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Understanding OWI Charges in Indiana

Updated: Jun 17


Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol carries severe consequences, endangering the driver and others, and risking their future and finances. The legal and financial penalties can be significant.

Understanding OWI in Indiana

Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) is a criminal offense in Indiana that includes driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Impaired drivers suffer from slower reaction times, reduced attention spans, poor hand-eye coordination, and impaired judgment. OWI, DUI, DWI, and impaired driving are synonymous in Indiana, with all falling under the OWI umbrella.

Legal Alcohol Limits in Indiana

Indiana law deems drivers intoxicated if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 or higher. Commercial drivers must maintain a BAC below 0.04, and drivers under 21 must maintain a BAC below 0.02. Drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or above face serious DUI charges, often including reckless driving testimonies.

OWI and Controlled Substances

Drivers can be charged with OWI if any amount of a Schedule I or II controlled substance is found in their system. Schedule I drugs, like marijuana and heroin, are not used medicinally and are highly abused. Schedule II drugs, such as cocaine and methamphetamine, have high abuse potential and can lead to dependence. These substances metabolize differently, meaning their presence in the body can lead to an OWI charge even if not consumed recently.

Filing a Lawsuit When BAC is Below 0.08

Even if a driver's BAC is below 0.08, they can still be charged with OWI if there is evidence of impairment. This evidence might include officer testimonies and field sobriety tests showing confusion, slurred speech, or impaired motor functions. Prescription drugs taken according to a doctor's instructions might provide a defense, but mixing them with alcohol could still lead to a conviction.

Consequences for Refusing a Chemical Test

Drivers suspected of OWI can refuse a chemical test, but this results in an automatic license suspension and fines, lasting up to two years. Although this might avoid immediate arrest, a court conviction remains possible.

Criminal Penalties for OWIs in Indiana

OWI penalties vary based on the nature of the offense and the driver's criminal history. First offenses usually include fines, license suspension, potential jail time, and community service. Repeat offenses or high BAC levels result in harsher penalties, including mandatory ignition interlock devices and possible permanent license revocation for severe repeat offenders.

OWI Misdemeanor and Felony Sentencing

OWI charges in Indiana can be classified as misdemeanors or felonies based on BAC levels and prior offenses. Class C and A misdemeanors involve lower BAC levels, while Level 6, 5, and 4 felonies are for repeat offenses or causing serious injury or death. Felony charges carry more severe penalties, including longer jail times and higher fines.

Jail Time for OWI Offenses

Jail time for OWI offenses depends on the number of prior convictions. First offenses may not require jail time unless severe, while second and third offenses mandate minimum jail sentences or extensive community service hours.

Additional Outcomes of OWIs

OWI convictions lead to higher insurance premiums for three years, and non-compliance results in further legal issues. License reinstatement is possible after meeting all penalties and requirements. Indiana DUI laws also apply equally to out-of-state drivers. If injured by an out-of-state driver in Indiana, they can be charged under Indiana's OWI laws.

OWI Charges and Vehicles

One of the crucial components in OWI cases involves the aspect of the vehicle. Essentially, driving under the influence necessitates the act of driving, which inherently involves the use of a vehicle. Without concrete evidence that you were indeed operating a vehicle while under the influence, the state's case could falter.

What Constitutes a "Vehicle"?

The definition of "vehicle" is outlined in section 9-13-2-196 of the Indiana Code, which stipulates the following:

(a) "Vehicle" refers to, unless specified otherwise in this section, a mechanism through which a person or property can be transported or propelled on a roadway. However, this definition excludes: Devices propelled solely by human effort. Devices confined to rails or tracks. Wheelchairs. Electric foot scooters.

(b) For the purposes of IC 9-17 (Certificates of Title), the term encompasses: Off-road vehicles. Mobile or manufactured homes that are classified as: Personal property not intended for resale; and Not permanently affixed to real estate. Watercraft.

(c) Within the context of IC 9-22 (excluding IC 9-22-6) and IC 9-32, "vehicle" refers to any mode of transport, whether land or water, that necessitates registration under IC 9-18-2 (prior to its expiration) or IC 9-18.1, excluding off-road vehicles or snowmobiles under IC 9-18-2.5 (prior to its expiration) or IC 9-18.1-14.

(d) In relation to IC 9-30-5 (the OVWI statute)... the term signifies a mode of transportation by land or air, explicitly excluding electric personal assistive mobility devices. Several significant aspects merit attention within this statute. Initially, note that subsection (a) defines a vehicle "unless specified otherwise in this section." Subsection (d) elucidates the term within the DUI (or OWI) statute, encompassing "a mode of transportation by land or air."

This definition is rather comprehensive and encompasses a wide array of conveyances beyond just automobiles. The following examples could fall under this definition:

  • Airplanes

  • Helicopters

  • Bicycles

  • Motorcycles

  • Mopeds

  • Golf carts

  • Electric scooters

  • Skateboards

This implies that operating any of these vehicles under the influence of drugs or alcohol could lead to DUI charges. An adept Indianapolis DUI attorney can provide further insights into this statute and its implications. An exception within the statute is worth highlighting: the electric personal assistive mobility device. While it's improbable for someone to use such a device while intoxicated, its utilization can serve as a defense if faced with charges.

Do Not Navigate Your OWI Charges Alone.

Regardless of the vehicle involved in your DUI charges, seeking expert legal representation is paramount. A knowledgeable attorney can scrutinize the charges and assess whether the state can substantiate its case. If not, avenues such as requesting dismissal of charges may become viable options. Contact Brinkley Law at 317-742-9222 for legal assistance with your OWI case.



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