An Evansville man recently faced charges of Level 6 felony OWI/DUI (Operating while intoxicated/Driving Under the Influence) for driving drunk with his 2-year-old daughter in the vehicle.
The man’s blood alcohol content (BAC) measured 0.14%. He was taken to jail and held without bond while the youngster was released to the custody of her mother.
When Does an OWI/DUI Charge Become a Felony in Indiana?
There are several situations that will most likely cause your OWI/DUI charge to become a felony. For example:
- Like the case described above, it’s a felony to drive drunk with a minor in the vehicle.
- Driving while intoxicated and causing an injury to someone else.
- Driving drunk and injuring someone else while having a previous OWI/DUI conviction within the previous five years.
Keep in mind, though, that it’s up to the State of Indiana to actually prove you’re guilty of OWI/DUI.
What Are the Penalties for Felony OWI/DUI Charges in Indiana?
The penalties for OWI/DUI convictions in Indiana are stiff.
Even for a first-time misdemeanor OWI/DUI charge, you face suspension of your driver’s license for up to two years. Plus, you could face fines of up to $500 if your BAC was between 0.08 and 0.14. If your BAC was more than 0.14, your fines could be increased to $5,000 and you could face jail time and community service.
At a minimum, being charged with OWI/DUI in Indiana, even if it’s a misdemeanor, will result in the immediate suspension of your driver’s license.
The good news, though, is that you can request specialized driving privileges with the installation of an interlock ignition device. These privileges are usually granted for between 189 days and 2.5 years.
Most who are charged with OWI/DUI will also be required to attend – and pay the costs for – a driver’s education program
The consequences of felony OWI/DUI charges in Indiana are greatly increased. For example, a felony OWI/DUI charge means automatic jail time.
Here’s how the penalties for felony OWI/DUI break down.
- A Level 6 Felony (driving drunk with a minor in the car, causing an injury to someone else or having a previous OWI/DUI charge within five years) means six months to 2.5 years in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.
- A Level 5 Felony (driving drunk, injuring someone else or causing their death and having a prior OWI/DUI conviction over the last five years) translates to up to six years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.
- A Level 4 Felony (causing the death of someone while driving drunk with a suspended license, a high BAC or prior OWI/DUI conviction within the previous 10 years) could result in between two and twelve years behind bars and fines up to $10,000.
It’s important to remember that if you cause the injury of multiple people while driving drunk, each injured person will be treated as a separate charge – meaning your penalties will increase with each injured person.
Mandatory jail time, of course, only occurs at the felony level.
Depending on your individual circumstance, felony OWI/DUI charges could also lead to loss of child custody, your job, or student aid benefits.
Do I Have to Take a Breathalyzer or Field Sobriety Test in Indiana?
Remember, it’s up to law enforcement to show that your BAC was above the legal limit. The two ways they will try to do this is through field sobriety tests and chemical tests (breathalyzer test or testing your blood or urine).
In Indiana, you can refuse to take a field sobriety test with no legal consequences at all.
However, refusing to take a breathalyzer or other chemical test will typically mean suspension of your license for one year or two years if you have a prior offense. You can, though, request a hearing about your license suspension within 20 days of your arrest.
What Should I Do if I’m Charged With OWI/DUI in Indiana?
The smart move is to keep your cool and contact an experienced OWI/DUI defense attorney ASAP. Because such charges can impact your life in so many ways, the earlier an attorney can begin working on your defense, the better.
A defense lawyer will work hard to have the charges reduced or dropped altogether. At the very least, your lawyer may be able to have jail time reduced, or have it scrapped altogether in exchange for probation and community service.