Louisiana Pretrial Diversion Program

You may need to enroll in a Pre-Trial Diversion program to avoid having a conviction on your record if you have been charged with a crime. However, you must be eligible for the Diversion program to enroll in it.  Once you enroll, you must complete the program and fulfill all the requirements to avoid prosecution for the crime.

The conditions and the requirements for the program are based on the nature of the charge you face. You also need to pay a certain fee or fees for this program before the charges can be resolved.  Pre-Trial Diversion program can also be referred to as Pre-Trial Intervention (PTI) program. Sometimes cases are rejected because they appear to be beyond the scope of the program.

Louisiana Pretrial Intervention

For a DWI, you have to be a first time offender with a non-violent felony or misdemeanor charges to enroll in this program. You must also have little or no criminal history.  The program is designed to help first time offenders avoid criminal prosecution and keep those offenders from returning to the judicial system in the future. PTI programs are a great way to reduce the cost and the amount of resources needed to prosecute minor crimes.  You could be eligible for a PTI if you are arrested for minor charges such as:

  • Shoplifting
  • Theft
  • Forgery
  • assault
  • Embezzlement
  • Burglary
  • Trespassing
  • Marijuana possession

Acceptance Into Pretrial Intervention

After being arrested and charged for a crime like DWI, you will be offered to participate in the PTI program. You can also ask to participate because participation in the program is voluntary.  You will then begin the program but the DWI charge will remain until you complete the requirements of the PTI program. People accepted into the program are assigned a Pre-Trial Officer who acts as a point of contact and provides the participant with program requirements.  The officer will give you all the information you need about the criteria for completion of the program.

Completing the Pretrial Diversion Program

The charges will be dismissed and the conviction will not appear on your record if you satisfy all the requirements of the program and finish the probation period.  But you must finish the probation period without committing any crimes. These programs have strict requirements but the benefits outweigh the costs of going to trial. However, once you complete the program, you will automatically have the right to expunge the arrest from your record. The length of the program varies depending on the charges you are facing.

Not Fulfilling All Requirements

The prosecutor may revoke your participation in the program if you commit another offense during the probation period or if you fail to meet the programs requirements.  Your arrest will also remain in your record. But you may still have your attorney file a motion of expungement to remove the arrest from your record.

Your attorney will help you decide whether to join the program or not by providing all the information you need about it.  All you need to ask yourself is whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

Louisiana Boating Under the Influence Laws

Louisiana BUI Lawyer

Boating is a very popular activity for people who live in Louisiana because of the state’s beautiful lakes, rivers, bayous and other waterways.  But more people are familiar with accidents caused by drunk drivers than with boat accidents caused by intoxicated boat operators. There are many cases where people operating their boats while under the influence of drugs caused serious accidents.

Boating Under the Influence Definition

What does boating under the influence mean?

When you operate a watercraft while under the influence of alcohol, you can be charged with a BUI, which is similar to being charged with a DUI. You are not supposed to operate a motor vehicle, aircraft, water vessel and other means of conveyance when:

  • Your blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent and above and .02 for operators under the age of 21
  • You are under the influence of any controlled substances
  • You are under the influence of alcohol combined with one or more drugs that are not controlled dangerous substances and that can be obtained legally with or without prescription
  • You are under the influence of alcoholic beverages

Just like in a DUI situation, you will be pulled over by U.S. Coast guard if they have reason to believe that you are operating a boat while you are under the influence of an intoxicating substance. They will ask you to take a blood, breath or chemical test and warn you about the consequences of not taking that test.  There are consequences for refusing to submit to the test.

Drugs and Alcohol Affect Boating Ability

You need certain skills to operate a personal watercraft on Louisiana waters just like you need skills to operate a car on the roads. This includes maintaining awareness of your surroundings while boating and properly operating the boat.  Boating accidents usually happen for the following reasons:

  • Operating the boat carelessly
  • Operating the boat in areas you are not supposed to go boating
  • Boating in bad weather
  • Operating the boat without the required skills
  • Going out on your boat alone

You are very likely to cause an accident in the above situations when you are operating a boat while drunk.  Alcohol can affect you vision and make it harder for you to respond in time during emergency boating situations.  These effects can get worse because of things like the boat’s motion or even sun exposure.

