Breathalyzer Refusals – Potential License Suspensions

The State of Louisiana has strict DWI laws. By merely driving on a Louisiana highway, you consent to Louisiana laws for testing blood-alcohol content (“BAC”). Under Louisiana’s Implied Consent law, if you are lawfully arrested by an officer who has probable cause to believe that you have been driving or boating while intoxicated, and you refuse to comply with his or her request to use a breathalyzer test, then you can face an automatic license suspension imposed by the Department of Motor Vehicles. Potential suspensions for refusal are as follows:

  1. First Refusal – 1 year from the date of suspension.
  2. Second & Subsequent Refusal2 years from the date of suspension.

DWIs can have other serious consequences, so if you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, contact a skilled DWI defense attorney at the Russell Law Firm.

The Russell Law Firm represents clients in DWI/DUI cases throughout the State of Louisiana, including the parishes of East Baton Rouge Parish, West Baton Rouge Parish, Plaquemines Parish, Livingston Parish, Ascension Parish, Jefferson Parish, Orleans Parish, St. Charles Parish, Terrebonne Parish, Assumption Parish, Lafayette Parish, Lafourche Parish, Lafayette Parish, St. Landry Parish, Evangeline Parish; and the cities of Baton Rouge, Livingston, Denham Springs, Walker, Gonzales, Donaldsonville, Port Allen, Brusly, Addis, Lafayette, Napoleonville, Kenner, Harvey, Marrero, Estelle, Gretna, Metairie, New Orleans, Terrytown, Westwego, Ville Platte, Eunice, Opelousas, Thibodaux, Houma, Belle Chasse, and Hahnville.

Danny Russell is skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable about the Louisiana DWI/DUI statutes, related non-DWI statutes, and how to evaluate evidence that law enforcement and prosecutors might try to use against you. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DWI, call the Russell Law Firm at 225-307-0088. We offer free, no obligation initial consultations.

Mr. Russell will handle all matters pertaining to your charge in an effective, efficient manner. We take care of paperwork and manage deadlines so that you never have to worry about the status of your case.

Information furnished herein is only general and not a substitute for personalized legal advice.

By: Danny D. Russell, Esq.

Top 10 Louisiana Parishes for DWI Arrests

With the holiday season in full swing, many people will be spreading their holiday cheer with food and drink, especially alcoholic beverages. If you happen to be celebrating in one of the following top 10 parishes for drunk driving arrests, make sure you don’t get behind the wheel after your visit to a Christmas party, bar, or any other gathering. Be sure to call a cab, Uber, or rely on a designated driver. A DWI is a serious offense that can threaten your livelihood, reputation, and freedom.

Top 10 Parishes for Drunk Driving Related Arrests, according to the Louisiana Department of Transportation 2016 Statistics

The top ten rankings for the most DWI or DUI related arrests in the Pelican State during 2016 are:

  1. East Baton Rouge – DWI Arrests: 1,533
  2. Caddo – DWI Arrests: 1,234
  3. Lafayette – DWI Arrests: 1,042
  4. Jefferson– DWI Arrests: 945
  5. Tammany – DWI Arrests: 945
  6. Calcasieu – DWI Arrests: 802
  7. Bossier – DUI Arrests: 698
  8. Orleans – DWI Arrests: 693
  9. Livingston – DWI Arrests: 587
  10. Ouachita – DUI Arrests: 556

The Russell Law Firm can represent clients charged with a DWI or DUI throughout the State of Louisiana, including the parishes of East Baton Rouge Parish, West Baton Rouge Parish, Plaquemines Parish, Livingston Parish, Ascension Parish, Jefferson Parish, Orleans Parish, St. Charles Parish, Terrebonne Parish, Assumption Parish, Lafayette Parish, Lafourche Parish, Lafayette Parish, St. Landry Parish, Evangeline Parish; and the cities of Baton Rouge, Livingston, Denham Springs, Walker, Gonzales, Donaldsonville, Port Allen, Brusly, Addis, Lafayette, Napoleonville, Kenner, Harvey, Marrero, Estelle, Gretna, Metairie, New Orleans, Terrytown, Westwego, Ville Platte, Eunice, Opelousas, Thibodaux, Houma, Belle Chasse, and Hahnville.

