OWI in Indiana: Your First Offense

July 06, 2022

By Keffer Hirschauer LLP

OWI in Indiana: Your First Offense

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated is one of the most serious mistakes that an individual can make. Sadly, OWI’s are also quite common and often come with severe penalties. If you were charged with and convicted of an OWI in Indiana for the first time, you can have your driver’s license suspended, incur hefty fines, and/or face jail time. These punishments can range from minor to severe, depending on the circumstances surrounding your conviction.  

If you’ve been charged with an OWI in Indianapolis, or anywhere in the state of Indiana, Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you. The founding partners at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are both former Fatal Alcohol Crash (FACT) prosecutors who truly understand the intricacies of these laws. Our dynamic, highly effective defense strategies provide our OWI clients with the best chance of an optimal outcome of their case.  

What Constitutes an OWI in Indiana?

Examples of Actions Police Officers Commonly Use To Identify Intoxicated Drivers: Weaving in-and-out of lanes; Driving without lights on; Traveling the opposite direction of traffic; Driving too slowly; Failing to obey traffic laws; and Excessive speeding. In Indiana, a person may be charged with an OWI when they operate a motorized vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or breath alcohol concentration (BrAC) of .08 or more. For commercial drivers, like truck or bus drivers, the allowable BAC is even lower—a commercial driver cannot operate a commercial vehicle with a BAC of .04 percent or higher. In addition, a person may also be charged with OWI if it has been determined that they are operating a vehicle in a state of “intoxication.” Police officers make this determination by looking for indicators that include, but are not limited to, slurred speech, visible swerving, or the failure of a field sobriety test.   

Although most people associate OWI’s with alcohol, an individual can also be charged with an OWI if they operate a vehicle with a schedule I or II controlled substance in their system. Even if the controlled substance is prescribed by a licensed medical professional, a police officer may determine that you are under the influence of a drug and request the administration of a blood test. This test will measure how much of the drug was in your system at the time of the incident. If the measurement exceeds the bounds of your prescription’s daily dosage, it can be used in the case against you as evidence of impairment.  

What Are the Potential Penalties for a First-Time OWI Conviction?

If you’re convicted of an OWI in Indiana for the first time, you will face a variety of criminal penalties, and be required to pay thousands of dollars to cover court costs, fines, probation fees, increased insurance premiums and more. In addition to the criminal punishments for an OWI, the individual could also face administrative penalties imposed by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).  

In accordance with Indiana Code 9-30-5-1, criminal penalties for a first-time OWI involving a BAC between .08 and .15 or schedule I or II controlled substance include: 

  • Class C misdemeanor charge  
  • Up to 60 days in jail  
  • Up to $500 in fines  
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to 60 days  
  • Probation 

In accordance with Indiana Code 9-30-5-1, the criminal sanctions for a first-time OWI where the BAC was .15 or more include:

  • Class A misdemeanor charge  
  • Up to 1 year in jail  
  • Up to $5,000 in fines 
  • Driver’s license suspension for up to 1 year  
  • Probation  

Administrative penalties for an OWI may include: 

  • License Suspension for up to 2 years  
  • Mandatory Drug and/or Alcohol Testing  
  • Mandatory Substance Abuse Education 
  • Installation of an Ignition Interlock Device  

What Are the Personal and Professional Impacts of an OWI Conviction?

The consequences of being convicted of an OWI in Indiana may even extend to your personal and professional life. Those with a criminal record often find it difficult to find a job, especially ones that require you to operate a vehicle. For example, commercial drivers who receive an OWI conviction could lose their CDL for life. An OWI may also have a negative impact on professional licensure for those that work in health care, accounting, and social services, among other professions.

Beyond one’s professional life, an OWI conviction can have a profoundly negative impact on one’s day-to-day life.  Simple tasks like going to the grocery store, getting to and frohttps://injury.research.chop.edu/blog/posts/unmasking-negative-impacts-license-suspensionshttps:/injury.research.chop.edu/blog/posts/unmasking-negative-impacts-license-suspensionsm work, or picking the kids up from soccer practice, are suddenly complicated by your inability to operate a motor vehicle. Your conviction may also lead to increased insurance premiums, difficulty renting an apartment, and could even impact your ability to own or carry a firearm. Coping with these obstacles proves to be a huge challenge for some and can put a strain on both personal relationships and one’s own mental health. 

