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How the penalties increase with each new OWI charge

On Behalf of | Dec 5, 2022 | DWI/DUI |

You know that operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) charges result in criminal penalties under Louisiana state law. Most people realize that an OWI offense will put them at risk of a jail sentence, large fines, community service requirements or probation.

However, despite having a general concept of the potential consequences, many people underestimate the likely impact of pleading guilty to a Louisiana OWI offense. They let a judge determine the penalties instead of fighting back to prove their innocence in part because they fail to understand what sentence they might receive.

Every guilty plea comes with a mandatory stay in state custody, but how long you will spend there depends on your prior charges and the opinion of the judge sentencing you. How do the penalties increase with each subsequent OWI offense?

A first OWI

The first time someone gets arrested for allegedly driving after drinking, they could face between 48 hours and six months in jail. However, a shorter sentence of 48 hours is only possible if the judge orders probation. Otherwise, the minimum sentence is usually at least 10 days.

The fines and penalties, not including court costs, will be between $300 and $1,000. Drivers will also typically lose their license for 90 days, although they can qualify for a hardship license after serving the first 30 days of their suspension.

A second OWI

The penalties for a second OWI are higher than the consequences for a first offense. Without probation, the jail time possible increases to between 30 days and six months.

If the judge orders probation for the second offense, the length of incarceration depends on whether or not the defendant must perform community service. Fines for a second OWI range from between $750 and $1,000, while the license suspension will usually last at least a year.

A third OWI could mean up to five years in state custody and $2,000 in fines, as well as more serious licensing consequences. While the likely penalties for a first OWI may not seem that serious, especially after learning about the penalties for subsequent charges, avoiding a first conviction is the best way to prevent the state from charging you with a second or third OWI later in life.

Looking into the case against you can help you determine the best options for defending yourself when you face OWI charges in Louisiana.