State Puts New, Tougher DWI Penalties into Effect

A group of experts in Louisiana worked for two years studying the state’s drunk driving laws. From that panel’s study came a set of reforms in the state’s drunk driving laws that passed during the most recent legislative session and were signed into law by Governor Bobby Jindal. The reforms set out to, among other things, add greater clarity to the law and reduce the number of suspended or home-incarceration sentences.

According to a report, one circumstance that the new law addressed was that of multiple offenders. The existing law created mandatory minimum sentences for various DWI offenses, but it did not remove judges’ discretion to suspend those sentences. As a result, even repeat offenders often served no jail time. Act 385 revised R.S. 14:98 to state that a driver convicted of his or her fourth or subsequent DWI offense cannot receive a suspended sentence.

If a driver acquired a third DWI after previously receiving a suspended sentence, probation, or parole, the new law requires that driver to serve two to five years in jail. The amended statute now requires these drivers to serve at least two years of their sentences before courts may consider granting them probation, parole, or a suspended sentence. The changes also take home incarceration off the table for these offenders, except in cases where certain special circumstances exist.

Additionally, Act 385 added teeth to the penalties imposed against frequent repeat offenders. If a driver racks up his or her second DWI with a year of the first offense, the new law mandates a fine of $1,000.

Given these stiffer graduated penalties, what does or does not count as a previous offense is a matter of substantial importance. Another new piece of legislation toughened that standard as well. Louisiana law, for purposes of calculating the number of prior transgressions, wipes a driver’s record clean of most offenses after 10 years. Under a change created by the new law, convictions for vehicular homicide or the crime of negligent injuring no longer come off a driver’s record after a decade. Now, they remain on the driver’s record permanently.

These tougher penalties seek to deal with the problem of repeat offenders. In one newsworthy case from last year covered by, a woman involved in a fatal drunk-driving accident in St. Charles Parish was found to have a long history of DWIs despite holding a valid driver’s license. Although the woman had three convictions from the 1990s, those had disappeared from her record due to the 10-year rule, meaning that her fourth arrest, which occurred just 11 months before the fatal wreck, was adjudicated as a first offense.

With the state’s new, tougher drunk driving laws, it becomes more important than ever to take the necessary steps to avoid such predicaments. First, avoid operating a motor vehicle if you’ve been drinking. However, if you are facing DWI charges, you should retain an attorney right away to assist with your case. For skilled and experienced legal representation, consult the Louisiana DWI attorneys at the Cardone Law Firm about your case. Our attorneys know the law and the legal system and can help you achieve the best possible result under the law.

For your confidential consultation, contact us online or phone Cardone at 504-522-3333.

More Blog Posts:

Supreme Court Reverses Lower Courts, Call DWI Stop Reasonable, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, June 26, 2014
Facebook Users Employ Social Media Website to Avoid Sobriety Checkpoints, Louisiana Injury Lawyers Blog, May 6, 2014

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