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A drive-thru delight

Most people you ask will tell you the same thing about drinking and driving: It’s not a joke. People can get hurt. If you’ve ever had the chance to make a conscious decision regarding an extra shot or two before getting behind the wheel, hopefully that decision was to just not do it. Or don’t drive. Phone a friend. Do what you need to do.

That being said: There’s a wonderful place in these United States where not all aspects of life are taken as seriously as they may be elsewhere – for better or for worse. Yes, we’re talking about Louisiana, birthplace of America’s first cocktail (the Sazerac), the melting pot of French and African cultures, the place where you know there’s a party to be had, and a definitively genuine jazz club or two to host it. It also happens to be where one can order a frozen daiquiri from a drive-thru window, plus extra shots if you need ‘em, or a jello shot if that’s more your style. Ideally, these items are not to be consumed while driving, but let’s just say you can’t help yourself and pop that straw inside. One sip turns into twelve, and – well, you might as well finish the damn thing.

The next thing you know, you’re on the side of the road, 100% not enjoying that daiquiri you so longingly sought after, wondering what’s going to happen next. Hopefully that sort of a thing hasn’t happened to you yet, because you’re about to get the toolbox you need to deal with it. In a perfect world, there would be no such thing as a DWI charge, and you would always have a ride home. Unfortunately, this world ain’t perfect, and – more often than not – the ones who would’ve been just a phone call away are right there drinking beside you. So read on, and become the expert you’ve always wanted to be on handling a DWI charge.

There’s really nothing fun about a DWI

Before we even get into potential penalties, let’s just go ahead and stress the fact that DWI charges are not insignificant things – at all. They will most definitely impact your reputation and, more than likely, your ability to get around town like a functioning human being. Jail time is a mandatory consequence, no matter the level of your intoxication, and the SR22 requirements handled by the DMV can be absolutely nightmarish. Yep, we’re talking heavily increased insurance rates for three years following a conviction, and those guys don’t fuck around; if at any point during those three years there is a lapse of your SR22 coverage, the third party handling it for you is required by law to report it the DMV, which will result in immediate license suspension.

A variety of things of this nature might be running through your head once you’ve been pulled over and there is, without a doubt, alcohol running through your veins. If you’re hoping to avoid further suspicion altogether, let’s make one thing perfectly clear: Refusing a roadside chemical test is not recommended. In the past, Louisiana drivers did in fact have the right to refuse such a test, but since 2011, the state has operated under a “no-refusal” statute, which essentially dictates that if an officer suspects you of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, you will be asked to provide a blood sample. If you refuse, you remain under arrest while the officer immediately acquires a search warrant – that is, to “search” your blood, given the probable cause.

Such a refusal is also attached to a pretty nasty consequence: The first time it happens, you’re looking at a one-year license suspension with the possibility of early reinstatement with the installation of an interlock ignition device, or an IID. The second time makes it two years, and the third is considered a criminal offense, carrying the weight of two years’ license suspension, mandated substance abuse treatment, and either two days in jail or 32 hours of community service. So, unless you have a really good reason, don’t try anything sneaky. Better to comply and take the heat – then find yourself a really good lawyer.

What’s the worst that could happen?

Besides the embarrassing hit your reputation will undoubtedly suffer, there are in fact a number of unpleasant consequences associated with being convicted of a DWI in the state of Louisiana. Depending on the severity of your crime, things can vary quite a bit. Keep in mind: when it comes to prior convictions coming into play in a court of law, only transgressions that have occurred within the past 10 years may be used against you. It is important to note, however, that in 2008 that period of time was amended to exclude the time between the date of your arrest and time you spent on probation, which could very well extend that time frame by a lot.

What’s illegal? Before we move on, let’s put this as clearly as possible. You are breaking the law in Louisiana if your blood alcohol content while driving is:

  • 08% or higher if you are of legal drinking age.
  • 04% or higher if you are of legal drinking age and you are a commercial vehicle operator.
  • 02% or higher if you are under the age of 21.

Let’s say you’ve been charged and you’re debating hiring a lawyer – because let’s be real: They can be pretty expensive if you want the job done right. In order to gauge exactly what a worst-case scenario might look like, refer to the following breakdown of penalties associated with each type of DWI offense.

  • First offense: This is classified under “criminal record” – a misdemeanor offense.
    • A minimum of 48 hours in jail (and a maximum of six months, depending on how badly you fucked up.)
    • Fines ranging from $300-1,000, not including court-related fees.
    • A 90-day license suspension, with possible instatement of a restricted license after 30 days.
    • Up to two years’ probation.
    • Roughly 30 hours in substance abuse classes and related programs.
    • At least 32 hours of community service, half of which must be trash pickup by the side of the road, if getting convicted wasn’t already humiliating enough.
  • Second offense: This is also classified under “criminal record.”
    • A minimum of 15 days in jail (and a maximum of six months); 48 hours must be served without any possibility of being excused.
    • Fines ranging from $750-1,000.
    • A one-year license suspension. Instatement of a restricted license in this case is usually only possible if your BAC was at 0.02% or less.
    • Substance abuse treatment akin to what you experienced with offense #1.
    • A minimum of 240 hours of community service.
  • Third offense: This is classified as a felony, so long as it happened within 10 years of two priors.
    • One to five years’ jail time.
    • A $2,000 fine.
    • License revocation for two full years. In order to get it reinstated, you’ll be required to have an IID installed in your vehicle, pay a special reinstatement fee, and complete all the necessary SR22 requirements.
    • Substance abuse treatment following an official addiction evaluation.
    • Some sort of community service requirement to be determined in court.
  • Fourth offense: Also classified as a felony. Also known as really, really bad.
    • A minimum of 75 days’ jail time, and up to 30 years in state prison. You might also face up to five years under house arrest.
    • Up to $5,000 in fines.
    • License revocation for two years, plus all the same requirements for reinstatement as seen with offense #3.
    • Substance abuse treatment in the form of six weeks’ inpatient treatment followed by 12 month’s outpatient treatment.
    • Probable seizure of your vehicle so it can be sold at an auction.

To make matters worse…

It’s important to note that the breakdown above isn’t necessarily the be-all and end-all of your sentencing possibilities. In Louisiana, the drunker you are at the time of your arrest, the worse off you very well might be. If you’re found to have a BAC of 0.15 or 0.20%, you will more than likely be looking at harsher penalties all around. We won’t get into all the specifics now, but here’s an example for all you curious mo’f**kers who like living on the edge: If your BAC is above 0.20% on a second offense DWI, 96 hours of your jail sentence must be served (rather than just 48), and your license suspension period moves up from one year to four. It’s safe to say that the best advice out there is pretty simple: Don’t drink and drive! And if you think you might actually have a problem, get the help you need as soon as you can.

Don’t freak out…hire a lawyer

If at any point you find yourself in the throes of the legal system on account of a few mishandled alcoholic beverages, fear not. Learn your lesson, but learn the best ways to navigate legal matters as well. Having a reputable lawyer on your side can be very helpful in determining your best possible outcomes and in negotiating the sorts of punishments that may harm your way of life in the worst possible ways. Post your questions to BernieSez today, where thousands of experienced attorneys can view them and offer you consultations – because you don’t have to do it alone.

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