BUI – Penalties

Operating boats while under the influence of alcohol is the leading cause of fatal boating accidents according to a U.S. Coast Guard report released in 2017.  The report indicates that boating under the influence of alcohol was the reason behind 282 boating accidents. Out of all those accidents, 87 people died and 262 were injured. The consequences for a BUI conviction can range from you being kept off the water to serving time in jail. You can also be fined $1,000, spend 48 hours in jail and lose your license if you are convicted.  Your attorney will fight for your rights so that the BUI conviction does not cost you your freedom or future.

How Strict Are The Louisiana DUI Laws?

Every state in the country has its own DUI laws. Louisiana DUI laws are actually mild compared to DUI laws in states like Alaska. But that does not mean that crimes involving a DUI are not considered serious or are not punished harshly in Louisiana.

Many DWI/DUI offenders face a jail sentence if convicted in the state. This is why people that are visiting Louisiana and those that live in the state should research its DUI laws to avoid getting into trouble with law enforcement.

BAC Level in Louisiana

The blood alcohol concentration (BAC) requirements differ for people who are 21 years old and above and for people less than 21 years of age.  For drivers who are 21 years and above, a BAC of .08% and above is enough to be charged with DWI/DUI. Drivers under the age of 21 can be charged with the same if their BAC is .02% and over.

To measure your BAC level a law enforcement officer may ask you to breathe into a breathalyzer or have your blood or urine tested.  You may face a 365 day license suspension for refusing the test for the first offense, or a 730 days suspension if your refuse the test for second and subsequent offenses.

First Louisiana DWI Punishment

Depending on the situation you may face two days to six months in jail and also fines of up to $1,000 for a first offense.  Your license may also be suspended for three months and you may be required to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. You have to breathe into this device before you start your vehicle.  The device is meant to prevent you from driving under the influence of alcohol but it is very expensive.

Second DWI Offense Penalties

The penalties for a second offense are similar to those of a first offense. Your license will be suspended for two years and you will have to pay $200 as a license reinstatement fee.  You will also have to spend 48 hours or up to 6 months in jail. The fine for a second offense is $1,000 with additional court costs. The penalties are similar to those of a first offense but with longer license suspension and a possible longer prison sentence.

3rd DWI Is A Felony

The first and second offenses are considered misdemeanors but a third and subsequent offenses are felonies.  For this reason, a third DUI comes with very harsh penalties. Your license will be suspended for up to 3 years and you will pay a $300 license reinstatement fee.   In certain situations the offender’s vehicle may be confiscated. You will also have to serve a year in prison but may end up staying in jail for 5 years depending on the nature of your case.

There is also the possibility that you may be sentenced to home confinement.  The fee for a third offense is $2,000 and the offender has to complete a court approved program.

For a fourth and subsequent offense, the accused driver will face even harsher punishment that includes paying fines of up to $5,000.  Any conviction whether it is a first or fourth offense, leaves a mark in your record that could negatively affect your future employment opportunities and more.

DWI Probation – Louisiana Criminal Lawyer

Criminal convictions may lead to you having problems getting a job, a house, and even lasting relationships because of the time served in jail and your record. Probation is one way the criminal justice system tries to lessen these consequences.  It may simply be an alternative to jail time, or sometimes a court may give you probation as a suspension of a jail sentence.

DWI Probation Louisiana

You may still live in the community if you are under probation but that comes with terms and conditions.  There will be a probation officer assigned to you to monitor and examine you without any warning. You also have to complete community service, pay all the fees and fines and adhere to certain rules. The treatment programs have to be completed and you may need to report regularly to your supervisor. There are cases where reporting to a supervisor is not necessary.

How Probation Can be Violated

Probation helps in the reduction or elimination of time behind bars. You will have to meet all the terms and conditions to avoid penalties.  People violate probation when they ignore or break the terms and conditions of their probation during the probation period.

