Indiana’s Drinking and Driving Laws
Drinking and driving is one of the most serious mistakes that an individual can make. Not only does it put other citizens in harm’s way, but it’s a criminal offense that carries incredibly serious penalties. Those charged and convicted under the Indiana drinking and driving laws may have their driver’s license suspended, incur hefty fines, and/or face jail time.
If you’ve been charged with drinking and driving in Indianapolis, or anywhere in the state of Indiana, the drunk driving lawyers at Keffer Hirschauer LLP can help you. Our two founding partners are both former Fatal Alcohol Crash (FACT) prosecutors who truly understand the intricacies of these laws. By leveraging their past experience, we are to provide our clients with dynamic and highly effective defense strategies that provide them with the best chance of securing an optimal outcome in the case against them. To begin building your defense, call us today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Common Questions about Indiana Drinking and Driving Laws
While most Hoosiers understand that driving while intoxicated is illegal, many still are unclear about the specifics of DUI law in Indiana. Some of the most common questions that our Indiana DUI lawyers get include – what are the drinking and driving laws in Indiana? is drinking and driving a felony in Indiana? what are the penalties for drinking and driving?
What are the Drinking and Driving Laws in Indiana?
Per Indiana Code 9-30-5-1, when operating a vehicle, the legal limit for alcohol in Indiana is .08% blood alcohol concentration or breath alcohol concentration, which can be measured using a breathalyzer. If a person is caught in violation of this law, and their blood or breath alcohol concentration is less than .15%, they can be charged with a Class C misdemeanor in Indiana. However, if they’re found to have a concentration over .15%, or it’s determined that they are operating their vehicle in a manner that endangers a person, they can be charged with a class A misdemeanor.
Is Drinking and Driving a Felony in Indiana?
Under certain circumstances, drinking and driving can be a felony in Indiana. For example, Indiana Code 9-30-5-3 states that a person who violates the Indiana drinking and driving laws can be charged with a Level 6 felony DUI in Indiana if they have a prior conviction of operating a vehicle while intoxicated within the past 7 years; caused the death of a law enforcement animal; or they’re over the age of 21 and operated the vehicle with a passenger under the age of 18. Furthermore, if the person has a previous conviction of operating a vehicle while intoxicated that resulted in death, catastrophic injury, or serious bodily injury, they can be charged with a Level 5 felony.
The Indiana drinking and driving laws located in Indiana Code 9-30-5-4 and Indiana Code 9-30-5-5, provide several other circumstances where a person can be charged with a more serious felony DUI in Indiana. For example, a person can be charged with Level 5 felony DUI in Indiana if their offense resulted in someone else’s serious bodily injury. This charge can even be enhanced to a Level 4 felony if they have previously been convicted of a DUI within the last 5 years. Finally, a person who, as a result of drinking and driving, causes the death or catastrophic injury of another person can be charged with a Level 4 felony.
What are the Penalties for Drinking and Driving in Indiana?
Since the penalties for a DUI arrest in Indiana depend solely on the circumstances of the offense, it’s best to consult the Indiana sentencing guidelines to understand the severity of specific charges. However, generally, a person charged with a misdemeanor DUI can face up to one-year imprisonment and a fine of up to $5,000. In addition, they could be subject to two years of probation and the suspension of their Indiana driver’s license.
For those convicted of their second or third DUI arrest in Indiana, the penalties are much harsher, especially if the offense resulted in serious bodily injury, catastrophic injury, or the death of another person. Furthermore, someone who has been deemed a habitual vehicular substance offender (HVSO) under Indiana Code 9-30-15.5-2, faces further enhancements to their sentence. Depending on the circumstances, this could mean an additional 1-8 years in prison.
For those who risk being deemed habitual vehicular substance offenders, it’s vital to retain the services of an experienced Indiana criminal defense attorney. The DUI attorneys at Keffer Hirschauer LLP routinely assist clients in understanding the limitations of HVSO enhancements and building defenses. For example, the following cannot be used to show that you are a habitual vehicular substance offender:
- Previous DUI charges were dismissed, or you were acquitted at trial
- Previously charged with an DUI and other offenses, but only convicted of non-substance offenses
- Previous DUI conviction was reversed on appeal
- The previous conviction was for another offense, and intoxication played a role but was not a material (required) element of the offense
If you’d like to speak with one of our Indianapolis attorneys today about your DUI charges, feel free to call Keffer Hirschauer LLP at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.
