What to Expect When Facing a Drunk Driving Charge

Consulting with a New Orleans DUI lawyer after a drunk driving arrest is essential, as a driver can receive serious criminal penalties for driving while impaired.  At Bloom Legal, we know that being arrested is scary and that reaching out to a lawyer may seem intimidating as you try to cope with legal charges.

To help educate you about DWIs and the legal process, Bloom Legal has prepared a list of frequently asked questions and their answers to help you gain a better understanding of what to expect when facing a drunk driving charge in the New Orleans area.

Common Questions About DWIs

The answers below provide some basic information you need to know about a drunk driving arrest, but every case is different.  To obtain advice regarding your case and get the best results, you need a strong legal advocate to represent your interests.

Our New Orleans DUI law firm is here to help – don’t hesitate to give us a call if you have more questions, or want to learn how we can help you with your case.

What is the difference between a DWI and a DUI?

Typically a DWI—or Driving While Intoxicated—is a charge handed out to individuals driving under the influence of alcohol. A DUI (Driving Under the Influence), on the other hand, is reserved for drivers caught operating a vehicle while under the influence of other drugs and/or alcohol.

Seems repetitive, right? You’re not wrong. There’s some overlap built in, but generally DUI is reserved for a driver under the influence of more than just alcohol, though alcohol may also be included.

The application varies from state to state. Some states make distinctions between the two acronyms. Others, like Louisiana, do not. In Louisiana, DWI is a catchall charge for driving under the influence of anything and everything.

What penalties will I face if I am convicted of drunk driving?

Penalties for drunk driving vary depending on how high your blood alcohol content was at the time of arrest, whether aggravating factors existed (like an underage child in the car), whether you caused the collision, and whether or not you have prior convictions.  You could face fines and jail time if you are found guilty of drunk driving

Will I lose my license if I am convicted of a drunk driving offense?

A conviction for a drunk driving offense will result in the suspension of your license.  After you have been charged, your license is immediately suspended and you receive a 30-day temporary driving permit.  If you do not apply for an administrative hearing to contest the license suspension, your license will be suspended for 90 days if it is your first offense and your blood alcohol level (BAC) was below .08.  A longer suspension is possible if your BAC was more than .08, you refused to submit to a blood alcohol content test, or if you have prior convictions

Will I have a criminal record after a New Orleans DUI?

Drunk driving is a criminal offense, so the conviction will appear on your criminal record and on background checks.  It may be possible, under some circumstances, to enter into a diversion or first-time offender program in order to prevent the offense from appearing on your record.  Consult a New Orleans DWI attorney to see if you qualify for these programs.

Do I have to go to court if I am arrested for drunk driving?

Typically, you must go to court for a drunk driving charge to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty and to face a trial regarding your guilt.  If you hope to resolve the criminal charges without a trial, you may be able to enter into a plea bargain.  You should consult with a New Orleans DWI lawyer to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor so you can minimize any penalties. 

What if I was arrested for drunk driving in New Orleans, but I live out of state?

A driver’s license suspension and a criminal conviction for drunk driving will follow you back to your home state.  You cannot simply ignore the charges or fail to appear in court, as this is considered a criminal act.   Instead, you should be proactive and hire an attorney who can help you resolve the charge(s).

At Bloom Legal, we represent many out-of-state defendants who received a DWI in New Orleans.  Our attorneys work to reduce the number of times you must return to Louisiana for court appearances.  At the same time, we also use our legal experience to help obtain a favorable  outcome.

What are some common terms that relate to my DUI arrest?

Below, our firm has defined some common DUI terms to help you easily decipher the conversations and paperwork that relate to your arrest:

  • Absorption Rate – the rate that alcohol enters your blood stream. Food, the type of alcohol and biological factors all affect your absorption rate.
  • Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) – this term is often used interchangeably with “blood alcohol content” although blood alcohol concentration is the official term. BAC refers to the amount of alcohol that is in your blood stream. Your BAC may be measured by a breath, urine test or blood test. If your BAC exceeds the legal limit of .08, then you are considered to be in violation of drunk driving laws.
  • Breath Test – also called a breathalyzer, a breath test is used by law enforcement to determine the amount of alcohol in your blood stream.
  • Burnoff – refers to how quickly your body metabolizes alcohol. Your age, medical conditions, and the frequency of alcohol consumption can all affect the rate burn-off occurs.
  • Dram Shop Liability – refers to laws that hold drinking establishments such as bars and restaurants legally liable for injuries that third parties experience. Dram shop laws can make bars and restaurants responsible for accidents caused by drunk drivers under certain circumstances such as if the bar served someone who was already clearly intoxicated or who was not 21 years old.
  • Field Sobriety Test (FST) – is conducted by law enforcement to provide an initial assessment on whether a driver is intoxicated or not. Field sobriety tests usually assess physical or mental coordination. For example, a driver may be asked to walk a straight line or to recite the alphabet.
  • Ignition Interlock Device (IID) – is a device that may be required on the vehicle of someone with several drunk driving convictions. The driver pays for the installation and is required to blow into a breathalyzer on the IID before starting the vehicle. If the device detects alcohol the car will not start.
  • Implied Consent – according to implied consent laws, drivers in Louisiana are required to have a blood alcohol content test if there is reason to suspect they are driving while impaired.
  • Impound – your vehicle may be impounded or towed to a designated police yard after you have been arrested for impaired driving. There will be fees and costs associated with removing your vehicle from impound.
  • License Suspension – a person who has been convicted of a DUI may have his or her license suspended and will not be allowed to drive for a period of time. An administrative license suspension may also occur after a drunk driving arrest. An administrative suspension means that the Department of Motor Vehicles automatically suspends a license unless the alleged drunk driver requests a hearing.
  • Miranda Rights – law enforcement officers must read Miranda rights when an individual is arrested and before questioning. The Miranda rights include the right to remain silent and the right to an attorney.
  • Restricted License – also referred to as a hardship or provisional license, a restricted license makes it legal for a person to drive for a limited purpose or period of time. Restricted license commonly allow travel to and from work or to fulfill family obligations.
  • Rising BAC Defense – this is a DUI defense in which you allege that you were not over-the-limit at the time when you were operating your vehicle even if you were over-the-limit when your BAC is tested. The defense is based on the premise that your BAC continues to rise for a period of time after you are no longer drinking.
  • Zero Tolerance – according to zero tolerance laws, teenagers under the age of 21 are not allowed to drive after consuming alcohol under any circumstances.

