Attorney Sean Hessler knows how to handle your Indianapolis OWI charge properly, so you can reduce the charges, get the case dismissed, prove your innocence, or keep driving so you can get back to your life as quickly as possible.
When Can You Be Arrested for a DUI/OWI in Indianapolis?
Having one or two drinks after work or while out on the town with friends can easily lead to you being pulled over. If your blood alcohol concentration is 0.08% or higher, or if you show signs of impairment, you could be arrested for a DUI-related charge in Indianapolis.
Work With a DUI Attorney
As it’s referred to in Indiana, operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated is also known as OWI, DUI, or OVWI. Regardless of the term, OWVI can be a severe misdemeanor or felony, depending on the circumstances. It’s not something you can talk your way out of or deal with on your own. A legal professional best handles the criminal and collateral impact of a DUI on your record.
Because of the potentially life-altering consequences of conviction, such as limited job opportunities, an inability to drive, and possible time behind bars, it’s critical to address an Indianapolis DUI correctly right from the start.
How an OWI Attorney Can Benefit Your Case
An OWI shouldn’t ruin your life, and with an experienced lawyer’s help, you can challenge the evidence being presented and work to get your charges reduced. In some cases, we might be able to get the case dismissed altogether.
At Hessler Law, we will handle the entire legal process for you so that you can put an unfortunate DUI charge in your rear-view.
Here are some of the advantages of having a DUI attorney on your side:
- Knowledge of DUI Law – The laws involving DUI-related offenses are confusing. Several factors impact charges, the DUI process, and the defenses available to you. A defense lawyer with specific knowledge of Indianapolis DUI laws can answer your questions and move things along.
- DUI Experience – When charged with a DUI offense, you will want a lawyer with a record of success. Attorney Hessler has extensive experience and a long track record of representing people charged with alcohol-related offenses.
- Legal Support Resources – A DUI lawyer is more than just a legal professional standing in court and speaking on your behalf. Your attorney should provide support at all stages of the legal process. If a diversion program or treatment plan can help, he’ll get you enrolled and highlight your progress to the court.
- Negotiation Skills – Pleas are common in DUI cases. A good plea can result in lower fines, less time in custody, or the difference in keeping your license.
Indiana DUI Charges & Penalties
You can be charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated in Indiana when your blood alcohol content exceeds the state’s .08 legal limit. However, you can be charged even if your BAC does not exceed the limit, but you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs that impair your ability to drive.
When convicted of an OWI in Indiana, the possible consequences include:
- A lengthy jail or prison sentence
- As much as $10,000 in fines
- Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license
- Loss of a commercial driver’s license
- A permanent criminal misdemeanor or felony record that can prevent you from getting a job or renting a place to live
- Having to install an ignition interlock device on any vehicle you drive
- Significant increases to your car insurance rate
- Suspension or denial of a professional license, such as to practice medicine, pharmacy, nursing, teaching, or law
- Effects on your immigration status, such as denial of an immigration visa, green card, or citizenship, or possible deportation
First Arrest for a DUI in Indianapolis
In general, the penalties for a first DUI offense in Indiana depend on how intoxicated the state alleges you were and whether your driving was so impaired that it put other people in danger.
- .08 to .15 BAC — When you’re convicted of an OWI with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 to .15, the offense is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500.
- .15 or Higher BAC — An OWI with a blood alcohol concentration of .15 or higher is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Reckless Driving — When you drive under the influence, and your driving endangers other people, you may be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a fine of up to $5,000.
- Drugged Driving — Operating a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance is a Class C misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. You might have a defense to a charge of OWI involving controlled substances if the substance was a validly prescribed drug.
- Under 21 — If you were under 21 and your BAC was .02 to .08, the offense is a Class C infraction with a fine of up to $500. Additionally, your driver’s license may be suspended for up to one year.
Your License After a DUI
In addition to jail time and fines, you face suspension of your driver’s license for 90 days to two years on a first offense. You may be able to get probationary or specialized driving privileges, but that will depend on the circumstances of your charge.
An experienced Indiana OWI defense lawyer can review your case and explain whether probationary or specialized driving privileges might be an option for you.