Indiana Drinking and Driving Laws: Underage Drinking, Open Containers, and Consumption
In addition to the standard Indiana drinking and driving laws, which pertain largely to the offense commonly as driving under the influence (or DUI), there are several other offenses that our Indianapolis DUI attorneys get asked about on a frequent basis. Some of these questions include – what do the laws say about underage drinking? and what are the rules about open containers and consuming alcohol while driving?
What are the Laws on Underage Drinking and Driving in Indiana?
The laws on underage drinking and driving in Indiana are located in Indiana Code 9-30-5-8.5, which states that a person under 21 years old who operates a vehicle with an alcohol concentration between .02% and .08% commits a Class C infraction. In addition, this allows for the court to recommend the suspension of the person’s driving privileges for a period of time not exceeding one year. In situations where an underage person is operating a vehicle with blood alcohol concentration over .08%, the standard Indiana drinking and driving laws would apply.
What about About Open Containers and Consumption?
As most Hoosiers already know, the days of drinking a beer on your way home from work are long gone. Per Indiana Code 9-30-15-3, a person in a motor vehicle that is in operation or located on the right-of-way of a public highway who possesses a container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of the vehicle that has been opened, possesses a broken seal, or which has had contents removed, commits a Class C infraction in Indiana. There are, however, some exceptions to this law, including:
- When the container is possessed by a person who is not driving the vehicle, and that vehicle’s passenger compartment is designed, maintained, or used primarily for the transportation of other people for compensation
- When the container is possessed by a person who is not driving the vehicle, and the person in possession of the container is in the living quarters of a house coach or trailer.
- The container is located in the fixed center console or other similar fixed compartment that is locked
- The container is located behind the last upright seat (otherwise known as the trunk)
- The container is located in an area not normally occupied by a person, if that vehicle is not equipped with a trunk
As for consuming an alcoholic beverage while driving a car, Indiana Code 9-30-15-4 classifies this offense as a Class B infraction. However, it should be noted that this only applies to persons whose blood or breath alcohol concentration below .08%. Otherwise, the standard Indiana drinking and driving laws would apply.
Remember: DUI Laws Apply to Other Vehicles and Intoxicants Too
You might have noted that some of the terminology used in the Indiana drinking and driving laws is rather broad and leaves room for interpretation. For example, “operating a vehicle while intoxicated” could apply to a variety of vehicles, beyond those that we typically associate with drinking and driving. In fact, in Indiana, you can be arrested and charged with an OWI when operating off-road vehicles, snowmobiles, scooters, and even bicycles. You can also be charged for boating while intoxicated or boating under the influence in Indiana.
Another important element of the Indiana drinking and driving laws to understand is that it doesn’t just apply to drinking; those who operate a vehicle with a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II, or a metabolite of the controlled substance, in their blood, can be charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. However, this law does provide several statutory defenses. For instance, it would be an applicable defense if the person held a valid prescription for the controlled substance. It would also be an applicable defense that the controlled substance was marijuana or a marijuana metabolite and the person was not intoxicated, did not cause a traffic accident and the substance was identified by means of a chemical test taken pursuant to the implied consent laws located in Indiana Code 9-30-7.
Arrested Under the Indiana Drinking and Driving Laws?
Rather than trying to decipher the Indiana drinking and driving laws, it’s best to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney in Indiana. If you have any questions or need to speak with an attorney about pending charges, feel free to contact Keffer Hirschauer LLP.
Our Indiana drunk driving defense lawyers will do everything in their power to protect you and will aggressively fight to prevent any restrictions on your driving privileges. Ultimately, our goal will be to reduce the charges against you or have them dismissed altogether. To begin building your defense, call us today at 317-857-0160 or complete our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.