Understanding these common DUI terms is essential. For help learning more about drunk driving or for advice about your DUI charges, contact Bloom Legal to speak with a New Orleans DUI lawyer today – 504-599-9997.

What are my rights regarding search and seizure in Louisiana? 

Drivers have a right to be free from “unlawful search and seizure.” The Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees individuals the right to be secure in their person and their property. This means that unless police have probable cause, they cannot pull you over.

If you were violating traffic laws or the rules of the road, the police have the right to make a traffic stop. However, this does not necessarily give an officer the right to search your vehicle or request a breathalyzer test.

Unless a law enforcement officer has reasonable belief that you are intoxicated, he or she cannot force you to submit to a sobriety test.

For example, if you were pulled over for speeding, the officer cannot make you take a breathalyzer or blood test unless there is reasonable belief that you are under the influence. Reasonable belief can be the smell of alcohol, red eyes or visible signs of impairment. However, if you were pulled over for swerving or erratic driving the officer may have a legitimate reason to suspect you were intoxicated and could legally ask you to submit to a sobriety test.

Can I refuse a breath test?

Drivers have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test and a field sobriety test, even if there is evidence of intoxication. Breath and field tests for intoxication are notoriously unreliable and are prone to false positives.

While implied consent laws require drivers to submit to some tests if there is reason to believe they are impaired, the driver can refuse these field tests and will instead be given a blood or urine test. It often makes sense to refuse the tests in the field because of the risk of false positives and because you do not want to provide additional evidence for prosecutors to use against you if you are charged.

Should I refuse a field sobriety test?

At the end of the day, if you are pulled over and have been drinking, you are probably going to jail, but whether you submit to a sobriety test or not can impact your ability to fight the charge later on. The decision is ultimately up to you, but in most cases, if you aren’t sure you can pass the sobriety test, it is best to refuse to take it.

Can I get a DWI on a bike?

There is no specific law against biking while drunk in Louisiana. The law states that it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle, aircraft, watercraft, or other means of conveyance while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

So, while bicycles are not specifically prohibited by the law, the “other means of conveyance” could potentially be interpreted to include bikes.

At the end of the day, you should not operate any vehicle while under the influence. Alcohol and drugs impair your judgement and reaction, and driving or operating any vehicle after consuming them can endanger yourself and others.

There’s always a better way to get where you’re going!

Can police officers test if there is marijuana in my system?

If you are pulled over and suspected of drunk driving, a police officer will likely ask you to take a breathalyzer test. But what about if you’re suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs?

There is a device comparable to the breathalyzer that can ostensibly measure if you have marijuana in your system. They are being gradually implemented in some areas. However, at this time, these devices are expensive and not often carried by police officers.

Officers instead make judgement calls about individuals suspected of driving under the influence of marijuana or other drugs based on observable data. For example, they may say that the individual they pulled over had bloodshot eyes and/or the vehicle smelled of marijuana.

If the officer makes an arrest on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs, police may attempt to administer a blood test at the station to determine what drugs are in the suspect’s system.

However, drug tests are not entirely accurate at indicating whether one is under the influence of drugs at a given time. For instance, a person who regularly smokes marijuana may show up with it in their system on a blood test, but that does not mean they were necessarily high when the test was administered. Marijuana and other drugs, especially when used regularly, may continue to show up in blood tests for some time even if one is no longer using.

DUI charges can be combatted in a court of law by an experienced drug defense lawyer. The lawyer can bring into question the validity of the arresting officer’s judgement call, as well as potential blood test results. These and other drug defenses can result in DUI charges being reduced or thrown out.

Can you get arrested for refusing to leave a bar?

Yes, you can be arrested for criminal trespassing for refusing to leave a bar.

Owners and operators of establishments have the right to ask individuals to leave the premises of their business for any reason. Just like how a bartender reserves the right to refuse to serve alcohol to someone who is too inebriated, bar owners can ask an individual to leave their establishment if they do not like the way they are behaving.

If someone is being offensive, causing a disturbance, or being rude to staff, they may be asked to leave a bar in New Orleans. If the person then refuses to leave of their own accord, the police may be contacted. In this case, the individual will likely be charged with criminal trespassing, for refusing to leave an establishment that they were asked to leave.

In some circumstances, and depending on the situation, they may also be charged with disturbing the peace or public drunkenness.

How can a New Orleans DWI lawyer help?

A New Orleans DWI lawyer will advise you on how to plead, help you negotiate a plea bargain, or represent you in court.  If you to go court, we will advise you of potential defenses and help build and argue your case.   We will advocate for you and protect your rights during your entire interaction with the criminal justice system in Louisiana.

At Bloom Legal, we have been handling DWI cases in the greater New Orleans area for a decade and a half. Contact us today at 504-599-9997 complete out contact form to schedule a consultation with New Orleans DWI law firm that you can trust.

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