To avoid an OWI in Indiana, it’s important to know at least five things.
I. OWI, DWI, or DUI?
IV. Field Sobriety Tests
V. Avoid Arrest
I. OWI, DWI, or DUI?
Driving under the influence of alcohol is a criminal act. It’s legally called operating a vehicle while intoxicated or OWI in Indiana. But it’s also commonly called DWI (driving while intoxicated) and DUI (driving under the influence).
Driving with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher is OWI. For drivers under age 21 (including adults 18 through 20), it’s 0.02%.
The BAC for drivers under 21 is called zero tolerance. But that doesn’t require a 0.00% BAC. That’s for several reasons. One is that “breathalyzers” or alcohol breath testers are unreliable. In fact, they don’t actually measure BAC. (That takes analysis of a sample of actual blood.) They only estimate it. And many, many things can cause them to give false estimates. That’s why not all states permit their use.
Another reason is that everyone of every age produces alcohol naturally within their bodies. And they produce this alcohol 24/7. A third reason is that many foods and medications contain alcohol. Even baked goods such as bread contain alcohol.
Fortunately, setting the BAC limit at 0.02% reduces the chances of convicting innocent drivers.
The exact penalties for an OWI in Indiana vary. They include such things as
- Driver’s age.
- Type of license.
- Estimated BAC.
- Any prior DWIs.
- Ages of any occupants in the vehicle.
- Any consequences of the DWI.
- Skill of driver’s attorney.
- Characteristics of driver (demeanor in court, race, socio-economic status, etc.)
- Beliefs and personality of judge hearing the case. That’s just the luck of the draw.
However, Indiana law provides guidance.
A first OWI with a BAC of 0.08% to 0.15% or using a controlled substance carries a fine of up to $500. The imprisonment can be up to 60 days.
If the BAC is 0.15 or higher, the penalty is a fine of up to $5,000 and incarceration for up to one year.
The penalty is a fine of up to $10,000 and imprisonment for six months to two and one-half years if any one of the following applies to the OWI.
- A non-adult passenger is in the vehicle. That is, someone under age 18.
- It causes serious bodily injury.
- The OWI is the second within five years.
- It causes the death of a law enforcement animal.
If a prior OWI caused death or serious bodily injury, a second OWI carries a penalty of a fine up to $10,000 and prison for one to six years. The same is true if it’s the second OWI that caused death or injury.
The penalty is a fine up to $10,000 and imprisonment for two to 12 years if the OWI causes death and one of the following applies. The OWI
- Is the second in five years.
- Was with a BAC of 0.15% or higher.
- Occurred with a suspended license.
If the OWI causes more than one injury or death, the state will charge the driver with multiple crimes for the one crash.
III. The Costs
The cost of being charged with an OWI in Indianais expensive. And this is true even if you’re innocent. Of course, it’s even more expensive if you’re found guilty.
The cost of a legal defense against OWI varies widely. The complexity of cases is highly variable. A first-time offense costs less because it takes less time to defend than that of a repeat offense. A case involving a crash involving injury or death is even more complex. As is one in which the offender had a small child in the vehicle.
It’s wise to select an experienced lawyer who specializes in OWI defense. You wouldn’t want your family doctor to perform brain surgery.
So simply asking lawyers how much they charge per hour isn’t of great help. It’s like asking house builders how much they charge for constructing a house.
There are a number of other costs. They may include fines, court costs, property damage, medical expenses, possible loss of employment, increased insurance rates, and other expenses. The total can be high. It can easily be more than lawyer fees and expenses. Therefore, the total cost of an OWI can easily be tens of thousands of dollars.
In addition, there are non-money costs as well. They may include pain and suffering, feelings of guilt, embarrassment, driving license suspension, loss of friendships, and many others.
Knowing the high costs of an OWI can help us try to avoid them. That should be great motivation.
IV. Field Sobriety Tests
All states require drivers to submit to alcohol breath estimators, although they’re unreliable. However, not a single state requires drivers to take any field sobriety test.
Field sobriety tests are highly subjective and lack validity. That’s why about one-third of completely sober people (0.00% BAC) fail them. And that’s under ideal conditions. Naturally, taking one on an uneven highway shoulder after being pulled over and while very nervous is far from ideal. So the failure rate of completely sober drivers in real life would be much higher.
For this and other reasons, lawyers strongly urge drivers never to submit to any field sobriety test. Officers have clever ways to convince drivers to take them. They may falsely insist the law requires it. An officer who pulls over a driver for suspected OWI is conducting a criminal investigation. The officer may legally lie to you. Remember that if you are a suspect in a crime, the police officer is your adversary.
V. Avoid Arrest for OWI in Indiana
Obviously, a sure way to avoid an OWI in Indiana or elsewhere is by not drinking any alcohol. Another choice is to use a Designated Driver or use public transportation.
Most drivers enjoy drinking alcohol, at least on occasion. They may lack a Designated Driver or access to public transportation. So how can drivers drink before driving, yet avoid arrest? The answer is simple. Maintain a low BAC.
These guidelines can help keep a low BAC.
- Remember that standard drinks of beer, wine and spirits have equivalent amounts of pure alcohol.
- Have no more than one standard drink each hour. Preferably less.
- Avoid non-standard drinks. This makes it easier to keep track of alcohol intake.
- Eat and snack while drinking. This is very important!
- Have a non-alcoholic drink between alcoholic ones.
- Accept an alcoholic drink only when it fits your consumption schedule.
- Never engage in any drinking game.
VI. Arrested for OWI in Indiana?
This website strongly opposes impaired driving. But it also supports the U.S. Constitution and the rights it grants both the innocent and the guilty.
If you’re arrested for OWI in Indiana, protect your rights. Get a lawyer who specializes in defending drinking and driving cases. Better yet, one whose entire practice is limited to that specialty.
The Indiana State Bar (lawyer) Association offers a free search of its members. The Martindale legal guide can be searched free on-line. It identifies lawyers by specialty and geographic location. In addition, it includes useful peer and client evaluations. Also, local bar associations generally provide free lawyer referrals.
Never rely on this or any other site for legal information.
VII. Resources: OWI in Indiana
Brezina, C. I’ve Gotten a DWI/DUI, Now What? NY: Rosen, 2016.
CDC. Teen Drinking and Driving. Atlanta: 2012. (website)
___. Impaired Driving. Washington: 2018. (website)
Gillespie, L. Police Encounters. Know Your Rights. Gillespie, 2014.
Hudson, T. The Drinker’s Guide to Driving: The Secrets of DUI, From One of America’s Top DUI Lawyers. Cork: BookBaby, 2013.
Keech, C. & Fairchild, C. So Dude, What are My Rights? Kansas City, MO: Keechild, 2014.
Lauterjung, L. DUI law for Drivers. How to Avoid DUI Arrests and How to Handle a DUI Stop. Lauterjung, 2012.
Nevels, T. Avoid DWI and Marijuana Charges. Cork: BookBaby, 2015.
NHTSA. Drunk Driving. Washington: 2018. (website)
Sagsletter, R. Rights During a Police Stop / DUI in the United States. What Officers Can and Cannot Do. Denver: Outskirts, 2012.