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DUI/DWI and Traffic Offenses

Have You Been Charged with A DUI in New Orleans?

Louisiana law criminalizes operating a vehicle—whether a car, boat, truck, or any other motorized vehicle—while intoxicated.  Being arrested for a DUI or DWI is a serious situation.  You can have your license suspended and face the possibility of jail time and significant fines if you are convicted.  Defending against a DUI charge can also be complex.  Most of the cases involve scientific evidence, like the BAC (blood alcohol content) that is determined via the breathalyzer machine or through a DUI blood test.  But with the help of a good defense lawyer, it is possible to defend against a DUI charge, or at least make the consequences significantly less onerous.

Here are some DUI basics:

What Louisiana statute makes it a crime to operate a vehicle while intoxicated?

LA R.S. 14:98 is the state statute that criminalizes DUI.  However, in Orleans Parish (New Orleans), the City has its own law criminalizing DUIs.  It is not uncommon for people to be charged with violating the City’s DUI law rather than the state law.  The penalties are the same under both laws.

What are the penalties for a DUI?

Although the DUI laws frequently change, for a first offense DUI the maximum penalties are up to six months in jail and a fine of up to $1000.  Instead of jail time, courts will often sentence DUI defendants to probation with requirements that the defendant perform community service, and attend AA meetings and a driver improvement school.  Penalties for a DUI can increase based on the person’s BAC at the time of the offense.  The penalties also increase if the person has had a DUI in the past.

What happens to your driver’s license if you are charged with a DUI?

Whenever someone is arrested for a DUI, the police will seize the person’s driver’s license and issue them a temporary license.  The state will then formally seek to suspend the person’s license.  However, the defendant has the right to challenge the suspension in an administrative hearing.  The defendant must request an administrative hearing in writing within 30 days of the arrest.  Otherwise, the suspension will go into effect at the end of the 30 day period.

If someone is convicted of a DUI, their license will be suspended for a period of time, the exact amount of which depends on the facts of the case, specifically, the defendant’s BAC and whether they have prior DUIs.  The minimum period of suspension is 90 days.  It is possible to seek a hardship license during the period of suspension, which will allow for essential travel (such as for work).

How do the police prove someone has committed a DUI?

Sometimes police observe someone driving erratically and will pull them over for a traffic violation.  If the office has reason to suspect the person is intoxicated, they will usually ask the person to perform what are know as field sobriety tests.  There are three standard field sobriety tests.  The first is the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test, also known as the HGN test.  This test involves the officer holding his finger or some other object like a pen in front of the driver and asking that the driver follow the object with their eyes.  The eyes of people who are intoxicated with alcohol will show “nystagmus,” which is the scientific name for a particular sort of jerking movement of the pupil.

The next field test is the walk-and-turn test, during which the officer will ask the person to take nine heel-to-toe steps forward, turn, and then take nine steps back.  The third test is the one legged stand test, in which the person is asked to stand on one leg, tilt their head back, and then touch their nose with a finger.

If the officer observes a certain number of signs during these tests that the person is intoxicated, then that can establish probable cause to arrest the person for a DUI charge.  Once the person is placed under arrest, the officer will usually request that the person submit to a breathalyzer test to determine their BAC (blood alcohol content).

Can I refuse to submit to a breathalyzer test?

Yes, you can, but there can be consequences.  If the police officer has enough evidence to justify the arrest for DUI, ie. they have probable cause, then the Louisiana “implied consent” law is triggered.  The implied consent law states that anyone operating a motor vehicle in the state has impliedly consented, that is, agreed, to submit to a BAC test such as breathalyzer when there is probable cause to believe they are driving while intoxicated.  If someone refuses the BAC test, then their license to drive can be suspended.  And, more drastically, if someone has previously refused to submit to a BAC test, then it can be a crime to refuse such a test in the future.

Additionally, evidence regarding the refusal to submit to the test can be offered against the defendant in any trial of the DUI charge.

Hiring an Experienced DWI Lawyer in New Orleans

Mr. Haedicke has extensive experience representing individuals charged with misdemeanors, traffic offenses, and DWIs. He is familiar with the workings of both Magistrate Court and Traffic Court in New Orleans.

Misdemeanor crimes come in a wide variety, from public drunkenness to simple battery. Although considered “petty” crimes in the context of the wider criminal justice system, they can be of great importance to the people charged with committing them. Mr. Haedicke  always treats misdemeanor cases with the same level of seriousness as he would expect were he to be charged with such an offense.

Mr. Haedicke is also experienced in defending charges of DWI, or driving while intoxicated. Perhaps the most serious of traffic offenses, a DWI charge can be complex to defend; almost every DWI involves a substantial amount of scientific evidence, ranging from “horizontal gaze nystagmus” tests to “blow” tests to determine a person’s BAC (blood alcohol content). The consequences of a DWI conviction are also substantial: a person faces up to 6 months in jail and a $1000 fine for a first offense, and their driver’s license may be suspended for up to a year.  The penalties increase with subsequent violations.

Given the complexities and consequences associated with either a misdemeanor or a DWI charge, it pays to have experienced counsel at your side. If you or a loved one has been charged with such a crime, contact the Law Offices of Stephen Haedicke for a free consultation.