You may violate probation in if you:

  • You commit other crimes or offenses
  • You get arrested for an offense that is either criminal or not
  • You do not appear during a scheduled court appearance on a set date or time
  • You fail to report to your assigned officer
  • You fail an alcohol or drug test
  • You don’t complete community service requirements
  • You fail to pay fines or restitution to victims as ordered by the court
  • You were found in possession  or found using or selling illegal drugs

Probation may last one to three years. But there have been cases where probation lasted for several years because of the seriousness of the original offense.

Consequences of Violating Probation

There is no set rule that clearly outlines what should happen to an individual that violates probation.   A probation officer is required to issue a warning if you violate the terms and conditions but they may just decide to send you to court for a probation violation hearing. A probation officer will consider past violations or warnings in deciding what to do if you violate your probation

If you end up in court for probation violation, the judge will hear your case to decide whether you violated terms and conditions of your probation. You can face stricter supervision, short prison stay, lengthened probation time and additional requirements if found guilty. You may also have to pay large fines or restitution (money compensation to victims), or a judge may just revoke your probation and make you serve your remaining term in jail.

Your Legal Rights

You need to know your legal rights for you to avoid the consequences of probation violation.  You have the right to:

  • Be issued with a written notice of any claimed violation
  • A neutral judge
  • Have an attorney to represent you
  • Have witnesses and evidence in court to support your case

A skilled and resourceful attorney can review your case and offer necessary assistance.

Driving on a Suspended License in Louisiana

It is a guarantee that your license will be suspended in Louisiana following a DUI whether or not you submit to a blood alcohol test or not. The Department of Public Safety and Corrections (DPS) Office of Motor Vehicle (OMV) will only reinstate your license, after you pay $50 to $3000 and obtain an SR-22 license.  Your insurance rates will definitely go up significantly after that.

Louisiana Suspended Drivers License

You can refuse to take a test and as a result avoid a harsh conviction for a first offense but your license will still be suspended. Every driver is subject to the state’s implied consent law that allows for penalties for failure to submit to a BAC test.  It is up to the law enforcement officer that pulls you over to decide whether you get to breathe into a breathalyzer or give a blood or urine sample. In some counties, an officer can obtain a warrant to force you to submit to a blood or urine test.

Length of License Suspensions

The DMV clearly outlines the duration for license suspensions for DUI arrest. They include:

  • For a person that refuses a blood an alcohol analysis test:
        • For a first offense -180 days
        • Subsequent offense -545 day
  • For person who is 21 years old or younger with a BAC content that is .08% or higher:
        • For a first offense- 90 days
        • Subsequent offense-365 days
  • If the 21 year old or younger has a BAC level of .02% or higher:
        • For a first offense-180 days
        • For subsequent offense (3rd,4th, subsequent offense) -365 days

You may receive an additional suspension of 2 years for a second conviction, or 4 years for a second conviction with a BAC level of 0.2% or higher, or 3 years for a third DUI/DWI conviction. You may also have to pay fines and may face jail time.

Implied Consent Violations

An officer needs to give an “Implied Consent Warning” to a driver the officer pulls over for a reasonable suspicion that the driver is drunk. It is simply a warning that if the driver refuses to submit to tests, the driver’s driving license will be suspended.  A judge may be persuaded by your attorney not to punish you for refusing to submit to the test if the police officer did not present the implied consent warning.

Your attorney may also combat the states charges against you by proving that there was no probable cause to pull you over for drunk driving in the first place. The court requires the officer to show that there was enough evidence to require a chemical BAC test as described in Louisiana’s Implied Consent law.  For example, drunk driving charges against you can be dropped if it turns out that you were not driving in a dangerous or questionable manner and you were not at a DUI checkpoint. Remember that there is no punishment for refusing to participate in a field sobriety test unlike for BAC tests. An experienced DWI attorney can guide you through this complex process.

How Long Does an Expungement Take?

