First OWI Offense in Indiana

The administrative and criminal penalties for a first OWI/DUI in Indiana.

In Indiana, driving under the influence (DUI) is generally referred to as “operating while intoxicated” (OWI). A person can be convicted of OWI for driving a vehicle:

Under Indiana’s implied consent law, there are normally administrative (license related) penalties imposed following an OWI arrest. If the offender is convicted of OWI in court, there are criminal penalties in addition to the administrative penalties already imposed.

Administrative Penalties

License suspension. The Indiana 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 (usually a blood or breath test). Generally, a person fails a chemical test if the results indicate a BAC of .08% or more. The suspension periods are:

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

After an administrative suspension, the BMV will reinstate the person’s driving privileges if:

  • the criminal OWI charge is dismissed, or
  • the offender was found not guilty of the OWI charge and didn’t refuse to submit to a chemical test.

Specialized driving privileges. A person whose license has been suspended for failing a chemical test can obtain specialized driving privileges to drive during the suspension period. To obtain such privileges, the offender can be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) in the vehicle. Specialized driving privileges can be granted for 180 days to two and one-half years. However, an offender whose license has been suspended for refusing to submit to a chemical test is not eligible to drive during the suspension period.

Criminal Penalties

Jail and fines. A first OWI offense is a class C misdemeanor if:

  • the defendant was intoxicated by alcohol or drugs
  • the defendant’s BAC was at least .08% and less than .15%, or
  • a schedule I or II controlled substance or its metabolite 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.

A first OWI offense is a class A misdemeanor if the defendant:

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

A defendant convicted of a class A misdemeanor can be sentenced to up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

A first OWI offense is a level 6 felony if the defendant:

  • is at least 21 years old
  • had a BAC of .15% or more or drove a vehicle in a manner that endangered another person, and
  • had a passenger under 18 years of age in the vehicle.

A level 6 felony carries a sentence of six months to two and one-half years in jail and a fine of up to $10,000.

(Read more about the total costs of a first OWI/DUI.)

License suspension. In addition to the administrative suspension discussed above, the court can also impose a license suspension if the defendant is convicted of OWI. The suspension periods can be up to the maximum period of incarceration allowed for the offense. Thus, the suspension periods are:

  • up to 60 days if the defendant is convicted of OWI that’s a class C misdemeanor
  • up to one year if the defendant is convicted of a class A misdemeanor OWI, and
  • six months to two and one-half years if the defendant is convicted of a level 6 felony OWI.

The time the offender’s license was administratively suspended for failing a chemical test is credited towards the court suspension. However, a defendant whose license was suspended for refusing a chemical test is ineligible to receive credit towards the court suspension.

Specialized driving privileges. When a defendant’s license has been suspended by the court for an OWI conviction, the court can grant specialized driving privileges, just like the privileges granted to a motorist whose license is administratively suspended for failing a chemical test. The defendant is generally required to install an IID and the privileges can be granted for 180 days to two and one-half years.

Victim impact program. All OWI offenders are typically required to attend and pay for the costs of a victim impact program (VIP). The program consists of participation in a forum presented by speakers who have been affected by OWI drivers. To complete the VIP, offenders must also visit an emergency medical facility, coroner’s office, or a chronic alcoholism treatment center.

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