Our office regularly fields questions surrounding a violation of Louisiana’s Driving While Intoxicated laws. Although a DWI first and second offense are both misdemeanor offenses, the implications are quite serious. Even the arrest for a DWI, not the conviction, can result of the suspension of your driving privileges and an increase in insurance premiums. If convicted, depending on the level of intoxication and prior DWI record, you can face mandatory jail time. A conviction of a third DWI carries a sentence with a minimum of one year and a maximum of five years in jail and a conviction of a fourth DWI carries a minimum sentence of ten years in jail and a maximum of thirty years, as well as the seizure of the vehicle involved and a litany of other requirements.
1. What does law enforcement look for in determining to stop someone?
While there is no way of outlining every possible justification an officer could use in determining to stop someone and conduct a field sobriety test, there are some common reasons outlined in many stops, including:
– Sobriety checkpoints, often set up on weekends
– Swerving, weaving, or drifting too close to or touching the white line
– Driving too slowly
– Following too closely
– Violating traffic signals
– Driving the wrong way on a one way street
2. What are the initial signs of intoxication an officer looks for?
– An odor of an alcoholic beverage
– Slurred speech
– Flushed face
– Red, glassy, and/or bloodshot eyes
3. Are Field Sobriety Test optional?
It is your right to refuse any standard field sobriety test. It is important to assert your rights in the most polite and respectful way. Law enforcement personnel are doing their jobs and, while you may find them offensive, rude or degrading, it is in your best interest to remain polite. Remember, you are almost always recorded when you are pulled over and your demeanor can go a long way telling your story.
4. Am I required to submit to the Chemical test, commonly known as the breath test?
Every individual has the right to submit to or refuse the chemical test. The chemical test is administered at the police station and, much like when you are stopped and being questioned on the side of the road, all your actions will be recorded. Chances are you believe you shouldn’t be there. You probably think the officer has already determined you are going to be arrested. Should you refuse, your demeanor will go a long way toward your defense. The Judge will analyze, among other factors, your speech, how you stand, are you swaying, are you speaking coherently. Your actions in this moment are critical as they are factors in determining intoxication.
5. What are the consequences of refusing the breath test?
The refusal to submit to the chemical can be used against you in court, just like the results if you submit. The Department of Motor Vehicles governs driving privileges in Louisiana and refusing to submit to the chemical test will result in your driver’s license being suspended. The DMV determines the length of suspension based on how many times you’ve been arrested for DWI and/or refused to submit to the chemical test in the past. Although refusal is not a crime, pursuant to Louisiana Revised Statute 14:98.7 you could face jail time if you refuse the test over any two pervious and separate occasions of such violations.