If you are under the legal limit and are pulled over and charged with a DUI, understand that Indiana handles any underage DUI very seriously.
Second DUI Within 5 Years
When you are convicted of a second or subsequent OWI within five years, you face felony penalties. As a Level 6 felony, a second DUI is punishable by six months to two and a half years of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000. If your previous conviction was for an OWI that caused severe injury or death, the offense is a Level 5 felony punishable by one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
DUI Causing Serious Bodily Injury
When you drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, under the influence of drugs, or simply while intoxicated and cause another person serious physical injury, you can be charged with a felony in Indiana. It’s also important to understand that if you injure more than one person, you can be charged with separate felonies for each hurt person.
A first offense is a Level 6 felony punishable by six months to two and a half years of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000. If you have a previous OWI conviction within the preceding five years, the offense is a Level 5 felony punishable by one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
DUI Causing Death
When you drive with a BAC of .08 or higher, under the influence of drugs, or while intoxicated, and cause the death of another person, you face severe felony penalties in Indiana.
The class of felony and possible penalties vary depending on when your offense was committed and your BAC. Additionally, you may be charged with a separate felony for each person killed.
- If you were 21 or older and caused death while your blood alcohol concentration was .15 or higher, the offense is a Class B felony punishable by six to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
- It is a Level 5 felony punishable by one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000 if you have a previous OWI conviction within five years or were driving under an OWI driver’s license suspension or revocation.
- If you were 21 or older and caused death with a .15 or higher BAC, the offense is a Level 4 felony punishable by two to 12 years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
DUI With a Minor in The Vehicle in Indianapolis
When you are at least 21 and commit an OWI offense with a minor in your vehicle under age 18 while your BAC is .15 or higher, or you drive in a way that endangers other people, you may be charged with a felony.
The class of felony and the possible penalties will depend on when your offense was committed and certain kinds of prior convictions.
Penalties for DUI With a Minor in The Vehicle
A first offense is a Level 6 felony punishable by six months to two and a half years of incarceration and a fine of up to $10,000. The offense is a Level 5 felony if you have a previous conviction within the preceding five years for an OWI causing severe injury or death.
A Level 5 felony may be punished with one to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Aggravating Factors That Could Result in More Severe DUI Charges
When you have been arrested for a suspected DUI, several compounding factors could dramatically impact the charges you face. These factors could result in additional charges or more severe penalties. Some of these aggravating factors could include:
- Resisting arresting
- Having a BAC of 0.15% or higher
- Being on probation at the time of your arrest
- Having a deadly weapon in your possession
- Causing a motor vehicle accident
- Causing someone else serious bodily injury
- A child being involved
If any of these compounding factors apply to your DUI case, you must get a reputable DUI attorney to take on your case. Your future and your freedoms could depend on it.
Possible OWI Outcomes in Indiana
There are multiple outcomes that you might prepare for as your attorney works to defend your case. Ideally, all the charges against you could be dropped, and any license suspension or other restrictions will be lifted. However, there are multiple outcomes your case could take depending on the circumstances.
Police Mistakes Could Invalidate Charges
It is possible that your DUI charge could be invalidated if police fail to follow proper protocols and procedures or mistook your medical condition or nervousness as a sign of impairment.
Lab Mistakes Could Invalidate Evidence
It is also possible that the labs analyzing chemical samples make mistakes and break protocols and procedures that invalidate your samples. Should this happen, your attorney may be able to get your DUI charges dismissed altogether.
Entering a Plea Agreement
In other cases, you may need to be prepared to enter into a plea agreement. This may be in your best interest if you have had multiple DUI convictions in the past or if you have a substance abuse issue and would benefit more from getting treatment.
Your Indianapolis DUI attorney will help you prepare for all the potential outcomes in your case. That way, you won’t get caught off guard and can make educated and informed decisions about your defense.
Indiana DUI Tests & Implied Consent
Under Indiana law, when you drive a car, you implicitly agree that you will submit to chemical testing when you are suspected of driving under the influence. You can face penalties if you refuse to take a certified breath or blood test that a police officer requests when there is probable cause to suspect you of drunk driving.