Just a single arrest, no matter how trivial you think it is may leave a mark on your record. It could mean arrest showing up in a future employee background check, or when you apply for military service, or sometimes when you want to rent an apartment. In the following video, attorney Danny Russell discusses the expungement process in Louisiana.

A properly expunged record means that certain private entities who contact the courthouse where the record may not have access to your criminal conviction. However, other organizations can still access those records and they include:

  • A law enforcement agency
  • Criminal justice agency
  • The office of financial institutions
  • The Louisiana state board of medical examiners
  • The Louisiana State board of Nursing

These are only a few of the organizations that can access that information.  An attorney familiar with the law and the changes can guide you through the expungement process.

Getting an Expungement in Louisiana

You have to file a motion for expungement to get an expungement, it doesn’t happen automatically.  Your lawyer will help you file the motion properly to prevent it from not going through. Generally, the filing fee is $350-$450 and on top of that there is a lawyer’s fee.  In Baton Rouge city court, the filing fees can range from $100-$350. You are only eligible for an expungement if:

  • Your case resulted in dismissal
  • You sustained a motion to quash
  • The prosecution refused to prosecute
  • 5 years have passed since your sentence ended  for certain misdemeanor convictions
  • 10 years have passed  since your sentence ended for certain felony convictions
  • Time limitations  running out
  • Defendant pleads guilty and received a deferred sentence under article 894 or 893 and successfully completed probation.

Note that misdemeanors may be expunged after 5 years have passed only if you have no felony convictions and no pending felony charges in the intervening years. Adults cannot expunge a record if it involves domestic violence, sex offenses, arrest for first and second DUI or when they have done time with the Department of Corrections.

What Happens to Juveniles?

Young people over the age of 17 can obtain an expungement under Article 918 of the Children’s Code. This only happens if a charge was adjudicated as a misdemeanor or no charge resulted in adjudication.  The exceptions are that there should have been no firearms involved and two years should have passed since the most recent judgment. For a juvenile felony you are not eligible for expungement if you offense was homicide, a sex crime, kidnapping or manslaughter.

Charges that can be Expunged

The misdemeanor and felony charges that can be expunged include theft, DWI, assault, DUI, possession of marijuana and more.

You should file a motion for expungement as soon as you can.  Once you criminal record has been expunged you can put your past behind you and you never have to disclose the arrest to future potential employers.  It will also insulate you family from social stigma associated with having a criminal record that is publicly available.

Are DWI Checkpoints Illegal in Louisiana?

Law enforcement set up  sobriety checkpoints on Louisiana roadways mostly during particular holidays such as Labor Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s Day and others. The reason for this is that DWI accidents spike during these holidays. But generally temporary stop of vehicles constitutes a Fourth Amendment seizure under both U.S. and Louisiana Law.

There must be a justified reason for an officer to be able to infringe upon the rights of citizens.  There are times where individual rights can be overridden such as where drunk drivers are involved.  Drunk drivers are a threat to public safety according to the law.

Requirements for Checkpoints

There are specific requirements that police checkpoints must abide by to pass  Louisiana constitutional muster and not infringe on the liberty rights of each driver. They include:

  • The checkpoints should be publicly announced ahead of time in your local newspaper or town website
  • Police should only stop motorists on a neutral impartial basis
  • The location of the checkpoint must be reasonable
  • Drivers should only be detained for a short time to lessen the intrusive nature of the checkpoint
  • There should be signage alerting motorists to the presence of a checkpoint

Only the supervisory or other administrative personnel can  establish in written form, the location, time, and duration of the checkpoint and other regulations for operation of the checkpoint.  Officers manning or implementing the checkpoint are not allowed to do this.