Danny Russell is skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable about the Louisiana DWI/DUI statutes, related non-DWI statutes, and how to evaluate evidence that law enforcement and prosecutors might try to use against you. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DWI, call the Russell Law Firm at 225-307-0088. We offer free, no obligation initial consultations.

Our office will handle all matters pertaining to your charge in an effective, efficient manner. We take care of paperwork and manage deadlines so that you never have to worry about the status of your case.

 

Information furnished herein is only general and not a substitute for personalized legal advice.

Louisiana DWI Laws and Penalties

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  1. Louisiana DWI Laws & Penalties 

Under Louisiana DWI laws, it is against the law for any person to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .08% or greater or while under the influence of certain drugs.

If you are pulled over and the officer has a belief that you are indeed under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will be arrested. Upon being arrested the officer usually confiscates your driver’s license and issues a temporary driving permit that is good for 30 days. Your driver’s license, along with the evidence he or she has collected against you, will usually be forwarded to the Louisiana Department of Motor Vehicles or some criminal evidence department of the local law enforcement agency.

After your arrest, you only have 30 days from the date of your arrest to request an administrative hearing with the Louisiana DMV to contest the suspension of your driver’s license.  

The skills of an experienced Louisiana DWI attorney who knows how administrative hearings work, may give you a better chance of avoiding the suspension of your driving privileges.

Potential Penalties for DUI / DWI in Louisiana


Louisiana First Offense DUI

A first offense DUI conviction is classified as a misdemeanor and means that you have not been arrested nor convicted of a previous DUI charge within the past 10 years.  The potential jail time and fines for a first offense DUI charge are as follows:

  • Jail time: There is a mandatory minimum sentence of 10 days. The maximum is 6-months. The sentence can be suspended for 32 hours probation instead, of which half the time has to be trash collection.
  • Fines: The fine amount for a first offense will be between $300 and $1,000 plus all the associated court costs.

Special penalty requirements for 1st-time DWI:

  • If the BAC is over .15, but less than .20, then you must serve at least 48 hours of the jail time mentioned above, without the benefit of that 48 hour sentence being suspended.
  • If the BAC is over .20, then the following penalties take effect:
    • 48 hours of mandatory jail time in addition to the general jail time requirements;
    • Fine of $750 to $1,000;
    • Installation of an ignition interlock device for a period of 12 months; and
    • 2 year suspension of driver’s license.

Louisiana Second Offense DWI

A second offense conviction is classified as a misdemeanor. The potential jail time and fines for a second offense DWI charge are as follows:

  • Jail time: The jail term for a second offense will be between 30 days and 6 months. 48 hours of the jail time you are sentenced to may be suspended.
  • Fines: The fine amount for a second offense will be between $750 and $1,000 plus all the associated court costs.

Special penalty requirements for 2nd-time DWI:

  • If the BAC is over .15, but less than .2, then the following additional penalties take effect:
    • 96 hours of the jail sentence must be served;
    • $1,000 fine;
    • Driver’s license is susptended for 4 years; and
    • An ignition interlock device must be installed for at least 3 of the 4 year license suspension if the driver is allowed to drive.

Louisiana Third Offense DWI

A third offense conviction is felony offense. The potential jail time and fines for a third offense DWI charge are as follows:

  • Jail time: The jail term for a third offense will be between 1-5 years. One year of the jail sentence must be served without the benefit of suspension.
  • Fines: The fine for a third offense is $2,000 plus all the associated court costs.

Louisiana Fourth Offense DWI

A fourth-offense DWI charge or “subsequent fourth offense” DWI is considered a felony. The potential penalties for a fourth offense DWI charge are as follows:

  • Jail time: 10 – 30 years. Two years of the jail sentence must be served without the benefit of suspension. 
  • Fines: $5,000 plus all the associated court costs.

For each of the offenses mentioned above, there may be circumstances where the offender may be required to serve additional jailtime, pay greater fines, or have his/her license suspended for a greater period. Some of those circumstances involve whether the offender was a minor, injured someone else while driving under the influence, or others. Further, depending on the offense, other outcomes may result, such as:

  • a court may allow any sentence imposed to be suspended and the offender be placed on probation;
  • the offender may have to install an ignition interlock device;
  • the offender may have to take certain drug or alcohol classes;
  • the offender may have to take certain driving classes; and
  • the offender may be required to perform community service

DWIs can have other serious consequences, so if you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, contact a skilled DWI defense attorney at the Russell Law Firm.

