Louisiana DUI Consequences: What You Need to Know

How prior DUI convictions can impact sentencing and penalties

By S.M. Oliva | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on September 15, 2023

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Alcohol use is a major contributing factor in fatal car accidents. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 2,349 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving a drunk driver in Louisiana between 2009-2018 alone.

This is why every state, including Louisiana, has strict penalties for driving under the influence (DUI), which is normally defined as operating any kind of motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at or above the legal limit of 0.08 percent.

Jail Time and License Suspensions Increase With Every DUI Conviction

Under Louisiana state law, DUI penalties escalate with every subsequent conviction. For instance:

  • A first offense carries a maximum jail term of 6 months and a 90-day suspension of the defendant’s driver’s license. (The defendant must also serve at least 2 days in jail.)
  • With a second offense, the license suspension is bumped up to 1 year.
  • If there is a third conviction, it is treated as a felony, and the defendant faces up to 5 years in jail and a 2-year license suspension.
  • A fourth or fifth conviction is also a felony and carries a prison term of between 10 and 30 years.

Louisiana also has an “implied consent” law. This means that if a law enforcement officer has “reasonable grounds” to suspect you of drunk driving, you are deemed to consent to a breathalyzer/breath test, blood test, or similar chemical test to determine your blood-alcohol level.

If you refuse the test notwithstanding implied consent, your driver’s license can be suspended immediately even if you are not subsequently charged or convicted of a DUI arrest.

Louisiana Looks at All DUI Convictions for the Past 10 Years

When determining how many prior DUI convictions a defendant has for purposes of sentencing, a Louisiana court may only go back 10 years.

In other words, if a person was convicted of a DUI back in 2010 and later pleaded guilty to a DUI case in 2022, the earlier conviction does not count since it took place more than 10 years ago.

But what about DUI convictions from another state? As a general rule, out-of-state DUIs also count as prior offenses in the home state under Louisiana law. As long as it took place within the 10-year time limit, any DUI conviction “under the laws of any state or an ordinance of a municipality” counts as a “prior conviction” in Louisiana. So, if a defendant pleaded guilty to a DUI in Florida in 2015 and was later convicted of a DUI in Louisiana in 2022, it would be treated as a second offense for purposes of sentencing.

Additionally, Louisiana participates in the Interstate Driver License Compact. This is an agreement whereby member states honor driver’s license suspensions issued by other jurisdictions for comparable offenses. Louisiana has been a member of the Compact since 1968 (only a handful of states are not currently members of the Compact: Georgia, Tennessee, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Massachusetts).

For example, let’s say you are a Louisiana resident vacationing in Florida. You are arrested and convicted of DUI, which carries a minimum six-month license suspension by the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Florida is a member of the Compact, so it would inform Louisiana of your conviction, and your driver’s license would then be suspended for six months—just the same as if you had been convicted in the Louisiana courts.

Get an Experienced Louisiana DUI Lawyer

If you are facing DUI charges, consider consulting a Louisiana criminal defense attorney for legal advice as soon as possible. A DUI attorney will be familiar with your state’s DUI laws and defenses, including the rules and procedures around out-of-state DUIs. Many DUI lawyers provide free consultations to learn about your case.

If you’d like more general information about this area of the law, see our DUI/DWI law overview.

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