For many people under 21 and even those well above the legal drinking age, when they encounter surprising criminal charges connected to alcohol, they simply don’t know what to do. After all, alcohol is legal.
Unfortunately, law enforcement and prosecutors do not see it this way. Many alcohol-related crimes are misdemeanors with serious consequences such as expensive fines, restrictive probationary terms, the creation of a permanent criminal record, and occasionally time behind bars. Depending on the situation, a conviction can severely impact an individual’s future.
If you’ve been charged with an alcohol crime in Indianapolis or any of its surrounding areas, it may be your first instinct to get the matter over with as quickly as possible. However, it is important to resist this impulse and discuss all your options with a knowledgeable Indianapolis alcohol crimes lawyer. By working with an attorney who can properly assess your situation, you can pursue the most favorable result possible.
Types of Alcohol Crimes in Indiana
Every day in Indiana, people find themselves charged with various alcohol-related crimes, primarily under Indiana Code, Title 7.1. While the penalties can range in severity, at Hessler Law, PC, we know that any criminal charge is serious and can result in significant complications.
We can offer practical guidance and effective legal strategies for any of the following offenses:
- Public Intoxication (IC 7.1-5-1-3) – This makes it illegal to be drunk or in a state of intoxication (by use of alcohol or a controlled substance) in a public place if the person is a danger to themselves, to others, breaches the peace, is in danger of breaching the peace, or is harassing or annoying another person. This is a Class B Misdemeanor, carrying a possible penalty of up to 180 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.
- Minor in Possession & Underage Drinking (IC 7.1-5-7-7) – Like in other states, it is illegal in for anyone under the age of 21 to possess or consume alcohol. This includes transporting alcohol in a vehicle without a parent or guardian, regardless of whether the alcohol belongs to someone else or is unopened. This is a Class C misdemeanor and can result in up to 60 days in jail, a fine of up to $500, and a driver’s license suspension. A judge may also require the completion of an alcohol treatment program.
- Sales to Minors (IC 7.1-5-7-8) – It is also illegal to sell or give alcohol to persons under the legal age. Typically, this is charged as a Class B misdemeanor, but can be heightened to Class A if the accused has a prior conviction for a related offense. It could even become a Level 6 felony if the minor’s consumption of alcohol resulted in serious injury or death.
- False ID Charges (IC 7.1-5-7-1) – Under this section, minors are prohibited from lying about their age or using false documentation to procure alcohol. This can include fraudulent identification materials or using someone else’s ID. If convicted of this Class C misdemeanor, you face fines up to $500 and the suspension of your driver’s license for up to a year.
- Open Container Law in Indiana (IC 9-30-15-3 and 9-30-15-4) – While Indiana has no specific restrictions on carrying open alcohol containers in public, these sections of law do make it illegal to consume alcohol while operating a vehicle as well as having an open alcohol container in a vehicle, unless it is in a separate area (the back of a limo or in the trunk). Passengers who violate Indiana’s open container laws face punishment as a Class C infraction. Drivers consuming alcohol while operating a vehicle can be charged with a Class B misdemeanor.
- OWI (IC 9-30-5) – Also referred to as DUI, OVWI, or OWVI, this defines the law surrounding driving under the influence of alcohol and other substances. Specifically, when someone tests above the legal limit of alcohol (.08 for an adult and .02 for a person under 21) or is otherwise determined to be intoxicated, they will likely face charges. The penalties in Indiana for an OWI are particularly harsh. Depending on the circumstances of your case as well as your prior history, OWIs can either be pursued as misdemeanors or felonies. Consequences for these offenses include thousands of dollars in fines, a driver’s license suspension, and possible jail time.
