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Have Louisiana drunk driving laws changed for 2015?

Sentences associated with alcohol-related offenses got tougher for Louisiana drivers at the beginning of the year. Convicted first-time offenders, including drivers under the legal drinking age, now face penalties that can include jail time. The need for a vigorous DUI criminal defense is more important now than any time in the past.

Under previous laws, first-time DUI offenders under 21 were fined as little as $100 and ordered to take part in driver improvement and substance abuse programs. Starting in 2015, laws made it possible for all first offenders to land in jail for at least 10 days and as long as six months. The fine range shot up to a $300 minimum and $1,000 maximum.

The jail time is mandatory for a first-time DUI offender unless a judge opts to allow probation. Conditions of probation include a 32-hour commitment to community service and participation in substance abuse and driving programs. Driving privileges are suspended throughout the probationary period unless the defendant's vehicle is outfitted with an ignition interlock device.

First-time DUI penalties increase significantly when a driver's blood alcohol content level equals or exceeds 0.15 percent, and spike again for BAC levels at or above 0.20 percent. A Louisiana driver with a BAC limit of 0.08 percent or greater is considered intoxicated.

Drunk-driving laws in many states have tightened considerably in the last several years. What hasn't changed is the obligation of prosecutors to provide evidence a defendant was impaired beyond a reasonable doubt. Anything less is insufficient to obtain a conviction.

Consequences of a DUI charge can begin immediately, with the loss of a driver's license, and escalate quickly, unless a defendant's attorney meets the problems head on. Contacting a lawyer as quickly as possible following a DUI arrest is imperative to take advantage of opportunities that otherwise might be lost. Hesitating to take action may only exacerbate your legal standing.

Source: WWL-TV, "New 2015 laws aim to crack down on drunk drivers" Jaclyn Kelley, Eyewitness News, Jan. 02, 2015

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