In Indiana, it is unlawful for an individual to operate a vehicle if the 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 submitting 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 The charge is also a Class B felony if the person’s driving privileges had been revoked or suspended due to a previous OWI conviction at the time of the incident.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 statues, 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.