Indiana DUI Laws & Penalties
I have used the phrases, “DUI” or “OWI” throughout this page as indicative of the terms people customarily use when referring to drunk driving. However, please know that there is no distinction between the two as both reference the identical offense of Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated in Indiana.
1st Offense DUI/OWI Penalties
In the State of Indiana a first offense dui is termed “Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated.” Such an offense can be designated as a Class A Misdemeanor or Class C Misdemeanor. A Class A Misdemeanor is subject to up to one year in jail and a five thousand ($5,000) dollar fine. Such an offense is usually linked to level of breath alcohol test result and/or driving impairment alleged. As such, the labeling of a Class A Misdemeanor DUI may typically be “Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangering a Person.” (although some counties either through lack of knowledge or inattention will often not affix additional endangerment language)
A Class C misdemeanor can be labeled merely as “Operating While Intoxicated” (without endangerment language) or “Operating With an Alcohol Content Equivalent to .08 or higher” and is subject to up to sixty days in county jail and a five hundred ($500) fine.
However, other than how the offense is labeled, the distinction between the two misdemeanor offenses for punishment purposes within this context is usually minimal in application. Whether a Class A or C misdemeanor dui, with proper representation jail time for such an offense should never exceed the sixty day maximum of the lower Class C Misdemeanor absent aggravating legal circumstances. Speaking on behalf of my clients, it is rare that jail time for such an offense is warranted (although certain counties may require minimal incarceration even for a first offense) whether entered under either misdemeanor.
In the event that a dismissal is not possible, an experienced attorney will usually be able to secure a reduction in fine level below one hundred dollars, in either classification absent unique circumstances. In all such cases mandatory fees of two hundred dollars plus at present one hundred eighty five dollars in court costs must be paid in addition to any recurring monthly probation costs.
Once the possibility of incarceration has been eliminated, requirements of probation must be addressed. A range of court options including an alcohol evaluation, complying with whatever recommendations are ordered, community service, victim impact panels which require those on probation to learn the impact of drunk driving from victims and an assortment of other potential restrictions are available for the court’s consideration. Home detention, work release, monitoring devices for alcohol either in the home or vehicle must always be challenged in appropriate circumstances. No alcohol or frequenting bars and drug and alcohol testing in one form or another is commonly ordered.
In addition to court ordered penalties mentioned, most people are additionally burdened, if not more so, by the mandatory imposition of a driver’s license suspension at the outset of one’s dui prosecution. It is then that upon finding of probable cause that one tested above the legal limit of .08 that an initial license suspension of 180 days will be imposed by the Indiana BMV. This suspension cannot be terminated until the prosecution has been resolved.
A license suspension for a first time dui offense can be imposed for up to one year. Although the present laws do not place a minimum suspension period for court ordered suspensions, the vast majority of jurisdictions will not allow for a suspension for less than 90 days absent special circumstances. These circumstances include instances such as reduced charges that can mandate a statutory license limit to sixty days. If one had submitted to a breath test and not be subject to a breath test refusal allegation, this court ordered suspension period can be reduced by the number of days suspended during the course of the case prosecution.
2nd Offense DUI/OWI Penalties
In Indiana, second offense prosecutions can be charged as either a felony or misdemeanor depending upon the timing of the first conviction. If the prior conviction occurred within seven (7) years of the present arrest, the case will be filed as a Level 6 felony subject to a statutory six months in jail to two and one half years imprisonment.
If the prior conviction for dui occurred after seven (7) years of the most recent dui arrest, the charge will be filed by the county prosecutor as a misdemeanor offense.
One must keep in mind that the prior dui offense relevant for charging purposes can be from any other state and is not dependent on a conviction from Indiana.
Whether filed as a Felony or Misdemeanor the minimum punishment available to the sentencing judge is either five (5) days in jail or two hundred forty (240) hours of community service. A maximum period of incarceration of up to one year in jail for a misdemeanor and up to two and one half years imprisonment for a level 6 felony may be imposed.
For one charged with a Level 6 felony DUI with a prior felony conviction within seven years, the minimum of six (6) months executed jail time enunciated by legal statute can nonetheless be reduced or “suspended” in certain cases. Alternatively, I am able to utilize my knowledge of certain legal statutes to either reduce these minimum executed terms of incarceration or convert required jail time to either home detention or work release in certain circumstances. Earned credit time is available toward any such sentence which will cut “executed” incarceration sentences in half for what is called “good time credit.”
As to drivers license suspensions, one with a prior dui conviction within seven (7) years faces a maximum court ordered suspension of up to two and a half years. Based upon recent legislative changes at present one with a prior conviction no matter how remote in time must be subject to a minimum one year license suspension with possibility of specialized driving privileges for limited court approved purposes.
3rd Offense + DUI/OWI Penalties
When reviewing a potential third dui conviction in Indiana or more, one enters the multiple conviction category. As a result, it is important to know that additional penalties in regard to habitual license suspensions imposed by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles as well criminal Habitual Substance Offender Vehicular Enhancements may apply. Please refer to relevant pages on potential habitual penalties to supplement the information contained below.
Where an individual has been convicted a third time for an impaired driving offense, the State of Indiana mandates that the presiding court sentence those convicted to a minimum term of jail in an amount of twenty (20) days or four hundred eighty hours of community service.
