER TODAY

If you have been arrested or charged with a crime, call us today to schedule a consultation where we can discuss the case and your rights. Being charged with a crime is a serious matter that can have life long implications. We have handled thousands of criminal cases and regularly handle cases in both state and federal courts as well as in juvenile courts. Let us fight to protect your rights. 

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