What Are The Penalties for Subsequent OWI Offenses?

An OWI conviction can stay on a person’s record for life, which could severely impact the individual’s future. Furthermore, if they are caught drunk driving and charged with this offense again, the judge will refer to the prior verdict and may assess increased penalties for subsequent convictions.

Indiana Penalties for a Second-Time Offender

If you are convicted of a second OWI in Indiana, the penalties are much harsher than for first-time offenders. If you are charged with a second OWI, within seven years of your first conviction, you may be charged with a felony. This could carry a prison sentence of up to 2.5 years, fines of up to $10,000, probation for up to 2.5 years, and a license suspension between 180 days (about 6 months) and 2 years. In addition, most individuals charged with their second OWI are required to attend a substance abuse education, a victim’s impact panel, and complete court-ordered community service.   

Indiana OWI Penalties for a Third-Time Offender

In the state of Indiana, the penalties associated with a third OWI conviction are similar to a second conviction. However, if you’re convicted of a third OWI, you may face an adjudication as a habitual traffic violator. Under Indiana Code 9-30-10, this could lead to a license suspension ranging from five years to life. You may also face charges of habitual substance offenses. Under Indiana Code 9-30-15.5, this could carry an additional sentence of up to eight years in prison.  

Can You Get an OWI on a Bike or Electric Scooter?

Yes, you can be charged with an OWI on both a bicycle and electric scooter. Although many individuals believe they’re making a safer choice by riding their bike or taking an electric scooter, like a Lime or Bird, home from the bar, you run the same legal risk as getting behind the wheel of a car. Under Indiana Code 9-13-2-106, a vehicle is defined as “a device for transportation by land or air.” Although this does not apply to an “electric personal assistive mobility device,” (such as an electric wheelchair) it does apply to electric scooters and bicycles.   

Examples of Other Common Vehicles That Qualify for OWI’s in Indiana: 

  • Motorcycles 
  • Snowmobiles 
  • Mopeds 
  • E-bikes  
  • Dirt Bikes 
  • Go-Karts 
  • ATVs 
  • UTVs  
  • Golf Carts 

Can You Get an OWI in Indiana While Boating?

Yes. If you are operating a motorboat while intoxicated, you can be charged with boating while intoxicated (BWI) or boating under the influence (BUI). The conditions that are required to be charged with a BWI are nearly identical to those required to charge someone with an OWI in a car. Your BAC cannot exceed .08%, and in some cases, you can still be charged with a BWI with a BAC lower than .08%. This may occur if the officer is able to clearly demonstrate that you are intoxicated.  

For first-time offenders, a BUI/BWI is considered a Class C Misdemeanor. If you are convicted, you could face up to 60 days (about 2 months) in jail, a $500 fine, and the loss of your privilege to operate a motorboat for up to one year. In addition, the court could suspend your driver’s license, if they see fit.  

If you are charged with a BUI/BWI that resulted in someone else being seriously injured, the punishment could be much more severe. In this scenario, you could be charged with a Level 6 Felony. This may carry a penalty of 6 months to 2.5 years imprisonment. Furthermore, if your BUI/BWI offense resulted in someone else’s death, the charge could be raised to a Level 5 felony. This felony may carry a penalty of 1 to 6 years imprisonment. 

Need Help with an OWI in Indiana?

Being charged with an OWI for the first time can be frightening and overwhelming. The process is unfamiliar and complex, and the outcome is unknown. Thankfully, the legal team at Keffer Hirschauer LLP has a profound understanding of the laws surrounding an OWI offense.  

The founding attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP are former prosecutors with extensive experience prosecuting OWI cases. This background provides our clients with invaluable insight and the best possible defense when it comes to avoiding the maximum penalty. Our legal team knows precisely what it takes to obtain case dismissals and not-guilty verdicts in these matters.  

Don’t resign yourself to receiving maximum penalties. Call an Indianapolis DUI lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP today at (317) 751-7186 or complete our online contact form. We take each case seriously and will act urgently to help reduce or completely drop the OWI charges against you.  

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