In Indiana, operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVWI)—also called operating while intoxicated (OWI) or driving under the influence (DUI)—can result in criminal charges from misdemeanor to felony levels. The details of what happens from the time you are pulled over by law enforcement forward can greatly impact the charges against you. That’s why you need an experienced Indiana DUI defense lawyer on your side to investigate the facts and advise you regarding what to do, or not do, next.
If you were pulled over by the police for a DUI, an experienced Indiana criminal lawyer will want to know the following:
- Did the police officer notice any driving behavior that would endanger you or others on the road?
- Were you on a public road?
- Did the police officer tell you why you were pulled over?
- Did the police officer smell alcohol on your breath, see alcohol beverages in the vehicle, or see signs of intoxication by looking at you?
- Did you have trouble providing the police officer your driver’s license and registration?
- Did the police officer have you perform any standardized field sobriety tests?
- Has the police officer been trained in performing standardized field sobriety tests, and did he know how to instruct you to perform them?
- Did you admit to the police officer that you had been drinking?
- Did the police officer have you perform a portable breath test?
Charges, Penalties, and Indiana DUI Defense
A conviction for OWI charges in Indiana will have serious impacts on your life, regardless of the level of the charges against you. The direct and indirect effects of Indiana OVWI or OWI charges or conviction can include the following:
- License suspension;
- Placement of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle;
- Loss of employment or employment opportunities;
- Travel restrictions;
- Loss of or inability to gain professional licensure; and
- Documentation of the offense on your permanent record.
The details of your case and how your Indiana DUI defense is managed will determine whether or not you are found guilty of OWI charges in Indiana and, if convicted, the level of the crime for which you are sentenced. A knowledgeable Indiana DUI lawyer will help you understand your options, the charges against you, and the repercussions of those charges and will apply the most beneficial defense strategies for your case.
What Happens at the Scene of the Incident: Implied Consent
Under Indiana Code § 9-30-6-1, any person who operates a motor vehicle in Indiana gives implied consent to submit to a chemical test intended to determine if the driver is impaired by drugs or alcohol. Refusal to comply with a law enforcement officer’s request that you submit to a chemical test is considered noncompliance with Indiana law and can result in immediate suspension of your driver’s license. This refusal is also admissible as evidence in any related court case against you.
However, police or other law enforcement officers must follow specific guidelines and procedures when they make traffic stops, obtain breathalyzer or blood tests, gather evidence, and make an arrest or levy accusations against you.
A good Indiana DUI lawyer will know how to evaluate the officer’s behavior and other evidence to determine if the officer followed proper procedures or made mistakes in your case. These and other factors can impact whether or not OWI charges are filed against you and the severity of those charges if filed. Working with an attorney who is experienced in this area is critical to your Indiana DUI defense.
Misdemeanor Charges and Indiana DUI Defense
Under Indiana law, the potential charges for OVWI begin at the Class C misdemeanor level. If a person drives with a concentration of alcohol in his or her blood or breath of between .08 and .14 grams per 100 milliliters of blood or 210 milliliters of breath, he or she commits a Class C misdemeanor. For a driver under the age of 21, the allowed level of alcohol is even less, with the Class C misdemeanor range from .02 to .08 grams.
The presence of a schedule I or II substance, or a metabolite of these substances, in a driver’s blood or urine is also grounds for a Class C misdemeanor charge unless the substance was properly prescribed and used under Indiana law.
If the alcohol concentration in a driver’s body is .15 grams or higher, the charge is raised to a Class A misdemeanor. A Class C misdemeanor can also be elevated to a Class A charge if the incident endangers the life or safety of another person.
A court may choose to suspend a misdemeanor sentence or to implement penalties as it finds appropriate under Indiana law. For a Class C misdemeanor, the law allows the court to sentence offenders to jail for up to 60 days and to enforce fines of as much as $500. If the charge is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor, jail time can increase up to one year and the fine can be as high as $5,000.
Felony-Level OWI Charges in Indiana
Felony OWI charges result in cases involving repeat offenses, serious harm to others, or endangerment of a minor. An intoxicated driver who is over the age of 21 with a passenger under the age of 18 commits a Level 6 felony in Indiana. A misdemeanor OVWI charge can also be elevated to a Level 6 felony if the driver has been convicted of another DUI within the seven years preceding the current incident or the incident results in the death of a law enforcement animal.
When serious bodily injury of another person occurs as a result of an individual driving under the influence, the charge is elevated to a Level 5 felony in Indiana. Additionally, if a driver accused of DUI in Indiana has a previous conviction for OVWI causing death, catastrophic, or serious bodily injury, the charge can be upgraded to a Level 5 felony.
An accident caused by an impaired driver that results in death or catastrophic injury can result in a Level 4 felony charge as will a DUI that involves serious bodily injury and a driver with a separate OVWI conviction within five years of the current incident.
It is important to note that, when driving under the influence causes serious bodily injury or death of more than one person, the offender may be charged with separate violations for each person involved.
While it is still a serious felony charge, Level 6 is the lowest felony level in Indiana. As Indiana felony levels increase to Level 1, the consequences become more severe. Indiana law implements a penalty of incarceration for six months to two and a half years for a Level 6 felony with up to $5,000 in fines.
At a judge’s discretion, individuals found guilty of a Level 5 felony may be sentenced to one to six years in prison while a Level 4 felony can result in two to 12 years of incarceration. Both Level 4 and 5 felony convictions can result in fines as high as $10,000.
All criminal convictions, but especially felony charges, have effects on your life that reverberate for years after the conviction and related punishment. The quality of your Indiana DUI defense directly impacts your OWI charges, sentencing, and penalties. Choosing the right Indiana DUI lawyer is one of the most important decisions you will make.
Indiana DUI Defense for Habitual Vehicular Substance Offenders
Several provisions of Indiana law implement additional penalties for repeat OWI offenses. Under Indiana Code § 9-30-5-15, courts are instructed to include additional jail time and orders for community service in ruling on cases in which the defendant has a previous OWI conviction. Courts must also refer those convicted for evaluation to determine the need, if any, for drug or alcohol abuse. If this treatment is determined to be necessary, the court may order the successful completion of a drug or alcohol treatment program.
Drivers who have accrued three or more separate OVWI convictions or two convictions, one of which occurred within the ten years preceding the current incident, can be charged as habitual vehicular substance offenders (HVSOs) in Indiana. Being deemed a habitual vehicular substance offender can result in additional sentencing of one to eight years of incarceration in addition to your base sentence.
Find Your Indiana DUI Lawyer at Camden & Meridew
OWI charges in Indiana can have very serious consequences—from incarceration, fines, and immediate restrictions on driving privileges to impacts on your life long after you have completed any imposed sentence. If you need quality Indiana DUI defense, contact the law offices of Camden & Meridew, P.C. An Indiana DUI lawyer from our firm will fight for your rights and future. Get started by calling 317-770-0000 or completing our online contact form today.