In Indiana, dui and drug offenses involving the use of a motor vehicle are subject to court ordered driver’s license suspensions. When the potential suspensions would begin differs as to whether the charges being prosecuted are for a DUI, or any drug offense involving the use of a motor vehicle.
From a defense standpoint, when a driver’s license suspension is initiated can prove to be most significant for a client who may wish to challenge a prosecution through trial. Unfortunately, it has not been uncommon for me to counsel clients or those calling me who have been represented by attorneys who may not have known the difference to their legal detriment.
For some, incorrect advise as to a potential threat of a pre trial license suspension within a drug possesion case was enough to compel a pre trial agreement where the true desire to challenge allegations through trial could have easily been protected.
In the case of drug offenses involving use of a motor vehicle, a potential license suspension would not begin unless and until a conviction has been imposed. This is so because unlike a dui allegation where a license suspension can be enacted by the Indiana BMV due to mere probable cause that one has tested over the legal limit of .08, only a criminal conviction can impose a drug crime suspension in the absence of probable cause to allege impaired driving.
The reason for this is due to the fact that there is presently no administrative suspension for a drug prosecution that goes into effect while a case is pending without proof that someone was actually operating a motor vehicle with drugs in one’s system.
As a result, in order to allow for a court to suspend a driver’s license not for impaired driving but for having drugs in any way connected to the use of a motor vehicle, a criminal conviction must result in the absence of a failed breath test.
In the state of Indiana, if there is a “nexus” or connection between the possession of drugs found and the use of a motor vehicle in any way, the court must impose a minimum drivers license suspension for one hundred eighty days. In such circumstances, since there has never been an administrative license suspension imposed by the Indiana BMV, this court ordered drug suspension based not on a failed breath test but for a drug conviction involving the use of a motor vehicle would not begin until the date the Defendant were to be sentenced for the drug conviction.
This reality can often provide needed flexibility for a client wishing to preserve any and all trial options. Unlike an individual under an imposed administrative dui suspension while a case is pending, the drug crime defendant has the freedom to challenge allegations without the duress of ending a prosecution early simply in the interests if reinstating one’s license.
For many reasonable people the distinction between a dui and drug defendant and the resulting license suspension procedure can often seem to make little sense and conflict with the notion of innocent until proven guilty by a court of law.
While the the standard of guilt beyond a reasonable doubt is preserved in Indiana for individuals charged with drug offenses, the looming administrative presence of the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to suspend licenses in dui prosecutions before guilt has been established is evidence that the ability to operate a motor vehicle in Indiana is considered a privlege and not a right guaranteed by the US Constitution.
While the bureau’s power and authority does not extend to allow for it to determine one guilty of a criminal conviction, it can based upon a lower standard of mere probable cause determine that one’s ability to drive be suspended in dui prosecutions prior to a determination of criminal guilt within a court of law.
Understanding the disctinction between drug crime prosecutions and dui prosecutions in Indiana can provide needed insight as to trial options not encumbered by confusion as to whether a driver’s license will be suspended prior to the establishment of guilt beyond reasonable doubt. Only by understanding this process can one be fully advised of how best to take full advantage of one’s legal rights; protections often unfortunately misunderstood by virtue of the crime charged.