Louisiana Alcohol Laws: Big Easy to Bayou – Know Them

Louisiana alcohol laws could effect you. New Orleans may give a false impression of what is legal and what is not in the state. Laws vary across the country. And from place to place within a state. Making a mistake could be very bad.

         Overview
I.   Minimum Age Laws
II.  More Alcohol Laws
III. Resources
IV.  Seek Good Advice

I. Minimum Age Laws

Young people in Louisiana often seek part-time jobs. Often in hospitality. They’re unsure of the minimum age for employment. The age for serving alcohol in a restaurant? To be a bartender? To be a clerk in a store selling alcohol to drink off-site?

Louisiana alcohol laws let adults sell or serve alcohol in venues for drinking on-site or to be bartenders. Adults are those age 18 or older. There are no state age laws for working in stores that sell alcohol to drink off-site. But a supervisor must be present.

Those of any age under 21 may drink alcohol in private residences. A parent, guardian or spouse must be present. Many parents do this as part of their culture. Others do it to demystify alcohol and promote moderation. They think it’s better to learn to drink in the parents’ house than in a fraternity house.

It is illegal to buy alcohol under 21. Doing so with a false ID is a criminal offense. It may lead to driver’s license suspension.

It is also illegal for those under 21 to drive with a BAC over 0.02.

II. More Louisiana Alcohol Laws

Selling Alcohol

Retailers with a license to sell for consumption elsewhere may do so 24/7. These retailers, including grocery stores, may sell beer, wine, and spirits.

Local option by parishes (counties) and municipalities provides wide latitude in alcohol ordinances. For example, many places require bars to close at 2:00 a.m.

In general, southern Louisiana has more liberal alcohol ordinances than elsewhere in the state. For example, most parishes that restrict alcohol sales on Sundays are in the southern part of the state. See state map.

It’s illegal to sell alcohol to anyone under 21. The penalty for doing so, even accidentally, is high. The fine is between $500 and $1,000 and/or jail for 30 days to six months.

Buying Alcohol

It’s illegal for anyone under 21 to buy any alcoholic beverage. In addition it’s illegal for such people to publicly possess alcohol.

However, public possession or drinking alcohol is legal in any of these situations.

  • With a parent, guardian, or spouse 21 or older.
  • For religious purposes.
  • In any private residence.
  • While employed by a licensed business.

The purchase or unlawful consumption of alcohol by those under 21 carries penalties. The fine is up to $100 and/or jail for up to six months. In addition, the court may suspend the driving license for 180 days.

louisiana alcohol lawsThe state may issue a restricted license if the offense is a first one. And if the judge thinks a hardship would result. The judge also decides what restrictions to place on the restricted license.

It’s illegal to buy alcohol for anyone under age 21. The exception is that a spouse, parent, or guardian may do so. The fine for illegal purchase is a fine up to $500 and jail for up to 30 days. In addition, the court may suspend the driving license for 180 days.

Adults 18 or older may enter most bars. Of course,  they may not legally buy alcohol.

Driving and Alcohol

Under Louisiana alcohol laws it’s illegal to drive while intoxicated (DWI). That is, with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. For commercial drivers it’s 0.04. And for those under age 21, it’s 0.02%.

Alcohol along with and prescription or over the counter drugs can be DWI. That’s if the drug label warns against combining it with alcohol. Also, controlled substances alone can result in a conviction for DWI.

Drivers 21 or Older

These are the penalties for DWI by drivers 21 or older under Louisiana alcohol laws. The exact penalties depend on the circumstances and the judge.

First DWI

  • louisiana alcohol lawsUp to six months jail.
  • Fine of up to $1,000 plus court costs.
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to one year.
  • Proof of increased insurance for three years.
  • Driving license reinstatement fee of $100.

Second DWI

  • 48 hours in jail.
  • Up to six months of additional jail.
  • Fine of up to $1,000 plus court costs.
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to two years.
  • Proof of increased insurance for three years.
  • Driving license reinstatement fee of $200.

Third DWI

  • At least one year in jail.
  • Up to five years in prison.
  • Possible home confinement.
  • Fine of up to $2,000 plus court costs.
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to three years.
  • Possible vehicle confiscation.
  • Proof of increased insurance for three years.
  • Driving license reinstatement fee of $300.
  • Required four weeks in an inpatient substance abuse program. This followed by a mandatory four weeks in an outpatient substance abuse program.