The Russell Law Firm represents clients in DWI/DUI cases throughout the State of Louisiana, including the parishes of East Baton Rouge Parish, West Baton Rouge Parish, Plaquemines Parish, Livingston Parish, Ascension Parish, Jefferson Parish, Orleans Parish, St. Charles Parish, Terrebonne Parish, Assumption Parish, Lafayette Parish, Lafourche Parish, Lafayette Parish, St. Landry Parish, Evangeline Parish; and the cities of Baton Rouge, Livingston, Denham Springs, Walker, Gonzales, Donaldsonville, Port Allen, Brusly, Addis, Lafayette, Napoleonville, Kenner, Harvey, Marrero, Estelle, Gretna, Metairie, New Orleans, Terrytown, Westwego, Ville Platte, Eunice, Opelousas, Thibodaux, Houma, Belle Chasse, and Hahnville.

Danny Russell is skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable about the Louisiana DWI laws, related non-DWI statutes, and how to evaluate evidence that law enforcement and prosecutors might try to use against you. If you or someone you know has been arrested for a DWI, call the Russell Law Firm at 225-307-0088. We offer free, no obligation initial consultations.

Mr. Russell will handle all matters pertaining to your charge in an effective, efficient manner. We take care of paperwork and manage deadlines so that you never have to worry about the status of your case.

Information furnished herein is only general and not a substitute for personalized legal advice.

How does a judge decide sentencing in DUI cases

If you’ve ever been arrested for driving under the influence, you know it’s no picnic.

In all 50 states, the legal limit for blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 percent. If you are found to be driving and at or above the legal limit, you can and most likely will be charged with a DUI. If you are under the age of 21 and found to be driving with any amount of alcohol in your system, no matter how small, you can be charged with a DWI.

If you are charged with a DWI and your case makes it to trial or you decide to plead guilty, you could be facing a DWI conviction.

So, what happens after you are convicted of a DWI? A judge will decide your punishment.

How does a judge determine your sentence?

There are several factors at play when it comes time for a judge to hand down your sentence for a DWI.

These factors include:

  • Previous arrests and/or convictions for DWI or DUI
  • How long ago the previous arrests and/or DWI/DUI convictions happened
  • Did your DWI cause injury to another person?
  • Did your DWI cause damage to someone’s personal property?
  • How high was your BAC when you were arrested? Was it higher than .15?
  • Was your license suspended at the time of your arrest?

What are some possible punishments for DWI conviction?

A judge could impose a wide variety of punishment, including fines and possible jail time. Here are some of the possible outcomes of a DWI conviction:

  • You could be required to install an ignition interlock device that makes you blow into a Breathalyzer every time you start your car.
  • You might be forced to attend drug and alcohol addiction treatment programs or attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings.
  • You might have your driver’s license revoked.
  • Your car might be impounded or taken away from you.
  • You might have hefty court fees and fines to pay.
  • Depending on the severity of the DWI, you might serve some jail time.

In Louisiana, the punishments are outlined based on the severity of your DWI. They are typically broken down by how much alcohol was in your system at the time of your arrest and whether the DWI was a first-offense, second-offense, third-offense, fourth-offense, or subsequent fourth-offense.

In any DWI case, the most important step you can take to protecting your money and your freedom is to hire an experienced criminal defense attorney.

This is where Russell Law comes in. Russell Law Firm specializes in DWI charges and record expungements after DWI convictions.  

If you or someone you love is facing DUI charges, contact Russell Law today.

 

What to do when your teen gets a DUI

Parents of teenage drivers already have a great deal to worry about, but most parents believe that their teen driver will never make the mistake of driving while intoxicated. Unfortunately, even the most intelligent teens can have a lapse in judgment and find themselves in serious legal trouble.

As a parent, this is no doubt a very stressful and scary situation, and you are likely wondering what to expect. What kind of consequences will your child face? Will there be jail time? Will it hinder their educational opportunities?

