Understanding the OWI/DUI Charges Against You

Understanding the OWI/DUI Charges Against You

Let’s start with the basic; under Indiana law, all Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) offenses require proof the accused was:

1. Operating

Under Indiana law, it means to navigate or otherwise be in actual physical control of a vehicle, motorboat, off-road vehicle, or snowmobile. However, whether the State can sufficiently establish operating, is often dependent upon the facts and circumstances of each individual case. Falling asleep, alone, in a vehicle with the engine running, in a restaurant parking lot may not be sufficient to establish this element. This same fact scenario is much more likely to establish the element of operating if the vehicle were stopped in traffic instead of in a restaurant parking lot.

2. A motor vehicle

A motor vehicle is regularly defined as a vehicle that is self-propelled (with the exception of some agricultural equipment, an electric bicycle, an electric foot scooter, or an electric personal assistive mobility device).

3. With an alcohol concentration above the legal limit or with a schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite in the person's body or while intoxicated.

In Indiana, there are five (5) misdemeanor offenses that relate to adults operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent over the legal limit, with a controlled substance in their body, or while intoxicated.

1. Operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of at least .08 but less than .15, a class C misdemeanor.

A class C misdemeanor is the lowest level of misdemeanor you can be charged with. It is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of sixty (60) days and a fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500).

2. Operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent of at least .15, a class A misdemeanor.    

A class A misdemeanor is the highest level of misdemeanor offense. It is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of one year and a fine of up to five thousand dollars ($5000).

3. Operating a motor vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite in the person's body, a class C misdemeanor. *

A class C misdemeanor is the lowest level of misdemeanor you can be charged with. It is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of sixty (60) days and a fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500).

*It is a defense to this charge that the accused took the controlled substance in accordance with a valid prescription or order of a practitioner who acted in the course of their professional practice.

4. Operating while intoxicated, a class C misdemeanor.

Intoxicated is loosely defined (for purposes of brevity) as under the influence of alcohol and or a drug(s) so that there is an impaired condition of thought and action and the loss of normal control of a person's faculties. See I.C. 9-13-2-86 for the precise definition.

A class C misdemeanor is the lowest level of misdemeanor you can be charged with. It is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of sixty (60) days and a fine of up to five hundred dollars ($500).

5. Operating while intoxicated endangering a person, a class A misdemeanor.

This offense requires the additional element of endangering a person; the endangered person may include the accused and does not require the person endangered to be another person beyond the accused.

A class A misdemeanor is the highest level of misdemeanor you can be charged with. It is punishable by a maximum term of imprisonment of one year and a fine of up to five thousand dollars ($5000).

There are also five (5) felony offenses that relate to adults operating a motor vehicle with an alcohol concentration over the legal limit, with a controlled substance in their body, or while intoxicated.

1. A prior conviction for one of the five (5) misdemeanors offenses (listed above) within seven (7) years of the current arrest (also for one of the five (5) misdemeanors offenses listed above) elevates that offense to a level six (6) felony.

  • A level six (6) felony carries a term of six (6) months to two and one half (2 ½) years imprisonment and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

2. If the accused is at least 21 years old with a passenger less than 18 years old and has either an alcohol concentration equivalent of at least .15 or operates a vehicle while intoxicated in a manner that endangers a person, they will be charged with a level six (6) felony.

  • A level six (6) felony carries a term of six (6) months to two and one half (2 ½) years imprisonment and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

3. A person who causes serious bodily injury to another person when operating a vehicle with either 1) an alcohol concentration equivalent of at least .08, 2) with a schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite in their blood, or 3) while intoxicated, commits a level five (5) felony. The offense is a level four (4) felony if the accused has a previous OWI conviction within five years of the date of the current arrest.

  • A level five (5) felony carries a term of one (1) year to six (6) years imprisonment and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).
  • A level four (4) felony carries a term of two (2) years to 12 years imprisonment and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Serious bodily injury means bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes:

(1) serious permanent disfigurement; (2) unconsciousness; (3) extreme pain; (4) permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ; (5) or loss of a fetus.

A separate count of OWI causing serious bodily injury or death to another person may be charged for each injured or deceased person, greatly enhancing the potential term of imprisonment if the driver is convicted of multiple offenses.

4. A person who causes the death of another person when operating a vehicle:

1. With an alcohol concentration equivalent of at least .08 grams of alcohol, (2) with a Schedule I or II controlled or its metabolite in the person’s blood; or (3) while intoxicated; commits a level five (5) felony.

  • A level five (5) felony carries a term of one (1) year to six (6) years imprisonment and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

2. A person who causes the death of another person when operating a vehicle under any of the three (3) conditions set forth above (in subsection one (1)) commits a level four (4) felony if: (1) The person operating the vehicle has a previous conviction of  OWI within ten (10) years preceding the commission of the offense; (2) the person operating the vehicle knew their driving privileges were suspended or revoked for a previous OWI conviction; or (3) the driving privileges of the person operating the vehicle are suspended under IC 9-30-10 because the person is a habitual violator.