Maximum incarceration shall be up to one year in jail for a misdemeanor (if second dui conviction occurred beyond seven years of the third) and up to two and one half years imprisonment for a felony. (where second dui conviction was within seven years of the third)
*Once again, the above referenced information does not take into account additional habitual related punishments for multiple dui offenders. Please refer to the specific habitual penalty pages to review in more detail as to habitual traffic violations (HTV) as well as above referenced Habitual Substance Offenses (HSO).
The application of these potential Habitual Vehicular Substance Offense penalties can often be prevented by the early intervention of competent legal counsel and can be influenced by many factors. As a result, varied real world legal strategies must always be tailored to the policies within a specific county jurisdiction. In so doing, the potential for significant legal harm in these case prosecutions can best be prevented.
Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated Causing Serious Bodily Injury
Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing serious bodily injury in Indiana is classified as a level 6 felony. (Six (6) months to two and one half (2 1/2) years imprisonment) However, if one has a prior dui conviction and later convicted of dui causing serious bodily injury, the offense can be elevated to a level 5 felony. (One (1) year to six (6) years imprisonment)
Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated Causing Death
Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated causing death in Indiana is classified as a level five felony in Indiana. (One (1) year to six (6) years imprisonment) However, the offense is elevated to a level four felony (Two (2) to twelve (12) years imprisonment) if one has a prior dui conviction, license suspension or tested at or above .15 bac at the time of the commission of the dui causing death offense. Further such offenses carry a mandatory minimum two year drivers license suspension.
To repeat, not only can punishment vary by state law, but also the application of law within the county of each state. Please feel free to utilize my experience as a helpful resource in guiding you through any question you may have wherever your case may be.
The Best OWI/DUI Penalties Are None At All
At the outset of this discussion I would like to point out that it is always my goal to utilize relevant laws toward having a case dismissed, as opposed to analyzing potential punishment. A competent lawyer must strive to shield a client from any, if not all, criminal harm possible.
To maximize the possibility for a dismissal, the relevant provisions of law for an attorney to master are those that address the potential suppression of evidence against a client such as faulty and/or uncertified test results and the strict time limitations by which the filing of specific motions to achieve such an objective must be initiated before the court in question.
“Motions” (Pre Trial actions asking the judge to rule in a certain way on a matter of law) to “Suppress” (not allow a prosecutor to use) evidence as well as motions to dismiss a prosecution are often reliant upon such actions to be taken within a specific period of time.
Unfortunately, far too frequently I have become aware of well intentioned lawyers whose lack of experience and/or understanding caused them to overlook the filing of certain defense motions within time frames dictated within applicable legal statutes. As a result, prosecutions that could have otherwise carried the potential for a pre trial dismissal have moved ahead with a discussion of how to limit penalties for a drunk driving arrest as opposed to how the client’s case was able to be thrown out of court.
Real World Answers To Drunk Driving Questions
When one has been arrested, the question, “Mr. Stark, what is going to happen to me if I’m found guilty?” is one of the most common and understandable questions first asked of me. Many attempting to review legal statutes find the relevant laws confusing and of limited help in addressing their specific situation.
For example, to learn that first offense owi penalties carry a maximum punishment of one year in jail, a potential five thousand dollar fine and up to a two year license suspension may be understood. However, such a broad range of punishment does little to help respond to the legitimate concerns of one who has been arrested. Even more so for those subjected to greater punishment where an individual charged has a prior(s) owi conviction.
To best help respond to such understandable questions as to potential dui consequences, I will draw upon my experience and track record throughout the state. Most significantly, it will be essential that I discover what county the case is in as well as the judge assigned to the case. In so doing, a far more insightful discussion can be forthcoming between us as I do my best to assist in bringing your prosecution to the most successful outcome possible.
People throughout the nation call drunk driving charges by many different names and labels. Where some state lawyers are more apt to refer to drunk driving as “DWI,” Driving While Intoxicated, other state lawyers may refer to drunk driving as “OWI,” or Operating While Intoxicated. However, for whatever reason, most people and lawyers throughout America have adapted the term “DUI,” Driving Under The Influence, as the most commonly used term when discussing drunk driving. As a result, although I often use these terms interchangeably, all terms essentially refer to the same exact charges and penalties for drunk driving.
As a technical matter, the most legally correct term to use in Indiana is, “OWI,” based upon this state’s charging language for dui cases as “Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated.” However, based upon common familiarity, I will most often use the language “dui” as a means to explain the law in ways most familiar to the broadest range of people.
All Courts Are Not The Same Following A DUI Arrest
Following an owi arrest for a misdemeanor or felony one must know that each county court may very well have their own unique standards by which to impose punishment through interpretation of the laws found within this website. At the end of the day our criminal justice system and the options within a pending prosecution are often determined by the life experiences and opinions that a respective judge, and if a trial is warranted, juror brings with them into a criminal courtroom.
One is always well served within any aspect of life to acquire the most information possible on a given subject, especially a subject as important as preserving one’s liberty following an arrest. A thorough cost free conversation with me will be a productive first step in helping to more adequately understand the real world implications of prosecution within your specific county and how to move forward toward securing the best defense possible.