What are the penalties for underage DUI in Louisiana?

In Louisiana, the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08, however, that lowers to .02 percent for drivers under 21.

  • First offense:  Minimum penalty is 32 hours of community service or two days in jail. A maximum $1,000 fine, and a maximum one-year license suspension. Your teen will also lose their license for 180 days.
  • Second offense: 240 hours community service or 15 days in jail, a maximum $1,000 fine, and a maximum two-year license suspension.
  • Third offense: Diversion program or 1 year in jail

Any of these penalties can be enhanced by aggravating circumstances, such as a BAC higher than 0.15 percent, driving on a suspended license, or being a multiple offender. This means larger fines, longer license suspension, ignition interlock devices and jail time or community service.

Causing an accident that results in serious bodily injury or death or driving with passengers below a certain age can trigger felony charges or at least greatly increase the criminal and civil penalties for underage DUI defendants.

Aside from criminal charges, everyone convicted of a DUI is required to inform their car insurance companies, which may terminate your policy or significantly increase the premium for several years because of the liability.

Future impact of an underage DUI conviction

Underage drinking and driving is serious and the repercussions can extend far beyond your checking account and the loss of personal freedom. Those convicted of a DUI before the age of 21 may find that they also have to deal with:

  • Denial of admission into college
  • Denial of federal student loans
  • Missed job opportunities
  • Difficulty being approved for an apartment
  • Difficulty getting lines of credit
  • Expulsion from student or extracurricular activities
  • Loss of scholarships or honors

The possibility of these repercussions is daunting, but pleading out may not get you the best deal. Whether it is through negotiations with the prosecution or fighting the charge and the case against you, working with an experienced defense attorney from the very beginning can help you protect your child’s future and keep it from derailing their life.

How can you fight an underage DUI charge?

The first and most important thing to do is to contact a criminal defense attorney right away. In many instances, our firm can help you avoid the penalties associated with an underage DWI and pave the way for possible expungement.

These charges can have a significant impact on a child’s future. If your child is facing these allegations, you should take a close look at your various options and make sure that you handle the situation appropriately.

The Russell Law Firm will evaluate the case and advise you on how to minimize the disruption and damage to your child’s  life, from driver’s license and OMV assistance to motions, plea negotiation, guidance through pretrial diversion, or trial, and sentencing mitigation.

What makes a DUI a felony?

You probably already know this, but a DUI/DWI charge is issued when a person is found to be operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of higher than 0.02 for those under 21 and higher than 0.08 for those over 21.

What are DUI felony laws?

These are the rules that determine whether or not your DUI will be considered a felony offense rather than a misdemeanor. These laws vary by state, and they are based on how many prior convictions you have accrued in a certain time period. For example, in some states, the prior offenses are only considered if they took place in the five years prior to the current offense. In Louisiana, three or more DUIs within a ten (10) year period is a felony.

What are the consequences?

In most states, the penalties work on a graduated system. After each offense, the punishment becomes more severe. For instance, in Louisiana, a “First” Offense DWI carries a minimum imprisonment sentencing range of 10 days to 6 months, with a suspension of the entire sentence if probation eligible. A “Second” Offence DWI, carries a minimum imprisonment sentencing range of 30 days to 6 months, and at least 48 hours of the sentence cannot be suspended.

In Louisiana, after you commit a third offense, you are charged with a felony rather than a misdemeanor (categorization of 1st and 2nd offenses).

Louisiana Cleansing Period

As mentioned before, Louisiana is one of the states that limit how prior offenses can be added to a new offense. A prior offense that occurred more than ten (10) years before the new offense, cannot be added to the new offense. For instance, if you get a DUI/DWI charge more than ten (10) years after your first, the most recent charge will be treated as your first.

However, it is important to note that if you were sentenced, either by incarceration or probation during that ten year period, your time of incarceration or probation will not count as a part of the cleansing period. The ten year cleansing period will not begin to run until your sentence is complete.

What if I’m convicted out of state?

Any DUI/DWI conviction you receive out of state will be considered a prior offense in the state of Louisiana.

How will a felony hurt me?

