Picture this: you’re enjoying a night out with friends, and you decide to drive home after a few drinks. But suddenly, you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, and your heart starts pounding. You’re about to enter the frightening world of DWI charges, a realm filled with misconceptions, hidden consequences, and life-altering decisions. In this eye-opening article, we’ll reveal the shocking truth about DWI arrests, uncovering the secrets that the law enforcement and legal systems don’t want you to know. From the controversial reliability of field sobriety tests to the unexpected ways a DWI conviction can wreak havoc on your life, we’re exposing it all. Buckle up and get ready for a wild ride through the hidden side of DWI!

What is Louisiana DWI

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a criminal offense that occurs when a person operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both. In Louisiana, the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is typically 0.08%, but it will be less when the driver is a minor. It is important to note that refusing to provide a breath sample will not prohibit a DWI conviction as there are other methods for proving intoxication such as erratic driving, unstable balance, slurred speech and poor performance on the filed sobriety tests.  The BAC level simply creates a presumption that the driver is impaired.

What to Expect When Pulled Over for Suspicion of DWI

The police will institute a traffic stop whenever they suspect the driver is impaired.  Typically this can consist of serving or having trouble staying within the center of the lane.  But it can also include more egregious behavior such as speeding or even falling asleep at a traffic light.

 When pulled over for a suspected DWI, it is important to remain calm, be polite and respectful, and follow the officer’s instructions. Provide your driver’s license, registration, and proof of insurance when requested.

The officer will ask you to step put of the vehicle.  This will be his first chance to observe your demeanor,  Here, he is looking to see if you can exit the car normally and walk towards him without swaying your using your arms for balance.  Next he will ask for your driver’s license and tell you why he pulled you over.  This serves two purposes.  First, he can observe whether you have difficulty producing your license. Second, it gives him a chance to observe your eyes for redness and smell the scent of alcohol on your breath.  Third, he will ask you where you are going and where you are coming from. Again, this basic conversation gives him a chance to smell your breath but also gives him the opportunity to assess whether you are slurring your words.  Regardless of your answer he is going to suggest his suspicion that you are impaired.

It is at this point that he is going to “offer you” the opportunity to take the field sobriety tests to determine if you “are ok to drive.”

Understanding the three standardized field sobriety arrests for DWI arrests

The three standardized field sobriety tests, developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), are the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, the Walk-and-Turn (WAT) test, and the One-Leg Stand (OLS) test. These tests assess a driver’s balance, coordination, and ability to follow instructions, which can be affected by alcohol or drug intoxication.

Some common mistakes made by police officers during the administration of SFSTs include not providing proper instructions, not demonstrating the tests correctly, conducting the tests in poor or unsafe conditions, and not taking into account potential medical or physical conditions that may affect the driver’s performance. These errors can potentially lead to inaccurate results, which may be challenged in court by a skilled DWI attorney.

Critics argue that the SFSTs are subjective and can be influenced by various factors unrelated to intoxication, such as fatigue, nervousness, or medical conditions. Additionally, some contend that the tests may not accurately reflect an individual’s ability to safely operate a vehicle and that officers may be prone to confirmation bias, interpreting test results in a way that supports their initial suspicion of intoxication. Critics also argue that using a specific BAC level as the threshold for determining impairment oversimplifies the complex relationship between alcohol consumption and driving ability. They contend that individual tolerance, metabolism, and other factors can influence a person’s level of impairment at any given BAC level, and that some individuals may be significantly impaired at BAC levels below the legal limit, while others may not be impaired at levels above the limit.

These critics are valid but are purely academic during a roadside DWI investigation and only become relevant when challenging the arrest in court.  It should be noted that the field sobriety tests are hard.  It is abnormal to stand on one leg for an appreciable period of time.  It is abnormal to walk heel to toe and do an abrupt turnaround unless you were a formal military guard at a monument such as the Tomb for the Unknown Soldier.  Pair these abnormalities with weather conditions, the nervousness of a police encounter and the distraction of oncoming cars, it is no wonder that people rarely, if ever, pass the tests.  Also, keep in mind that the tests look simple when the officer demonstrates them because he has been trained to do them correctly and perform them multiple times everyday.  Practice makes perfect and this is your first chance at bat!

