Louisiana BWI Penalties

The consequences of being convicted of drunk or drugged boating (boating while intoxicated) in Louisiana.

By Joshua Egan

In Louisiana, it’s illegal to operate a boat while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. The penalties for boating while intoxicated (BWI) depend on a number of factors, including:

  • whether the boater has prior BWI or DWI convictions, and
  • the boater’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Below, we discuss the consequences of different types of BWI convictions.

(For more about Louisiana BWI law, see Louisiana’s Boating While Intoxicated Laws.)

First-Offense BWI

Generally, a BWI is consider a “first offense” if the offender doesn’t have any prior BWI or DWI convictions within the past ten years. The penalties for a first BWI are:

  • First offense with BAC below .15%. Where the offender’s BAC was below .15%, a first BWI carries ten days to six months in jail and $300 to $1000 in fines. However, the judge can reduce the jail time to 48 hours or order 32 hours of community service in lieu of jail if, as conditions of probation, the offender participates in substance abuse and driver improvement programs. The judge can also condition the offender’s driving privileges (for the period of probation or a shorter time) on installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).
  • First offense with BAC of at least .15% but less than .2%. The penalties intensify when the BWI offender's BAC is .15% or greater but less than .2%. With a BAC in this range, the judge must impose an additional 48 hours jail time that can’t be suspended. So convicted boaters will spend at least 48 hours in jail.
  • First offense with BAC of .2% or greater. BWI offenders with a BAC of .2% or greater must spend at least 48 hours in jail and pay $750 to $1,000 in fines. The judge will suspend the offender's driving privileges for two years.

(La. Rev. Stat. Ann.  § 14:98.1 (2016).)

Second-Offense BWI

Generally, a BWI is considered a “second offense” if the offender has one prior BWI or DWI conviction within the past ten years. The penalties for a second BWI are:

  • Second offense with BAC below .15%. Where the offender’s BAC was below .15%, a second BWI carries 30 days to six months in jail and $750 to $1,000 in fines. However, the judge can reduce the jail time to 48 hours or order 32 hours of community service in lieu of jail if, as conditions of probation, the offender participates in substance abuse and driver improvement programs. The judge can also condition the offender’s driving privileges (for the period of probation or a shorter time) on installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).
  • Second offense with BAC of at least .15% but less than .2%. The penalties intensify when the BWI offender's BAC is.15% or greater but less than .2%. In this range, the offender must serve at least 96 hours in jail.
  • Second offense with BAC of .20% or greater. BWI second offenders with a BAC of .2% or greater must spend at least 96 hours in jail and pay $1,000 in fines. The judge will suspend the offender's driving privileges for four years.   
  • Second offense within one year of the first offense. If the BWI offender commits a second offense within a year of the first offense, the offender must serve at least 30 days in jail.

(La. Rev. Stat. Ann.  § 14:98.2 (2016).)

Third-Offense BWI (Felony BWI)

Generally, a third BWI committed within a ten-year period is a felony. Convicted boaters generally face $2,000 in fines and one to five years in prison. The court can suspend the one-year minimum sentence if the offender is accepted into a drug diversion probation program. However, the offender will be placed on supervised probation for the entire duration of the suspended sentence. The terms of probation include:

  • completing 240 hours of community service
  • obtaining employment
  • participating in a court-approved driver improvement program
  • serving at least six months in home incarceration, and
  • having an IID until completion of substance abuse treatment program and home incarceration.

The BWI offender also faces the possibility of forfeiting the watercraft operated during the offense. In other words, the state can seize the watercraft and sell it at auction.

(La. Rev. Stat. Ann.  § 14:98.3 (2016).)

Ignition Interlock Devices

In some circumstances, a judge can allow an offender to drive during a suspension. However, driving privileges are conditioned on installation of an IID. Check with an attorney to find out more about this possibility.

(La. Rev. Stat. Ann.  §§ 14:98.1, 14:98.2, 14:98.3, 14:98.4 (2016).)

HOW MUCH TIME WOULD YOU ACTUALLY SPEND IN JAIL?

Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Contact an Attorney

Louisiana BWI law is complicated, and the facts of every case are different. To find out how the law applies to the fact of your case, get in touch with an attorney with BWI experience. 

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