In Indiana, it is unlawful for an individual to operate a vehicle if he or she has a blood-alcohol content, or BAC, of .08 percent or above and may be charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated, or OWI. The class of the charge levied against a person varies based on a number of factors.
If a person is found to have a BAC greater than .08 percent but less than .15 percent, that person will be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. However, a Class A misdemeanor may be levied against that person if the person’s operation of the vehicle endangered another individual. Additionally, in cases where a person’s BAC is .15 percent or above, the OWI charge will be designated as a Class A misdemeanor.
Under Indiana statutes, a person is only allowed to operate a vehicle within the state if the operator consents to submit to a portable breath or chemical test, and this consent is implied. Due to these provisions, a person must submit to a breath or chemical test when requested by a law enforcement officer. However, officers may only require testing of a person who was involved in a fatal or injury-causing accident. Additionally, chemical tests may only be administered within three hours of the accident.
A person who refuses a lawfully requested test will be guilty of a Class C infraction and that person’s driving privileges will be suspended for one year. In cases where a person has been previously convicted of OWI, the infraction is elevated to Class A, and that person’s driving privileges will be suspended for two years.
Certain circumstances may elevate OWI charges to felony status. A person may be charged with a Class D felony OWI if he or she has had a previous conviction of OWI in the past 5 years. A Class D felony may also be levied against a person who is found to be operating a vehicle under the influence with a person under the age of 18 in the vehicle. These charges may be elevated to Class C felonies if the person facing charges has previously been convicted of OWI causing death or OWI causing serious bodily injury.
Additionally, a charge of OWI causing death is a Class C felony, but it may be increased to a Class B felony if the person has been previously convicted of an OWI in the previous 5 years. The charge is also a Class B felony if the person’s driving privileges had been revoked or suspended due to a previous OWI conviction at the time of the incident.
Recent Legislative Changes to Indiana OWI Laws
In 2013, open container laws were amended by House Bill 1579. According to the provisions of the bill, the exemption from charges related to possession of an open container of an alcoholic beverage for a person who is in the passenger compartment of vehicles used to transport people for compensation does not apply to the operator of the vehicle.
Also, effective July 1, 2014, the statutes concerning felony level OWI charges will be changed. According to the new language of the statutes, felony OWI charges will no longer be designated Class C or Class A. Instead, the felony designations will be known as Level 6 and Level 5 respectively.
What Is The Legal Alcohol Limit In Indiana?
Law enforcement officials in Indiana vigorously pursue and prosecute people who drive after consuming alcohol. Operating while intoxicated (OWI) offenses can result in serious penalties that include incarceration, fines and loss of driving privileges, among other punishments.
Police determine a person’s level of intoxication by administering a breath or blood test. Charges are typically brought against individuals after an assessment reveals a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) that is over the legal limit. This limit varies by class of driver, including designations that include:
- Passenger drivers who are 21 and over. People of legal drinking age are subject to a BAC limit of .08 percent, regardless of whether or not they show signs of impairment due to alcohol.
- Commercial drivers. Operators of semi-trucks, delivery vans, buses and other commercial vehicles can be arrested and charged on alcohol-related driving offenses with a BAC of .04 percent or higher.
- Individuals not of legal drinking age. People who are under 21 face the strictest alcohol limits; they may be charged with an alcohol-related offense with a BAC of .02 percent or greater.
Additional BAC distinctions can be made in operating while intoxicated cases. For example, people who register a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher after an OWI stop may be subject to enhanced penalties.
Ignition Interlock Requirements In Indiana
Indiana is among the last states to make ignition interlock devices (IID) mandatory for some OWI offenses. Beginning in January of 2015, people with repeat operating while intoxicated convictions must have an IID installed. Judges also have the option of requiring this of first-time offenders.
Conditions of ignition interlock law include:
- A person convicted must furnish all costs of a device.
- Only a state-approved vendor may install a device.
- Failed tests or evidence of tampering may result in additional penalties.
Adoption of changes to ignition interlock law is the result of advocacy efforts by organizations that point to drop-offs in highway deaths in states requiring IID use.
Indiana DUI Penalties
The state of Indiana uses the term “operating a vehicle under the influence” (OWI) rather than DUI to describe the charge assessed against those individuals who are found to be driving impaired by alcohol or drugs. Indiana laws stipulate that it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or greater. Stricter laws apply to minors and commercial drivers. Minor drivers under the age of 21 with a BAC of .02 percent or greater and commercial drivers with a BAC of .04 percent or greater are considered OWI.
Indiana has an implied consent law, which authorizes police to subject suspected drivers of OWI to chemical blood, breath or urine tests for drugs and alcohol. Individuals who refuse to consent to test are subjected to fines and automatic suspensions of their driver’s licenses. First refusals are penalized by a one-year suspension. Second refusals are subjected to a two-year suspension and five days of prison time. Third refusals are subjected to a two-year suspension and 10 days of prison time.
First Offense DUI Penalties
A first OWI offense is considered a Class C misdemeanor that is punishable by prison time, a fine, and a license suspension for up to two years as well as court fees of at least $300 and probation for up to two years. A suspension of one’s driver’s license may be for a minimum of 30 days followed by a probationary period during which the driver is restricted to driving only back and forth to work. If a convicted driver has a BAC of less than .15 percent, a fine less than $500 and a prison sentence of fewer than 60 days may be imposed. If a driver has a BAC of .15 percent or above, a fine less than $5,000 and a prison sentence of less than one year may be imposed.
Second Offense DUI Penalties
A second OWI offense is considered a Class D felony that is punishable by between five days and years of prison time and a fine of less than $10,000 as well as a license suspension for between 180 days and two years. Probation may also be imposed for up to two years.
Third Offense DUI Penalties
A third OWI offense is considered a Class D felony that is punishable by between 10 days and three years of prison time, a fine of less than $10,000 and a license suspension for between one and 10 years as well as probation for up to two years. In addition, a driver may be labeled a habitual traffic violator, which carries additional penalties of between one and eight years prison time for any subsequent violations.
Indiana has a 10-year look back period for which previous offenses are taken into consideration when determining penalties. Other possible penalties include the installation of an ignition interlock device, community service and attendance at a victim impact panel. Substance abuse education may also be imposed and provided at the convicted driver’s expense. Convicted drivers may also be required to submit to further chemical testing for drugs and alcohol.