A bill recently introduced into the Senate would require harsher penalties for first-time DWI offenders. Specifically, the bill would make it mandatory for a person convicted of drunk driving to spend at least 48 hours in jail. The jail time could not be suspended by a judge. At present, the penalty for a first-time DWI is 10 days in jail, unless a judge suspends the sentence.

According to Senator Jonathan Perry, who introduced the bill, the goal is to protect others drivers on the roadway, particularly the children. The bill has reportedly been approved by a Senate committee, and now moves on to the Senate floor to be debated.

As our Baton Rouge readers know, DWI penalties become progressively with each offense. A first conviction can result in between 2 days and 6 months in prison, a fine of $1,000, and a driver’s license suspension for 90 days for those over 21. Underage persons can have their license suspended for up to 6 months.

A second conviction bumps jail time up 6 months, 48 hours of which are mandatory, a $1,000 fine, and a one year license suspension. A third conviction is considered a felony offense, and requires 45 days in jail at a minimum and up to five years. The fine on a third conviction is up to $2,000, and one can have one’s license suspended for 2 years. Additional requirements include 6 weeks of substance abuse treatment, 30 days of community service, and home incarceration. A fourth conviction comes with 75 days of mandatory jail time, and up to 30 years, a $5,000 fine, and license suspension for two years. Community service is bumped up to 40 days, and one’s vehicle may also be seized and sold.

Obviously, DWI is a serious offense, and it is important to be proactive in defending oneself from charges, even though more serious penalties come only with repeated convictions.

Source: 33 News, “Senate Bill will stiffen first-offense DWI penalties if passed,” Rhett Guillot, May 1, 2012.