Refusing DUI Tests
You have the right to refuse or to require a law enforcement officer to obtain a search warrant to take an involuntary sample. However, there are consequences for a refusal that may include suspension of your driver’s license for one year on a first offense or two years if you have a previous OWI conviction on your record.
Certified Tests & Breath Tests
A certified DUI test is performed at a police station by someone certified to administer breath tests or at a hospital by someone qualified to draw your blood and must be done within three hours of your arrest.
A certified breath test is different from a handheld portable breathalyzer test that an officer may want to administer when they pull you over, which is not a certified chemical test.
You are not required to submit to a portable breath test, and if you do, the results can’t be used as evidence of your OWI — but can be used to establish that the officer had probable cause for your arrest.
Field Sobriety Tests
An officer also may want to administer roadside field sobriety tests such as the walk-and-turn test or one-leg stand test, in which the officer will try to test your motor skills and coordination to determine if you’re impaired.
You are not required to submit to the field sobriety tests, and there are no consequences for your driver’s license for refusal.
If you submit to an OWI test and are over the legal limit, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that you’ll be found guilty. There are several ways that a qualified Indiana OWI lawyer may be able to challenge the results and help you keep your driver’s license.
Defending Against DUI Charges
Often, people feel like their case is beyond help if they are arrested in Indianapolis for a DUI. They may believe there’s no coming back from a failed DUI test, or they must accept a suspended license. But, there is a lot a lawyer can do to improve your circumstances.
Here are some of the most common defenses associated with OWI charges in Indianapolis:
Challenge Blood or Urine Samples
There are strict guidelines about administering and using urine or blood test samples. If the prosecution intends to use the results as evidence, they bear the burden of showing that the test was administered in accordance with the Indiana Department of Toxicology guidelines.
It is common for police and staff to make a mistake or to fail to follow procedures. In addition, your blood alcohol level may increase over several hours after your last drink; thus, if you tested slightly above the legal limit while at the police station, you were most likely under the limit at the time of your arrest.
What if You Failed a Sobriety Test?
All field sobriety tests must be administered in accordance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. If the prosecution fails to demonstrate that the arresting officer followed the NHTSA rules, the field sobriety test results may not be used against you.
Your OWI attorney can depose the arresting officer and determine whether they received proper training in the administration of field sobriety tests — many of them do not.
Reasons Why You Could Have Failed a Sobriety Test
Additionally, your inability to complete the field sobriety test may have nothing to do with your impairment. Instead, your results could have occurred because of:
- Cold, wind, or rain
- Uneven ground
- Distracting emergency lights
- Stress, frustration, or anxiety
- Improper footwear
- Your general lack of balance or coordination
Refute Your Traffic Stop
You may be able to avoid an OWI conviction if you can demonstrate that the officer who stopped you had no lawful reason for doing so. Through a careful deposition and cross-examination of the arresting officer, it may emerge that they had no basis for the initial traffic stop. As a result, your OWI charges might be dropped.
For example, many drivers get pulled over because their weaving raised suspicion of impairment. However, if you are merely weaving within your lane, this is generally not a sufficient reason for pulling you over.
Even if your weaving was pronounced enough to give rise to the suspicion of impairment, it could have innocent explanations, such as a mechanical defect with your vehicle or poor road conditions.
Minimize a Failed Breath Test
To successfully convict you for OWI, the state must show that the arresting officer had probable cause to administer field sobriety, Breathalyzer, or blood or urine test.
The case will likely cite your glassy and bloodshot eyes, the smell of alcohol, slow responses, and slurred speech as factors giving rise to a probable cause of your impairment.
Your Symptoms Could Be Unrelated to Alcohol Consumption
Your attorney may be able to demonstrate that these symptoms had causes unrelated to alcohol consumption.
For example, someone suffering from a cold or fatigue may exhibit many of the same symptoms as someone who is intoxicated. Further, the smell of alcohol is not indicative of being intoxicated: most people will smell like alcohol after a single drink.
Your Test Results Could Be Inaccurate
When a Breathalyzer test occurs under ideal conditions, there is a margin of error of +/- .02. If your results were only slightly over the legal limit, you might be able to escape a conviction because of the inherent inaccuracy of this sort of test.