- Disorderly Conduct (IC 35-45-1-3) – While this offense is not directly connected to alcohol, it often accompanies incidents related to intoxication. Disorderly conduct is a public nuisance offense that refers to a person recklessly, knowingly, or intentionally engaging in tumultuous behavior, fighting, making unreasonable noise, or disrupting a lawful assembly. Usually, this is considered a Class B misdemeanor. However, it can be heightened to a felony if the disorderly conduct is committed at an airport, affects airport security, or at a funeral service.
Consequences of an Alcohol Crime Conviction
Depending on the circumstances involved and your particular offense, an alcohol conviction in Indiana could have a lasting impact. Some of the most common effects of an alcohol-related crime include:
- Lengthy and inconvenient terms of probation
- Being required to undergo substance abuse treatment
- The suspension of driving privileges
- Mandatory community service
- Paying costly fines and court fees
- Possible juvenile detention or jail time
- Being held civilly liable for any resulting damages or injuries
- A mark on your criminal record, limiting future opportunities
Regardless of your age, an alcohol conviction could also mean being labeled as someone with an alcohol problem who is prone to reckless behavior. Therefore, it is essential to give any alcohol-related charge the attention it deserves.
What are My Options and Can I Defend Against an Alcohol Crime?
At Hessler Law, PC, we understand the stress and uncertainty involved with alcohol crimes. It may seem like a guilty verdict is all but guaranteed, but there are several defense strategies that can put you in a much better position. First of all, when dealing with any alcohol-related offense, it’s important to remain calm and discuss the details of your case with an experienced Indianapolis alcohol crimes lawyer.
A skilled attorney may be able to convey that your actions or behavior were not due to alcohol, but were caused by something else. This could include the side effects of a prescribed medication, a pre-existing medical condition, or a difficult set of circumstances. By working with an Indianapolis alcohol crimes attorney who knows how these types of cases are handled, you stand a much better chance of presenting your case and pointing out any mistakes or oversights made by law enforcement. If your rights were violated or the officers exceeded their authority, you may be able to leverage this towards the suppression of key evidence or another favorable result such as a reduction in charges, a dismissal, or less severe penalties.
Depending on your prior record and the specific facts surrounding your case, there may also be alternative punishments available to you. For instance, many people charged with minor alcohol offenses qualify for the Pretrial Diversion Program. In Indiana, this allows individuals to avoid a criminal conviction based on their successful completion of community service, paying fees, and participation in an educational course aimed at curtailing risky behaviors. If you successfully complete these requirements, the prosecutor may dismiss the charges against you. It’s important to note that the pretrial diversion program is usually only available to first-time offenders, but there are exceptions.
Can an Alcohol Crime be Expunged in Indiana?
As anyone can tell you, a criminal conviction will follow you wherever you go. Even after the fulfillment of your penalties, the mark will still appear on your record. These can often hold people back from certain jobs and prevent them from moving on. However, by choosing to work with a skilled attorney, you can put yourself in an optimal position for clearing your record through an expungement.
Put simply, an expungement restricts the accessibility of someone’s criminal record. The conviction doesn’t disappear completely, but by sealing the record, it becomes unavailable to the public and prosecutors. This means it will not come up in a background check by a potential employer, landlord, or loan provider. Expungements are available for most first-time offenses except for sexual offenses, violent crimes, and other serious felonies. If you have a record of an arrest that didn’t lead to a conviction, a misdemeanor, or certain lower-level felonies, you may be eligible.
To learn more about having an alcohol crime expunged from your record, contact Hessler Law, PC today.
Preserve Your Record with an Indianapolis Alcohol Crimes Lawyer
No one expects to be charged with a crime. But with such a wide variety of alcohol crimes in Indiana, it is easy to see how a lapse in judgement or a simple misunderstanding can lead to a very difficult situation. For minors and adults alike, these charges can have an enduring impact and need to be taken seriously from the start.
If you or a loved one has been charged with public intoxication, using a false ID, illegal possession, driving under the influence, or any crime involving alcohol, don’t take unnecessary risks. Contact a highly skilled criminal defense attorney with Hessler Law, PC.