OWI Charges in Indiana: Building Your Defense

Drunk driving in Indiana can land you in a heap of trouble. Anyone found to be operating a vehicle while intoxicated can face OWI charges. If this applies to you, contact Fishers DUI lawyer Josiah J. Swinney at Camden & Meridew, P.C. He knows how to navigate Indiana criminal law, criminal rules, and local court systems to fight OWI charges in Indiana. He will advocate for your rights and protect your freedom.

Here’s an overview of what you need to know if you are facing OWI charges, including possible penalties and defense strategies.

What Are OWI Charges in Indiana?

OWI is short for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The offense is also commonly referred to as driving under the influence (DUI). Individuals who have a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of .08 percent or higher while operating a vehicle can face criminal charges at various levels.

Indiana OWI laws also apply when drivers are found to have Schedule I or II controlled substances or their metabolites in their blood. OWI charges in Indiana can range from lower-level misdemeanors to more serious felony charges. The potential criminal penalties for OWI in Indiana vary depending on the level of charges filed.

As a Fishers DUI lawyer, Josiah Swinney works with clients in Hamilton County, greater Indianapolis, and throughout the state to tailor their Indiana DUI defense based on the specific circumstances of the incident and the charges against them.

Is DUI a Felony in Indiana?

When you’re facing OWI/DUI charges, you might be asking, “Is DUI a felony in Indiana?” In most situations, DUI in Indiana is not a felony. However, defendants can be charged with a felony for OWI under some circumstances.

An Indiana OWI offense can result in felony charges under the following circumstances:

  • When impaired driving results in the injury or death of another person;
  • When the driver has a previous DUI/OWI conviction within the timeframes outlined under state law;
  • When the defendant was driving under the influence with a minor under the age of 18; or
  • When impaired driving results in the death of a law enforcement animal.

The felony charges filed in these situations can range from Level 6 to Level 4, as outlined in Indiana Code §§ 9-30-5-3 to 9-30-5-5.

OWI Charges in Indiana: What Are the Penalties for Indiana DUI?

The penalties you’ll face for a DUI or OWI in Indiana depend on the severity of the offense. The most common penalties for OWI charges in Indiana include:

Class C Misdemeanor

Individuals charged with a Class C misdemeanor will be facing up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $5,000. This charge applies to those whose BAC measures above .08 percent but lower than 0.15 percent, as well as individuals with a Schedule I or II controlled substance in their blood.

Class A Misdemeanor

A Class A misdemeanor can be charged when a driver’s BAC is .15 percent or higher or when the driver’s actions endangered another person. Typically, first-time offenders will be facing a punishment of up to one year in jail and a $500 fine.

Felony OWI Charges in Indiana

Level 4, 5, or 6 OWI felony charges usually result when an impaired driver’s actions caused injury or death, and/or when the defendant has been previously convicted of OWI within five to seven years of the date of the current offense.

Because of the severity of these situations, the penalties can include the following:

  • Between six months and 12 years of incarceration; and
  • Up to $10,000 in fines.

Indiana OWI charges can also result in suspension of your driver’s license, community service, an order for an ignition interlock device to be installed on your vehicle, and/or mandatory participation in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program.

You may also have the opportunity to participate in a drug or alcohol rehabilitation program, like Hamilton County’s Court Assisted Rehabilitative Efforts (CARE) Program voluntarily. Your attorney may be able to negotiate reduced charges if you volunteer to complete a Court Alcohol and Drug Program that is certified through the Indiana Office of Court Services.

The penalties for OWI in Indiana vary based on the circumstances of the offense. An experienced DUI defense lawyer can help determine the best defense strategies to reduce or eliminate the charges against you and applicable penalties.

Indiana DUI Defense Strategies

Because DUI and OWI charges carry serious penalties and can have significant impacts on your life, hiring the right defense attorney to represent you is key. A Fishers DUI lawyer like Mr. Swinney will investigate the details of your case to develop a strategic defense that advocates for reduced sentencing or a dismissal of all charges, if possible.

Though Mr. Swinney will create a unique defense for your case, these are some of the most common Indiana DUI defense strategies:

Lack of Probable Cause

Law enforcement can’t go on a fishing expedition to find and charge someone with a DUI. Instead, they need to have a justifiable reason for pulling you over for suspected intoxicated driving. This is known as probable cause.

A law enforcement officer can pull you over if they witness what appears to be intoxicated driving. However, if they pull you over without evidence to support their belief that you were driving under the influence, your lawyer may be able to get your charges dismissed.

Improper Search of Your Vehicle

Another strategy is to prove that law enforcement did not do your vehicle search by the book. This scenario typically applies in cases related to controlled substances.

An example would be if a law enforcement officer pulled you over and asked to search your vehicle for drugs or related paraphernalia. In this situation, the officer’s request may indicate a lack of probable cause. Your defense lawyer can help determine if this defense may be beneficial in your situation.

The Breathalyzer Was Incorrect

Indiana uses the Intox EC/IR II breathalyzer. Unfortunately, the reliability of breathalyzer test results is not 100 percent.

Various circumstances can lead to incorrect breathalyzer tests, including incorrect absorption rate, recent consumption of an alcoholic beverage or product that contains alcohol, and smoking. Breathalyzer equipment that is not properly maintained—the batteries are low, for example—can also generate inaccurate results.  What does this mean for you? It might mean that the only evidence against you is inadmissible.

Facing OWI Charges in Indiana? A Fishers DUI Lawyer Can Help!

OWI charges in Indiana can be scary. Your freedom is at stake, as is your reputation. Don’t let one decision or false accusation decide the rest of your life. Obtain an opinion from an experienced criminal defense attorney.

Fishers DUI lawyer Josiah Swinney can help. He has years of experience defending against OWI charges in Indiana. Call Camden & Meridew, P.C. at 317-770-0000 or fill out this online contact form to schedule a consultation.