In 2012, more than 16,000 people were arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol in Louisiana. Alcohol was a factor in 8,655 crashes that year, resulting in 5,614 injuries and 241 deaths. Death toll due to drunk driving increased by ten percent from 2011 to 2012, indicating that more must be done to prevent drunken individuals from getting behind the wheel. Louisiana law enforcement officials hope that stricter DWI laws will have the desired effect.
First DWI Conviction Penalties in Louisiana
Being caught operating a vehicle in Louisiana with a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 percent results in a DUI charge. A first conviction carries a fine of between $300 and $1,000 and ten days to six months in jail. A judge may agree to probation that reduces jail time to two days or exchanges jail for four days of community service. Additional probation requirements include participation in substance abuse assessment and treatment programs as well as a driver improvement program. First-time Louisiana DWI offenders also face losing their driver licenses for 90 days.
In 2007, Louisiana enacted a law requiring mandatory installation of ignition interlock devices for initial drunk or drugged driving convictions. This and increased law enforcement efforts have caused a 40 percent decrease in drunk driving deaths. As an alternative to allowing a DUI offender to continue driving, Louisiana judges are permitted to have the vehicle seized, impounded, and sold at auction.
Drivers convicted of DWI due to 0.15 percent or higher BAC face stiffer conviction penalties. These include higher fines and jail time without the possibility of probation, parole, or a suspended sentence. Intoxicated drivers who injure or kill another person are usually charged with felony DWI, a crime that carries the most severe drunk or drugged driving penalties including months to years in jail.
Underage DWI in Louisiana
Drivers who are younger than 21 cannot legally purchase or consume alcohol. Underage individuals who drink and drive in Louisiana face severe punishments. Louisiana imposes a 0.02 percent BAC threshold for drivers under age 21. Penalties for a first-time underage DUI conviction include fines up to $1,000, 90-day driver license suspension, and two days to six months in jail.
Underage drivers may be charged with additional crimes if transporting underage passengers who are drunk. Charges for minor in possession and distributing alcohol to minors carry their own unpleasant penalties. Underage drivers may also lose their auto insurance or have to pay hundreds of dollars in insurance premium surcharges for up to five years.
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