A felony is much more serious and consequential than a misdemeanor. Perhaps one of the most devastating impacts is the toll such a charge takes on a person’s ability to find gainful employment. Employers have the right to conduct background checks prior to hiring, and many will automatically disqualify an applicant if they see a felony charge on their record.

Licensed professionals such as doctors, lawyers, accountants, and many more run into problems as well. A DUI/DWI felony conviction could mean the suspension of a license and therefore their ability to work. For many, this is a devastating blow as they can no longer participate in the work they trained for years to practice.

Lastly, obtaining auto insurance after a DUI/DWI felony becomes next to impossible. This leads to a person choosing the lowest coverage possible or avoiding driving in general. Either way, this conviction places you in a very tough financial position.

What to do if convicted of a felony DUI/DWI?

A felony charge is substantial, and it could result in large fines, jail time, license suspension, and an incredible amount of emotional strife. If you find yourself facing your third DUI/DWI offense charge, it’s critical that you arm yourself with an experienced Louisiana DUI/DWI defense attorney. At Russell Law Firm, we understand that it’s more than just a charge. It’s a terrifying, life changing event, and coming out of it with a sentence you can live with is essential to your future.

If you are in a tough spot, don’t hesitate to call us today. We’re on your side.

 

****Information furnished herein is only general and not a substitute for personalized legal advice.

 

What does a field sobriety test entail?

In a previous blog post, DUI/DWI attorney Danny Russell took us through Louisiana DWI law and the consequences of refusing a chemical breathalyzer test.  As explained, the breathalyzer is a device that tests a person’s blood alcohol content (“BAC”) and immediately tells an officer whether or not a person is above the legal limit (0.08 for adults over the age of 21).

So does the officer have to get your consent to give you a breathalyzer test?

Well, according to Louisiana law, you already gave your consent to a chemical breathalyzer test just by operating a vehicle on public highways or streets, so if you refuse the test, the law has some built-in penalties. The standard consequences look something like this:

  1. First Refusal – suspension of license for 1 year
  2. Second Refusal – suspension of license for 2 years
  3. Third Refusal – penalties are the same as a first offense DWI, if the person has refused the test after already refusing on two previous/separate occasions of DWI or was involved a crash resulting in a fatality or serious bodily injury

So we know about the chemical test, but what about the steps officers take before using the breathalyzer?

Before a chemical test is administered, officers perform what is referred to as a “Standard Field Sobriety Test” (SFST). This usually consists of three tests developed to tell an officer whether or not a person might be over the legal limit. It includes the:

  1. Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN)
  2. The walk and turn
  3. One-leg stand

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN)

Display nystagmus” is the involuntary jerking of the eye which occurs when a person must look sideways at an angle greater than 45 degrees. A person with a high BAC will twitch when the light is held at less than 45 degree. Typically when a person is sober, the human eye will show a normal degree of display nystagmus, meaning their eye will involuntarily jerk. But when a person has consumed a great deal of alcohol, the movement occurs at a lower threshold.  

However, it is important to note that a person can display high levels of HGN due to medication or a non-alcoholic substance.

The Walk and Turn

The second test is the walk and turn. This is a “divided” attention test which requires a person to listen and follow simple instructions while performing a physical movement. For a sober person, the test might be a piece of cake, but for someone who has been drinking heavily, it could be a challenge.

To administer the test, the officer will ask you to a number of steps with your heel to your toe in a straight line. At the end of nine steps, you are to turn on one foot and return in the same manner. While you’re completing the test, the officer is looking for signs of intoxication – a lack of balance, beginning before instructed, stopping to regain balance, inability to touch heels to toes, stepping off the line, taking too many or too few steps, an incorrect turn, etc..

1-Leg Stand test

The third and final part of the SFST is 1-Leg Stand test. The person is instructed to stand with one foot about six inches off the ground while counting “one thousand-one, one thousand two, etc.,” until the officer tells you to put the foot down after about thirty seconds. The officer is looking for swaying, arm use, hopping, or inability to keep the foot elevated.

Can I Fail if I’m Sober?

