People who are going out to a bar, restaurant, or party that will have alcohol know they should have a designated driver lined up. It's a matter of safety for the driver and others on the road. If no designated driver is available, some people in Indiana might opt to drive themselves. That could run afoul of Indiana law if the driver's blood-alcohol concentration percentage is above certain levels. In those cases, the driver may be charged with drunk driving, or what Indiana calls “operating while intoxicated” or simply OWI.
Indiana law imposes a fine of up to $5,000; up to one year in prison; up to years' license suspension; mandatory attendance at a victim impact panel (where applicable); and other sanctions for the first offense. Sentences only go up from there, with a fine of up to $10,000 and up to three years in prison for a third offense.
In order to be charged with drunk driving in Indiana, a person has to have the blood-alcohol concentration percentage at or above the state's limits. For a person who is 21 years old or older, that limit is .08 percent. For people who are younger, the limit is .02 percent. Commercial drivers have a limit of .04 percent.
Consequences for a drunk driving conviction vary greatly in Indiana. Each subsequent conviction has more severe consequences than prior convictions. Unlike many states, the washout period in Indiana has two timeframes. One timeframe is five years, and the other is 10 years.
All drunk driving convictions carry a driver's license suspension. The suspension period, which is a minimum of 30 days for a first conviction, six months minimum for a second, and a year minimum for a third, is followed by a period of license restriction during which the person can only drive to and from work.
Jail sentences are imposed with every conviction. The amount of time on a first conviction is up to a year. On second convictions, there is a minimum sentence of five days in jail. On a third, that minimum is increased to 10 days. In both second and third convictions, the maximum jail sentence is three years unless the person is charged as a habitual offender, which has a maximum sentence of an additional eight years.
On top of those consequences, people convicted of drunk driving also face fines that range from $300 up to $10,000. In some cases, ignition interlock devices might be ordered. Alcohol counseling, victim impact panels, and community service are all possible. The court can also order probation in some cases.
There are several defense strategies that can be used in Indiana. One of those is pleading guilty to a lesser charge. Indiana state law doesn't forbid pleading guilty to a lesser charge in drunk driving cases. That would mean instead of being convicted of a drunk driving charge, the person would plead guilty to a reckless driving charge. Other possibilities include calling into question the validity of the testing used if there are any discrepancies there or disputing the reason for the traffic stop reason if applicable.
Fighting against drunk driving charges in Indiana requires considerable experience. Seeking assistance from an experienced Indiana OWI attorney can help people facing these charges in Indiana to learn about applicable laws, potential consequences, and possible defense strategies for their case.
This article is intended to be helpful and informative. But even common legal matters can become complex and stressful. A qualified drunk driving lawyer can address your particular legal needs, explain the law, and represent you in court. Take the first step now and contact a local drunk driving attorney to discuss your specific legal situation.