OWI / DUI Commonly Asked Questions
Many states refer to drinking and driving crimes as Driving Under the Influence (DUI). In Indiana, our drinking and driving statutes are referred to as Operating While Intoxicated (OWI). Under Indiana law, there are actually over 15 different charges that fall under the category of Operating While Intoxicated.
What Are The Penalties For Operating While Intoxicated? A first offense OWI conviction is a Class C misdemeanor, carrying with it the penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a up to $500 fine. If your breath or blood alcohol concentration level is at least .08 but less that .15 grams of alcohol, you will also fall into the category of a Class C misdemeanor. The court may also suspend your license for up to one year. If convicted of an OWI in a manner that endangers a person, the penalty is raised to a Class A misdemeanor, which carries with it the penalty of up to one year in jail and a up to $5000 fine. If your breath or blood alcohol concentration level is at least .15 or above, you will fall into the category of a Class A misdemeanor, with the same penalties as listed above.
If you have a previous OWI conviction within the last 5 years, the penalty is a Level 6 Felony, and you would face 6 months to 2 and one half years in jail, and up to a $10,000 fine. The court may also suspend your license for up to two years. That penalty is raised to a Level 5 Felony if your previous conviction was either an OWI causing death or an OWI causing serious bodily injury. A Level 5 Felony comes with the exposure of 1-6 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections and up to a $10,000 fine. Also, if you have previous OWI convictions, the court is required to impose mandatory jail time or community service.
If you have one prior OWI conviction at any time in your life, the court will impose a minimum jail sentence of 5 days or at least 180 hours of community service, and a mandatory Alcohol/Drug Assessment. If you have at least two prior convictions, the court will impose a minimum jail sentence of 10 days or at least 360 hours of community service, and a mandatory Alcohol/Drug Assessment. Keep in mind, if you are convicted of an OWI/DUI charge in another state, it will likely follow you to Indiana, and you can face these penalties for previous convictions here, even if this is your first OWI charge in Indiana.
If you are convicted of an OWI that causes serious bodily injury to another person, you can be convicted of a Level 6 Felony, with the same penalties as listed above. The determination of what constitutes a “serious bodily injury” is a fact question that will be made by either the jury or the court. If you are convicted of an OWI that causes the death of another person, you can face a Level 5 Felony if your blood alcohol concentration is at least .08 or a Level 4 Felony if your blood alcohol concentration is at least .15. A Level 4 Felony carries with it the penalty of 2-12 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections and up to a $10,000 fine. This list is not exhaustive, and there are other penalties that you may face if convicted of an OWI in Indiana.
Can I Be Charged With An OWI Without Taking A Sip Of Alcohol? Yes. Indiana’s OWI statute also includes operating with a Schedule I or II controlled substance in your body, if you don’t have a valid prescription for said substance. Can I Be Charged With An OWI If I’m Driving On Private Property? Yes. Indiana law makes it clear that you don’t have to be on a public highway or road to be convicted of an OWI. What Is A “Vehicle” In Terms Of The Indiana Law? The Indiana Traffic Code defines a vehicle as “a device in, upon, or by which a person or property is, or may be, transported or drawn upon a highway.”
The traffic code further defines that the term vehicle means a device for transportation by land or air, but does not include an electric personal assistive mobility device. Indiana courts have upheld OWI convictions for not only cars and trucks, but for all-terrain vehicles (ATVs), tractors, and motorcycles. What If I’m Not Yet 21? If you are under the age of 21, you are criminally liable if you operate with a blood alcohol concentration of at least .02 but less than .08, you can be faced with a Class C infraction. The court may also suspend your license for up to one year. What If I Have My Minor Child or Another Minor In The Car With Me?
If you otherwise violate the OWI statute, you are over the age of 21, and you have a passenger who is under the age of 18 in your vehicle, you could be charged with a Level 6 Felony. Even though the penalties of OWI charges are stiff, the State of Indiana bears the burden of proving you guilty. Until they do so, you are presumed innocent. If you have questions and would like to consult with an attorney, The Nice Law Firm would be glad to assist you. Contact us today!