Louisiana’s Implied Consent Law and A DWI Arrest

While you have the right to remain silent and refuse to answer potentially incriminating questions, you are generally required to comply with an officer’s request for a breathalyzer test. Louisiana is an “implied consent” state; meaning every driver agrees to submit to a breathalyzer test when requested by law enforcement in exchange for the privilege of driving on the state’s roadways and receiving a driver’s license. Refusal to comply may result in the suspension or revocation of your driver’s license and other penalties. In Louisiana, the term for suspension is greater for people refusing to take the test than those who take it and fail.  It is also more egregious if the driver has multiple refusals on his driving record. However, you have the right to consult with an attorney before deciding whether to submit to a breathalyzer test or SFSTs.

So, the obvious question is whether you should take the test or refuse it.  This is a personal decision.  If you take and fail the test you make it harder to obtain an acquittal at trial.  And, if you refuse to take the test, the civil consequences will be more onerous and will be in effect regardless of the outcome of your criminal case but you want have the presumption of impairment at trial. 

The Role of Breathalyzer tests during a DWI Arrest

Assuming you consent to the breath test, the officer will transport you to either a local jail or police station where they have a machine available. A breathalyzer test is a device used by law enforcement officers to measure a driver’s BAC by analyzing a breath sample. Officers receive specialized training and certification to properly administer breathalyzer tests, which require regular calibration to ensure accuracy. At “the station” the officer will read you your rights under the implied consent law and have you acknowledge receiving those rights by signing various forms.  During this process he will nonchalantly go over the standardized questionnaire which is designed to incriminate you.  You will be asked whether you were operating the car, how much you had to drink and whether you have any medical conditions that would impair your ability to drive.  Upon completing this form, he will test the machine and have you provide a sample.  If you are at the presumptive limit, you will be arrested.  If you pass, you are not necessarily free to go and the officer may suspect you of being drugged and then begin an examination process for outward signs of impairment and may even seek a warrant for a blood sample. Unfortunately, those results take time to determine since the sample must be taken by a trained nurse and forwarded to a crime lab for testing.  It can take weeks, if not months for the results.  So, odds are, you are spending the night in jail.

The Consequences of A DWI Conviction

The consequences of a DWI arrest or conviction can be severe, including the suspension or revocation of the driver’s license, fines, court costs, probation, community service, alcohol or drug education programs, and even incarceration. A DWI conviction will  lead to increased car insurance rates and possible immigration, professional licensing, and federal security clearance consequences.

There can be serious immigration consequences for a DWI conviction.  Some countries, such as Canada, prohibit DWI offenders from immigrating as a general rule.  It could also lead to deportation from the United States.

A DWI arrest, by itself, can have significant collateral consequences for certain professions.  It is not uncommon for the licensing boards of doctors, nurses, lawyers and financial professionals to require significant substance abuse evaluations and treatment and may even place their credentials onto a probationary period.  Commercial truck drivers have it worse as their license can get revoked even if the DWI is ultimately dismissed.  Regardless of your profession a conviction will, and an arrest can, lead to the suspension of your driving privileges.

In Louisiana, a hardship license can be granted to individuals with suspended or revoked driver’s licenses due to a DWI conviction or refusal to submit to a chemical test. This license allows the individual to drive for specific purposes, such as work, school, or medical appointments. To obtain a hardship license in Louisiana, the individual must proof of installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) if required, and proof of financial responsibility (such as SR-22). The applicant may also need to pay a reinstatement fee and provide any additional documentation required by the OMV.

A DWI Conviction and Your Record

At some point a DWI conviction will be over.  Either a jail sentence will be served or probation will be completed.  This leaves people, many who are first offenders, with a criminal conviction on their record.  This conviction is discoverable by future employers, schools and licensing boards.  But it does not need to be this way.  If you completed probation successfully, you will likely have the option to expunge the conviction from your record.  In Louisiana, an expungement is not an exoneration nor does it mandate the destruction of records.  It simply shields the conviction from the public.  This provision provides many individuals piece of mind.


A drunk driving arrest is no laughing matter in Louisiana.  The deck is stacked against you from the moment you are pulled over and through the disposition of the case in court. A conviction, even for this misdemeanor, can have life alter consequences: careers jeopardized, educational opportunities stymied, adverse immigration consequences, and the public humiliation of the conviction.  This is why it is imperative you retain a criminal defense lawyer immediately upon bonding out of jail.

Andre Belanger