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Being charged with driving under the influence (DUI) can wreak havoc on your personal and professional life. Depending on the facts in your case, a first DUI conviction may still be a misdemeanor, exposing you to a minimal or suspended period of incarceration or, even better, just a fine. But when you’re facing a third DUI conviction, the consequences increase significantly. With your rights and your very future at stake, you need an Indiana DUI lawyer with significant experience in DUI defense.

Keffer Hirschauer LLP is first and foremost a criminal defense firm with extensive experience in DUI litigation. As former DUI prosecutors, including Marion County Prosecutor’s Office Fatal Alcohol Crash Team Prosecutors, our background gives us firsthand knowledge of how to succeed in defending against DUI charges. Protecting your rights is the core of our practice, so reach out today.

A Third DUI Raises the Stakes in Indiana

To prove the offense of driving under the influence, also called operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVWI) or operating while intoxicated (OWI), the State must show beyond a reasonable doubt that you operated a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least .08 percent and sometimes as high as .15 percent, depending on the level of the offense. At the lowest level, the offense is a Class C misdemeanor, but your criminal history and the facts underlying the charge can elevate the offense. Having prior DUI convictions in your criminal history can significantly impact the charges and potential penalties for subsequent DUI arrests.

In some cases, the State may charge a third DUI as a felony, which carries a much longer potential period of incarceration and much higher potential fines. To limit your risk of such consequences, contact an Indiana DUI lawyer from Keffer Hirschauer LLP as soon as possible.

What Constitutes a DUI in Indiana?

To meet the definition of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (DUI) in Indiana, the State must show that you operated a vehicle while having a BAC of at least .08 percent or with a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance (or its metabolite) in your blood. Under Indiana OWI law, the lowest level of this offense is a Class C misdemeanor.

To determine your BAC, at the time of the stop, a law enforcement officer may ask you to take a breathalyzer. Following a positive breath test, the officer may ask you to submit to a certified chemical test such as a blood test. Although you may refuse to submit to a breathalyzer or similar portable breath test (PBT), your operation of a motor vehicle in Indiana constitutes implied consent to submit to a certified chemical test upon request by law enforcement.

If you are convicted of Class C misdemeanor DUI for operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08 percent, you could face one or more of the following Indiana DUI penalties:

  • Incarceration for no more than 60 days
  • Probation for no more than two years
  • A fine up to $500
  • Payment of court costs and fees
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for up to two years
  • Random urine and drug screening
  • Mandatory substance abuse education and/or victim impact panel attendance

If the State proves beyond a reasonable doubt that your BAC was .15 percent or higher when you operated a motor vehicle, or if your operation of a motor vehicle endangered someone, you could be convicted of Class A misdemeanor DUI, which carries these potential consequences:

  • Incarceration for no more than one year
  • Probation of no more than two years
  • A fine up to $5,000
  • Payment of court costs and fees
  • Suspension of your driver’s license for up to one year
  • Random urine and drug screening
  • Mandatory substance abuse education and/or victim impact panel attendance

Definition of Third DUI in Indiana

Accruing multiple DUI convictions elevates the level of the offense charged if you are arrested for operating while intoxicated again. It can also put you at risk of being adjudicated as a habitual traffic offender and subject you to an extended sentence for being a habitual vehicular substance offender (HVSO) as defined by under Indiana Code § 9-30-15.5-2.

Under Indiana Code § 9-30-5-3, having one or more prior DUI convictions elevates the offense charged from a misdemeanor to at least a Level 6 felony. A felony conviction subjects you to much higher criminal penalties. To elevate a DUI from a misdemeanor to a Level 6 felony, the previous OWI conviction must be unrelated to the present charge and have occurred within the seven years preceding the events underlying the current charge.