Additionally, the results of a Breathalyzer test may be inaccurately high when you’ve had cough syrup, mouthwash, or when you’ve recently consumed a small amount of alcohol.
Indiana DUI Expungement
Depending on your circumstances, you may have the option to petition for expungement of an OWI conviction in Indiana once a certain number of years have passed, even if your OWI was a felony.
An expungement doesn’t erase the conviction from your record, but it can make it so that the conviction isn’t seen by potential employers or landlords and doesn’t affect your ability to get a job or rent a place to live.
You can only petition for expungement in Indiana once in your life, so make sure to use your petition wisely. A lawyer can explain your options for expungement, how an expungement might benefit you, and help you through the process.
Other Indianapolis DUI Information You Need to Know
An OWI can seem overwhelming given the complex system and harsh penalties in Indiana. It’s natural to have questions. At Hessler Law, we want you to be well informed and encourage you to review the following.
- First DUI – The effects of a first DUI conviction can have a long-lasting impact, but a solid defense can be a big help. Learn more.
- Second DUI – A second DUI, especially one that occurred within the past five years of the first one, will have to be taken very seriously. Indiana uses a five-year lookback period, which means another DUI within five years of the conviction is considered a second offense.
- CDL DUI — If you are a commercial truck driver and were arrested for an OWI and you have a CDL, contact Hessler Law to learn what your options are.
- DUI Accidents — A DUI charge is severe when it involves an accident. Penalties commonly include prison time as well as other consequences, such as having your license suspended or revoked.
- DUI Causing Serious Injury — If you are convicted of an OWI that caused serious bodily injury, you will have a felony on your record. There are possible defenses to this charge under Indiana law. Learn more.
- DUI Involving Drugs — DUI charges involving drugs can be challenging to fight. This is because the prosecution only needs to prove that drugs were in your system when you were operating a vehicle. Learn more about what we can do to help.
- Your Driver’s License After a DUI — Being handed a DUI or OWI can result in the following consequences when it comes to your driver’s license. Learn more.
The best way to address an Indianapolis DUI and reduce the harm to your life is to contact a DUI lawyer in Indianapolis and is familiar with state law. Call (317) 886-8800 for a free initial consultation. We’ll review what happened and explain your options.
Indianapolis DUI FAQ
We understand how overwhelmed you must be feeling during this challenging time in your life. In the hopes of easing your concerns and helping you figure out what your next steps should be, we have included this quick FAQ addressing some of our former clients’ most commonly asked questions.
If you have a question that has not been addressed on this page, do not hesitate to reach out to our office to discuss your specific concerns.
Will My License Be Suspended When I’m Arrested for an OWI in Indianapolis?
Yes. Your license will be suspended if you refuse to submit to chemical alcohol testing or are arrested for drunk or impaired driving. The length of time it will be suspended can vary depending on your prior criminal record and other aggravating factors. If the charges are dismissed, the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles will be able to reinstate your driving privileges.
Can I Get My Charges Reduced to a Wet Reckless?
No, you cannot. Indiana does not recognize “wet reckless” charges. This may be possible in other states that allow drunk driving to be reduced to a reckless driving charge. However, your attorney may be able to negotiate with the state to obtain a more favorable outcome in your case.
What if I Was on Probation When I Was Arrested for a DUI?
If you were on probation at the time of your arrest, your probation officer might find that you have violated the terms of your probation. This means that you may have your probation revoked and be forced to serve the rest of your previous sentence. This is in addition to the DUI charges you will face because of this most recent arrest.
Am I Going To Go to Jail if I Am Convicted of an OWI in Indianapolis?
It is possible that you could spend time in jail if you are found guilty of drunk driving. Even first-time offenders are at risk for as much as 60 days in jail. Deferred adjudication may be possible depending on the details of your case. For this reason, you must get a DUI attorney to advocate for your future.
Can’t a Public Defender Get My Case Dismissed?
Public defenders may be too busy to give your DUI case the attention it deserves. Though qualified, they are often overwhelmed by caseloads that don’t allow them to defend their clients adequately. With a private DUI lawyer at Hessler Law representing you, you can trust that your defense strategy is our top priority.