What to do at a Sobriety Checkpoint

Some people panic at sobriety checkpoints because they do not know what exactly the police officers are looking for. Below are rules you should follow at a sobriety checkpoint:

  • Do not argue with the police officers and be respectful
  • Make sure your documentation including your license, registration, and proof of insurance and others  is readily available
  • You can say no to a field sobriety test because this refusal does not violate the state’s Implied consent law
  • Submit to a breathalyzer test if you are arrested to avoid getting your license suspended
  • Try not to say anything that can be used against you in a court

Law Enforcement Officers Make Mistakes

In numerous cases, law enforcement  officers do not comply with checkpoint requirements especially in parishes such as Orleans, Tangipahoa, and Baton Rouge.  This has lead to many DUI charges being dismissed or reduced when challenged in court. So get an experienced lawyer to review your case to see whether everything was done according to the law.

Traffic Stops vs. DUI Checkpoints

A police officer cannot conduct a traffic stop without “reasonable suspicion” that the driver has committed a crime.  For a DUI arrest, the officer must have witnessed evidence of reckless driving, driving extremely slow, speeding or other abnormal driving behavior for the traffic stop to be lawful.

Law enforcement officers do not need “reasonable suspicion” to stop motorists at a DUI checkpoint.  Every motorist that passes the sobriety checkpoint has to be stopped to prevent discrimination and violation of the Fourth Amendment rights.

Louisiana Minor in Possession Charges

Undercover agents have over the years found many minors in possession of alcohol during football games or events like Mardi Gras.  People under the age of 21 are minors, and can face MIP charges if they are found with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .02% or more.

Louisiana Minor in Possession Charges

Minor in possession (MIP) laws help discourage underage minors from consuming or possessing alcoholic beverages in public.   You cannot be charged with MIP if:

  • You are in a private residence
  • Your parents or legal guardian is accompanying you
  • You are employed to transport, dispense, or sell an alcoholic beverage and you are handling the beverage in the course of lawful employment
  • You are handling the alcoholic beverage for an established religious event or purpose

What many people do not know is that an MIP is a misdemeanor that can be added to your record. This could affect a person’s chances of getting into a school or even future job prospects.

MIP Louisiana

In Baton Rouge, a four-month pre-trial intervention program costing $750 is offered to first-time offenders who face MIP charges.  During these four months, the offender will be subjected to random drug tests. You, the offender, will also have to attend MADD victim panel classes and AA meetings, and also perform 16 hours of community service. You will also attend driver improvement school and undergo substance abuse evaluations.

Once the defendant completes the program successfully the misdemeanor will be dismissed.  However, the defendant will need to file a motion to expunge the arrest from their record. The expungement does not prevent some state agencies, law enforcement and professional boards from getting access to your records.  That means that a misdemeanor charge can still affect future activities like applying for a state job or medical school.

Pre-Trial Intervention

You could decide to plead guilty or go to trial instead of enrolling in the pre-trial intervention program. That means that you will have to pay a fine. The fine for Minor in Possession is $300.  First-time offender that can demonstrate that not being able to drive could affect their work or schooling may be issued with a restricted driver’s license by the Department of Public Safety and Corrections.

Before 2016 first-time underage drinkers could face the threat of spending more than 6 months in jail and also had to pay a fine.  But the story is different for re-offenders.

Misdemeanor Summons

A misdemeanor summons is like a traffic ticket issued to minors found in possession of an alcoholic beverage in public.  But paying the fine on an MIP like you would for a traffic ticket is pleading guilty to a misdemeanor. Parents should immediately contact a lawyer who can guide them on the necessary steps to take, instead of going ahead and paying the fine. Do not let a public fun event put a mark on your record.  An experienced lawyer will work to ensure that your rights are protected and may even have your fines reduced or removed.

Can You Beat A DWI in Louisiana?

Do not assume that just because you were arrested for a DUI that there will be a conviction. All the elements of the crime have to be proven beyond any reasonable doubt in court. Only under those circumstances can the arrest result in conviction. For example, they have to prove that you were actually intoxicated or under the influence of drugs and that you were driving the vehicle. A resourceful lawyer can help provide a strong defense to help prevent a DWI conviction.

Your lawyer will work to get a not guilty charge or work to ensure you avoid a jail sentence which is not suspended. A skilled attorney may also help you avoid a felony conviction or discharge your DWI record.

