Underage OWI in Indiana

The consequences of operating a vehicle while intoxicated for a person under 21 years of age.

In Indiana, driving under the influence (DUI) is commonly referred to as “operating while intoxicated” (OWI). Subject to a few exceptions, consumption, possession, and transportation of alcohol by a person under 21 years of age is illegal. A person under the age of 21 who drives a vehicle after consuming alcohol or drugs is subject to a license suspension and can be charged with OWI, as well as other crimes and infractions.

This article discusses the laws and penalties associated with an OWI offense committed in Indiana by a person under the age of 21.

Administrative Penalties for Underage OWI Offenders

Under Indiana’s implied consent law, the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) will suspend the license of any driver who’s arrested for OWI and fails or refuses to take a chemical test. For adults, in most circumstances, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more is deemed a failed test. However, for drivers under the age of 21, a BAC of .02% or more is considered a failed test. The suspension periods are:

  • 180 days for a failed test, and
  • one year for refusing to submit to a test.

An underage offender whose license has been suspended for failing a chemical test can obtain specialized driving privileges to drive during the suspension period. However, a motorist who refused to submit to chemical testing is not eligible for specialized driving privileges.

Civil and Criminal Penalties for Underage OWI Offenders

If convicted of OWI in court, the penalties imposed depend on the underage offender’s BAC and whether drugs were present in the offender’s system. Generally, an underage offender who is under the influence of drugs or who has a BAC of .08% or more will face the same penalties imposed for adult offenders.

Jail and fines. Under Indiana’s underage OWI law, it’s a class C infraction for a person who’s under 21 years of age to operate a vehicle with a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08%. The maximum penalty imposed for a class C infraction is a $500 fine, plus court costs.

An OWI offense is a class C misdemeanor if:

  • the underage offender’s BAC was at least .08% but less than .15%, or
  • a schedule I or II controlled substance was present in the driver’s body.

A conviction for a class C misdemeanor carries a maximum sentence of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

An OWI offense is a class A misdemeanor if the underage offender:

  • had a BAC of .15% or more, or
  • drove a vehicle in a manner that endangered another person.

A person under 21 years of age who is convicted of a class A misdemeanor will face up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

License suspension. In addition to the administrative suspension discussed above, the court can also impose a license suspension if a person under 21 years of age is convicted of OWI. The suspension periods are:

  • up to one year if the underage offender is convicted of OWI that’s a class C infraction or class A misdemeanor, and
  • up to 60 days if the underage offender is convicted of a class C misdemeanor OWI.

The time the underage offender’s license was administratively suspended is credited towards the court suspension. However, an underage offender who refused to submit to chemical testing is ineligible to receive credit towards the court suspension.

Specialized and probationary driving privileges. The court can grant specialized driving privileges to an underage offender whose license has been suspended due to an OWI conviction. Generally, the offender must install an ignition interlock device (IID) in the vehicle and the privileges can be granted for 180 days to two and a half years.

If the offender is under 18 years of age, the court can grant probationary driving privileges for up to 180 days. However, underage offenders who refused to submit to chemical testing are ineligible for specialized or probationary driving privileges.

Victim impact program and alcohol/drug services program. All OWI offenders are generally required to attend a victim impact program (VIP) and pay for the costs of attendance. The program consists of presentations by speakers who have been affected by OWI drivers and visitations to emergency medical facilities, coroner’s facilities, or alcohol treatment centers.

OWI offenders who are under 18 years of age can be required to attend an alcohol and drug services program.

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