In addition to a higher level offense, the State may also ask the court to find that you are an HVSO and, therefore, impose an enhanced sentence. The court may find you to be a habitual vehicular substance offender if the State proves beyond a reasonable doubt that you have accumulated at least two prior unrelated DUI convictions. Prior DUI convictions are unrelated if the facts underlying the present charge occurred after the facts underlying and sentencing for the second DUI conviction. Significantly, there is no time limit for this lookback period—an HVSO enhancement may be based on DUI convictions accrued any time in your past unless those records have been expunged.

Criminal Penalties for a Third DUI Offense

A third DUI conviction could subject you to sentencing for a Level 6 felony or higher. Conviction for a Level 6 felony means you could be sentenced to any of the following:

  • Incarceration between six months to two and one-half years
  • Probation of 2.5 years
  • Fine up to $10,000
  • Payment of court costs and fees

And conviction for a Level 4 felony, if the DUI involved serious bodily injury or death and you have a prior DUI conviction in the preceding five years, means the court could sentence you to any of the following:

  • Incarceration between two and twelve years
  • Fine up to $10,000
  • Payment of court costs and fees

However, because this would be your third DUI conviction, Indiana Code § 9-30-5-15(b) sets out additional Indiana DUI penalties you would face:

  • Minimum incarceration of ten days that are not eligible to be suspended, with at least 48 hours served consecutively
  • 480 hours of community service
  • Assessment for your degree of alcohol and/or drug abuse and, if determined appropriate, successful completion of a treatment program
  • Possible adjudication as a habitual traffic violator under Indiana Code chapter 9-30-10, resulting in license suspension for a minimum of five years or as long as your life
  • Charges of habitual substance offenses (Indiana Code chapter 9-30-15.5), which carry an additional period of incarceration between one and eight years

Other Consequences of a Third DUI

If you are convicted of a third DUI, you may face administrative consequences in addition to criminal penalties. First, suspension of your license is a foregone conclusion, but your suspension could be as little as one year or as long as ten years. Depending on the facts of your case and your criminal and driving record, you may be eligible for specialized driving privileges, sometimes referred to as a hardship license, unless any of the following apply to you:

  • You have never been an Indiana resident
  • You refused to submit to a certified chemical test when asked by law enforcement
  • The facts underlying your DUI conviction involved the death of another
  • You were previously granted specialized driving privileges and have two or more convictions for violating the terms of that license
  • Your driving privileges were revoked or suspended after the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) determined you to be unfit to operate a motor vehicle
  • Your driver’s license was suspended for passing a school bus

In addition, your vehicle may be subject to seizure by the state (if you have accumulated two or more DUI convictions in the preceding five years), and you will also have to report the felony conviction if asked about your criminal history on housing, job, and professional license applications.

Further, because a third conviction for DUI is a felony, you will suffer the consequences inherent in having a felony on your record. Having a prior conviction for a felony results in consequences beyond criminal sentencing. In Indiana, having a felony conviction impacts you in the following ways:

  • You lose the right to vote during the period of incarceration
  • You lose the right to own or possess firearms or ammunition
  • You may have difficulty obtaining federal or public housing
  • You may have difficulty obtaining a professional license
  • You may be subject to deportation if you are not a US citizen, even if you have a green card (permanent resident status)

Put the Experience of Keffer Hirschauer to Work for You

Having a DUI can be more than stigmatizing—it can take away your freedom, cost significant sums for fines and court costs, and impair your future housing and employment options. Appealing your conviction after the fact is not always successful. That’s why you need an experienced Indiana DUI lawyer to help you get out ahead of the case. A robust defense, begun early in the process—preferably before you answer any questions—can help make or break the State’s case.

The criminal defense attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP have decades of collective experience wielding Indiana criminal law as both a sword and a shield. After honing our skills as deputy prosecutors, we now fight for the rights of Hoosiers and state visitors facing prosecution for DUI and other offenses. No one—not even the State—can impact your rights without due process of law, and we’re here to make sure you get that and more.

If you’ve been charged with a third DUI or other OWI offense, Keffer Hirschauer LLP is here to help. You can schedule a free consultation with an Indiana DUI lawyer by calling (317) 857-0160 or by completing our online contact form.

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