You can beat a DUI in the following situations:

When you were not the driver and there was no probable cause

You cannot be convicted for a DUI if you were not driving the vehicle when the police officer approached you. For example, you may have been intoxicated and simply resting with the key in the ignition waiting for your ride. Another key defense is the probable cause. Your constitutional rights may have been violated if the officer stopped you because of a hunch. They must prove that they actually witnessed intoxication, or that you broke a certain law that justified them stopping you.

When Breathalyzer machine malfunctions and errors in results

The breathalyzer test results can be used as evidence against you but it could also be way to beat a DUI. A breathalyzer may show inaccurate results because of a medication you take or it could be malfunctioning. This makes those test results inadmissible in court. Instances where the breathalyzer machines are not calibrated properly also means the results are inaccurate.

When test results are improper

Field sobriety tests that are not done correctly can lead to your DUI charges getting reduced or even dismissed. A police officer must have strong evidence of intoxication before the officer can request the test. Instances where a police officer forces you to perform a sobriety test can also lead to your DUI charges getting reduced or dismissed.

When the police officer made a mistake

Some mistakes police officers make is pulling over suspects for a possible DUI using anonymous tips. This is not allowed in Louisiana. Another thing not allowed is detaining DUI suspects for too long. Your lawyer can point out these mistakes in court to help you get your DWI charges reduced or dismissed.

For a first offense, the possible penalties include up to six months in jail, a fine of $300 to $1000 and your driver’s license can be suspended for one year. The penalties are harsher for people who re-offend. Get the services of an experienced lawyer as early as possible in the legal process. Your lawyer will review your arrest for defense tips that may help increase the chances of your DWI charges getting dropped and prevent a license suspension.

What’s The Difference Between DWI & DUI in Louisiana?

People are often confused about drunk-driving terminology in Louisiana-especially the acronyms.  There are states that use DUI and DWI while other states just use DUI as an acronym for a drunk driving charge. You will be charged for a DWI or a  DUI if you are arrested for driving while intoxicated in Louisiana and Texas. In Louisiana DWI and DUI is the same crime. Driving while intoxicated or DWI is the term used to describe impaired or drunken driving in Louisiana. But this video introduces you to the term OWI…

Typically Louisiana law actually describes this crime as OWI…Operating a vehicle While Intoxicated. Driving under the influence or DUI is used instead of DWI in Mississippi and some other states.  You can still be charged for impaired driving even if your BAC level is not over the required level in some states.  In Louisiana, an officer who has a reason to believe that you are acting under the influence can still arrest you. This usually happens when the officer suspects that you have combined alcohol with other drugs.

Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated also includes operation of aircraft, watercraft, vessel or other means of conveyance. It is considered a crime to operate a vehicle when:

  • You are under influence of alcoholic beverages
  • Your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08 or more
  • You are under the influence of a controlled substance listed under schedule I, II, III,IV  as set forth in La. R.S. 40:964
  • You are under the influence of a combination of alcohol and one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances and which are legally obtainable with or without prescription
  • You are under the influence of one or more drugs which are not controlled dangerous substances and which are legally obtainable with or without prescription

The state will use the police officer’s report and drug test of your urine or blood as evidence that you used a legal or illegal substance. It will also be used to prove that that substance impaired your driving.

Consequences of DUI Convictions

Louisiana law requires driving licenses of  drivers that fail the blood concentration test to be suspended for 90 days. Your license may be suspended for 2 years if your BAC level is over .20 percent. You may also face steep fines and convictions may be added to your driving record. There are additional harsher penalties for people that re-offend.  Driving licenses of Drivers that refuse to submit to a BAC test can be suspended for one year.

But these consequences depend on the number of times you have been convicted for a DUI. A first and second offense is considered a misdemeanor but a third and subsequent offense is considered a felony. The higher the number of DUI offenses in your record the harsher the penalties you will get.

Each Word Means Different Things in Some States

There are states that use both terms to mean different things.  In some states, DWI means driving while intoxicated of alcohol , while DUI means driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Hire a resourceful attorney to study you case and advice you accordingly.