Drivers under 21

Under Louisiana alcohol laws, the penalties for DWI by drivers under 21 are different.

First Conviction

  • A fine of between $100 and $250.
  • Substance abuse evaluation.
  • Enrollment in driver improvement educational course.

Second Conviction

  • louisiana alcohol lawsA fine of between $150 and $500.
  • Possible substance abuse evaluation.
  • Jail for 10 days to three months.
  • Possible enrollment in driver improvement educational course.

The judge may decide to suspend jail under one of two conditions. One is if the offender spends 48 hours in jail. The other is if the offender goes on probation. The offender must also have substance abuse evaluation and participate in a driver improvement program.

louisiana alcohol lawsThe other is if the offender is placed on probation and serves 10 eight-hour days of community service. At least half of the service must be litter collection.

When courts order offenders to enter substance abuse program, offenders must pay for its cost. Otherwise, the the judge revokes their probation.

Other DWI Conviction Facts
  • DWI offenders must pay all costs associated with their penalties.
  • Additional DWI convictions result in stiffer penalties. They may include longer jail, higher fines, and permanent license revocation.
  • The judge may also mandate enrollment in a driver improvement program. And/or community service.
  • Any driver whose DWI causes the death of another person faces up to 30 years in prison.
  • A driving license revocation automatically triggers the offender’s boating license revocation.
Ignition Interlock Device
Ignition Interlock Device

An ignition interlock device (IID) prevents a vehicle from starting if the driver has any breath alcohol. Many DWI convictions require the installation of an IID on the offender’s vehicle. An IID may also be a requirement for a hardship license or reinstating a license.

Offenders must pay the costs for installation, maintenance, and monitoring.

Driver Rights

All drivers have a U.S. Constitutional right to decline a chemical BAC test. However, the state imposes a one year license suspension on those who us their right. If they use their right a second time, the suspension is for 730 days. After the suspension, drivers must carry additional insurance coverage for three years.

louisiana alcohol lawsHowever, the state does not penalize drivers for refusing to take a field sobriety test. These are highly inaccurate. In fact, about one-third of completely sober people fail them. That is, about one of three people with zero BAC (0.00%) don’t pass them.

Understandably, lawyers strongly urge drivers not to take them. They say to politely but refuse. And to do so as often as necessary.

Police have clever ways to talk drivers into taking the tests. For example, they may falsely say that the law requires it. But the law doesn’t. They may say passing the test will prove they’re innocent. But to officers, passing is not proof of sobriety. Taking the test never helps drivers. It only harms them.

While investigating, police can legally lie. So don’t be a sucker.

Learn much more at Never Take a Field Sobriety Test Say DUI Lawyers.

Boating and Alcohol

louisiana alcohol lawsLouisiana alcohol laws prohibit operating a vessel while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. This includes riding water skis, surfboards, or similar devices.

Legally, intoxication occurs at a BAC of 0.08% or higher. If operators are under age 21, the level is 0.02% or higher.

There are penalties for operating a vessel while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs. They are a fine of up to $1,000 and/or jail for up to six months.

Police use boating under the influence checkpoints during peak holiday boating weekends.

Convictions for operating a boat under the influence affects the vehicle driving license record. It also increases insurance rates.

Boaters may use their right not to submit to a chemical BAC or drug test. However, the state can use that fact against the boater in court.

III. Resources on Louisiana Alcohol Laws

 IV. Get good Advice about Drinking Laws in Louisiana

The Louisiana legal system is based on Napoleonic rather than English law. This makes it unique. Louisiana alcohol laws are hard for outside lawyers. Do not rely on this site. Nor any other site. Nor on neighbors. Friends. Nor even relatives. Just smile and thank them. Then ignore what they say. It’s worth what they charged. That is, nothing.

louisiana alcohol lawsGet advice about Louisiana alcohol laws from an expert. That’s a lawyer who holds a license in the state. Alcohol laws and their enforcement varies widely across the state. Therefore, it’s wise to select a lawyer who practices in the town or parish of interest.