  • A level four (4) felony carries a term of two (2) years to 12 years imprisonment and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

3. The offense is also a level four (4) felony if the person is at least 21 years of age who causes the death of another person when operating a vehicle with an alcohol concentration of at least .15 grams of alcohol or with a Schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite in the person’s blood.*

  • A level four (4) felony carries a term of two (2) years to 12 years imprisonment and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

This statute has been summarized for purposes of brevity. See IC 9-30-5-5 to review the complete statue.

*It is a defense that the person accused of causing the death of another person when operating a vehicle with a Schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite in the person’s blood consumed the controlled substance in accordance with a valid prescription or order of a practitioner who acted in the course of their professional practice.  

A separate count of OWI causing serious bodily injury or death to another person may be charged for each injured or deceased person/animal, greatly enhancing the potential term of imprisonment if the driver is convicted of multiple offenses.

5. A person who causes the death of a law enforcement animal when operating a vehicle with (1) an alcohol concentration equivalent of at least .08 grams of alcohol, (2) with a Schedule I or II controlled or its metabolite in the person’s blood; commits a level six (6) felony.

  • A level six (6) felony carries a term of six (6) months to two and one half (2 ½) years imprisonment and a fine of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

*It is a defense that the person accused of causing the death of another person or a law enforcement animal when operating a vehicle with a Schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite in the person’s blood consumed the controlled substance in accordance with a valid prescription or order of a practitioner who acted in the course of their professional practice.  

A separate count of OWI causing serious bodily injury or death to another person or the death of a law enforcement animal may be charged for each injured or deceased person/animal, greatly enhancing the potential term of imprisonment if the driver is convicted of multiple offenses.

PENALTIES

If you are convicted of Operating a Motor Vehicle While Intoxicated, you may face the following penalties:

First Offense (Operating While Intoxicated – Misdemeanor)

  • You may receive a jail sentence of up to one year.
  • You may be fined up to $5000.
  • You may be placed on probation, and as a condition of that probation, you may be required to:

                  Enroll in, and pay for, a substance abuse education course.

                  Attend a victim impact panel.

                             -A single presentation where victims & survivors discuss impaired driving crashes in which they

                              were injured, or a loved one was killed or injured, and how it impacted their lives.

  • You may be required to submit to urine testing for drugs and alcohol.
  • You may also face other terms of probation such as community service, defensive driving, or AA/NA classes, just to name a few.      
  • Your license may be suspended.
  • You will have to pay court costs and fees.

First Offense (Operating While Intoxicated – Felony)

​see the section above PENALTIES

Second Offense (You have a previous conviction of operating while intoxicated)

If you have a prior Operating While Intoxicated conviction within seven (7) years prior to the current offense, the offense is enhanced from a Misdemeanor to a Level 6 Felony.  If the prior conviction is for Operating While Intoxicated causing death or causing serious bodily injury, the offense is enhanced to a Level 5 Felony.  A person who has a prior Operating While Intoxicated conviction within five (5) years prior to the current offense, who causes serious bodily injury when Operating While Intoxicated commits a Level 4 Felony.

Second Offense (You have a previous conviction of operating while intoxicated)

  • You will be imprisoned for a minimum of five (5) actual days or be required to perform at least two hundred forty (240) hours of community restitution or service.
  • You will face a maximum penalty of up to twelve (12) years in prison depending upon the level of offense of the conviction (see the section above PENALTIES).
  • You may be fined up to $10,000.
  • You will be ordered to receive a substance abuse assessment and, if appropriate, to successfully complete a substance abuse education program.
  • You may also be placed on probation and face other conditions as listed under First Offense.
  • Your license will be suspended for at least one year.
  • You will have to pay court costs and fees.

Third Offense (You have two previous convictions of operating while intoxicated)

  • You will be imprisoned for a minimum of ten (10) actual days or be required to perform at least four hundred eighty (480) hours of community restitution or service.
  • You will face a maximum penalty of between two and a half (2.5) and twelve (12) years in prison depending upon the level of offense of the conviction (see the section above PENALTIES).
  • You may be fined up to $10,000.
  • You will be ordered to receive a substance abuse assessment and, if appropriate, to successfully complete a substance abuse education program.
  • You may also be placed on probation and face other conditions as listed under First Offense.
  • Your license will be suspended for at least one year, and an additional suspension of up to 10 years may be imposed if you are deemed a Habitual Traffic Violator (HTV).
  • You may be charged and sentenced as a habitual substance offender, for which you would be imprisoned for an additional term of between one (1) year and eight (8) years.
  • You will have to pay court costs and fees.

At Stracci Law Group, we fight relentlessly for each and every client to get the best possible result. We have handled thousands of OWI cases and have over eighty (80) years of collective experience which we bring to bear in each case. We understand the importance of avoiding a drunk driving conviction and maintaining valid driving privileges. We will investigate your case and effectuate the best possible defense strategy to support a reduction or dismissal of the charges against you altogether.

If you have been charged with an OWI offense, call Stracci Law Group today to schedule a FREE, no-obligation consultation today and let us put our skills to work for you.

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