If you have had anything to drink it is best not to drive at all. This includes a boat or any other vehicle. Even if you don't feel impaired you do not want to have to explain to the Judge that you may have had some beers but you don't think you were drunk. The best defense and cheapest way to "beat a D.W.I. in Louisiana is to call a cab or stay where you are.
I didn't follow Step 1, I just got pulled over.
This is the hardest part of the process. If you have are impaired from alcohol or illegal drugs, or if you have taken prescription drugs either with alcohol or in excess of your prescription and you are impaired, you can be charged with D.W.I. in Louisiana. You can also be charged with D.W.I. if you take a breath test and the results show a Breath Alcohol Reading of .08 or more, whether or not you seem impaired.
If you have done any of those things or are not sure your best bet if stopped is to simply produce your license, registration and proof of Insurance and that is it. The officer will ask you routine questions, starting with "have you had anything to drink tonight" Your response should be "I'm sorry Officer but I don't want to answer any questions until I can speak with my lawyer" Be nice but do not engage in a conversation with the Officer. You are just giving him or her evidence to use in Court. You will not talk your way out of a charge.
I am being arrested
Chances are, if you refused to answer any questions the Officer will place you under arrest and take you to police station or jail to take a breath test. Do not engage in small talk with the Officer on the way to police station. You may be being recorded and filmed during the trip. If the Officer tries to make small talk just politely explain that you would really like to be friendly but your lawyer has really warned you about discussing anything with the Officer before or during an arrest. Remember the best police officers are the ones that get suspects to open up and make admissions about drinking etc. They do this by being nice and sympathetic. DO NOT SPEAK WITH THE OFFICER.
The Field Sobriety Tests
As a NHTSA certified field sobriety testing course graduate, I can tell you that Field Sobriety tests are junk. Do not under any circumstance agree to take any of these tests. Usually the Officer simply directs you to follow the pen. You feel like you can't refuse. YOU CAN. Again, politely tell the Officer that if you are not free to leave then you will not perform any field sobriety tests. Do not lie about some injury, and for goodness sake's do not say, as many do, " Heck, I couldn't do that sober". Again do not get sucked into being defensive. Politely refuse and wait for the handcuffs.
The Breath Test
This is tricky. Many people are told to never take a breath test. My better advice is to never take a field sobriety test. If you refuse to take the breath test there are some pretty lousy consequences, like losing your driver's license. Here is the real problem. The penalties for D.W.I. and the length of your license suspension increase with your breath test reading. Someone who tests with a blood alcohol level above .15 is required to serve 48 hours in jail on a first offense. Basically, the law punishes you if you cooperate by exposing you to greater penalties. if you are sober take the breath test but no FST's. If you are unsure of whether or not you can pass the breath test, A. Don't Drive and B. Do not take the test.
Ultimately if you are arrested you need to do the following. First, make sure you apply for an administrative hearing within 15 days of your arrest. This allows you to have a hearing on whether or not your driving privileges can be taken away but it also helps your lawyer get important information about your case and question the police officers under oath before your criminal trial. This is a very important part of getting the best results for your case.
Do I need a lawyer and who should I hire.
Yes. A D.W.I. is a complicated arrest that has many highly specialized areas of law to deal with. In order to get the best possible outcome you need an experienced D.W.I. lawyer. HOWEVER, it is important to meet with several lawyers before hiring one. No good lawyer will be surprised to hear that you are interviewing several lawyers before making a decision on hiring. Not all D.W.I. cases are as complicated with others and depending upon your needs you may be able to get good representation for less than you think. One price does not fit all and the most expensive lawyer is not necessarily the best lawyer.
How much should the lawyer charge?
Lawyers set fees based on all sorts of considerations. A reputable lawyer will need to know what are the acceptable outcomes in your case ( An airline pilot with a D.W.I. does not have the same consequences as a college student or construction worker), what is your criminal history, where is your case pending and what are the facts as you remember them. In Baton Rouge, you should expect to pay a flat fee of around $1,500.00 to $5,000.00 dollars if you are a first offender. Remember, always sign a written contract that explains exactly what the lawyer will do in your case and what the fee is going to be. Good Luck!
Additional resources provided by the author
Please feel free to visit my website for more Louisiana D.W.I. details including the full text of the D.W.I. law.
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