Yes. The field sobriety test must be completed to the officer’s satisfaction. Because these are observatory tests rather than chemical, they are not failsafe. It is possible that a person subject to the HGN test might have an eye disease or a condition that renders them incapable of completing the test to an officer’s satisfaction. The same goes for a person suffering from a disease or injury or someone of an advanced age. All three of these factors could limit one’s ability to successfully complete a part of the test. If this is the case, a person should immediately notify the officer as to why they are unable to pass the test, and the officer is obligated to take careful note of this report. Additionally, outside elements where the test is administered can result in failure. Gravel, uneven pavement, even wet pavement can cause a person to fail. Passing cars, flashing lights, and even nervousness can cause someone to lose their balance or impair a person’s ability to concentrate and complete the tasks.

But the end of the day, the only way to be absolutely positive that a person is indeed over the legal limit is to administer a chemical or blood test. On top of that, the only way to make sure you pass that test is to never drink and drive.

In the case that you do need someone to protect your freedom, finances, and reputation, Danny Russell can help. As a Baton Rouge based DWI/DUI lawyer, he has extensive knowledge of Louisiana DWI/DUI statutes and how to evaluate evidence that law enforcement and district attorneys might attempt to use against you. Don’t take that kind of chance with your future. Reach out to Russell Law Firm for a free consultation.

Do I need a lawyer after a DUI or can I handle it myself?

According to the Center for Disease Control, over three thousand lives were lost in alcohol related incidents in the state of Louisiana from 2003 – 2012. As it turns out, many of these were fatal vehicular accidents resulting from the unfortunate decision to drink and then get behind the wheel. In order to combat these deaths, the state of Louisiana vigilantly fights the epidemic of driving under the influence of alcohol.

In the state of Louisiana, the Department of Motor Vehicles says that drivers under 21 years old found to have a blood alcohol content of at least 0.02% and drivers 21 years old and over with a BAC of at least 0.08% will be charged with DWI. In the event that you are arrested and charged with a DUI, the consequences can include the following, depending upon whether or not this is your first, second, or third offense:

  • Jail time
  • Large fines
  • Suspension of license
  • Possible criminal record

If you are arrested for a DUI, you must decide whether or not you want to hire a lawyer to present and defend your case in front of a judge. Though you have the option and right to represent your own case, the team at Russell Law Firm strongly advises you to seek professional counsel.

Why do you need a DUI lawyer?

It’s not because we want your money.

It’s not because we want to waste your time.

It’s because we are trained on how to examine the evidence that the State plans on using against you, how to attack that evidence, and how to take other necessary action to build a strong defense against your charges. A strong defense usually places you in the best position to negotiate a plea deal or potentially have the charges dismissed.

What about representing yourself in a DUI case?

A quick online search presents a few scenarios in which you might fare okay representing yourself. Perhaps it is your first offense and there were no injuries, or perhaps your BAC was so high, and the police officer has a very strong testimony regarding your obvious impairment. These factors can all come together to present a pretty damning case, and many feel the temptation to just plead guilty and take the standard sentence.

After all, if a lawyer can’t help you, why pay the fee?

  • Trained Eyes

As it turns out, you might have missed something, and by representing your own case, you forgo the opportunity to have a licensed professional catch a detail/evidence or a portion of the law you missed, that could help you get a plea deal or reduce your sentence.

  • Relationships and Familiarity

Lawyers are familiar with the law. They are also familiar with how certain judges interpret laws and are likely to rule on each given case.

Further, most defense lawyers usually deal with the same assistant district attorneys on DWI cases, which allows the defense attorney to know what to anticipate from the district attorney’s office on your particular case. For instance, the defense attorney will know what information the district attorney’s office will likely exchange and what recommendations he/she will likely make to the judge for plea deals or sentencing. Having that type of insight is very beneficial in preparation of your defense.

Feels like maybe it needs another reason?

A DUI charge is jarring, especially if you’ve never seen the inside of a courtroom. At Russell Law Firm, we know they can happen to anyone – including fantastic people who make one bad decision.

We’re not here to judge you.

We are here to help you secure the best possible defense in a system that can understandably evade and overwhelm those who haven’t studied the law.

We know that a DUI is an expensive charge to take on. That is why we offer a 100% free consultation. We’ll  talk you through what you have been charged with, your options, and how we can help you get through a difficult time. If you are in a tough and frightening spot right now related to a DUI charge, give us a call today.