Defending Against DUI Charges in Central Indiana
Indianapolis DUI lawyer and founding partner Chris Eskew knows that in Indiana, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol (also known as DUI) is treated strictly. Any person with blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08 is considered to have committed a DUI offense, whether his or her driving is impaired or not. Previous DUI offenses are always considered for sentencing and are never removed from the driver’s record. No matter how much time has elapsed, every DUI remains on your record, which makes even the first charge painful.
If you have been charged with driving under the influence, you will need legal assistance to have a chance at getting the best outcome. Indianapolis criminal defense law firm Eskew Law LLC can help you navigate the Indiana legal system. Our criminal defense attorneys have significant experience with Indiana’s criminal law system and are dedicated to finding solutions that offer the best hope for your future, whether that means arranging for an acceptable plea bargain or taking the case to court.
Anyone driving in Indiana is considered to have given consent to chemical blood or urine testing, even if the person has an out of state driver’s license. Unconsciousness also assumes consent, so if you are unconscious, you are likely to undergo blood testing. Refusing any form of testing increases the severity of punishment, resulting in an automatic suspension of the driver’s license for a year for the first refusal. Refusals after the first, result in automatic two-year suspensions.
Breathalyzers are commonly used in field testing to determine the necessity of additional chemical testing. Impairment is not required for a DUI verdict when this level of intoxication is read, so other field tests are not required at this level. For applicable results, chemical testing should be performed within three hours for the results to be valid. Tests administered later can sometimes be used as admissible evidence but are trickier to argue from the prosecution’s perspective. In any event, it is always helpful to have an Indianapolis criminal defense attorney who is well-versed in Indiana’s laws on your side.
Standard field testing with a breathalyzer requires special licensure. Blood and urine testing require certification. Officers are required to warn drivers that refusal will result in an automatic forfeiture of their licenses and to offer the test a second time, refusal of which is assumed to be proof of driving under the influence. In the case of accidents where the individual believed to be driving under the influence is injured, blood testing is required once medical personnel have determined it is safe to collect samples.
A blood alcohol level between 0.05 and 0.08 while driving can be considered driving under the influence and officers will perform tests, such as a breathalyzer, to attempt to verify impairment. While these other tests may demonstrate impairment, they are not as accurate as may be desired, which can be a valid defense argued by your Indianapolis DUI lawyer.
Any level of an unprescribed controlled substance in a driver’s system counts as a Class C misdemeanor.
For drivers under 21, any level of alcohol in the driver’s system over the level of 0.02 is considered driving under the influence. There are no different consequences for driving under the influence charges, and the driver may lose his or her license for up to a year, depending on the court’s decision.
The underage driver may suffer other legal consequences, both from illegal substance use and, if there is alcohol in the vehicle, illegal possession of alcohol.
Injuries While Driving Under the Influence
Virtually any other violations of traffic law or criminal acts shown to be related to a driver under the influence can be upgraded. Blood testing is required for accidents that lead to injuries and fatalities.
Accidents leading to injuries that occur when a driver is intoxicated are considered Class 6 felonies and are upgraded if there are any prior DUI charges in the past five years. Fatal accidents have more severe consequences. They are considered Class 5 felonies and are upgraded to Class 4 if there are any other DUI charges.
- First time. The first DUI conviction is treated as a Class C misdemeanor. There is no mandatory counseling and the driver does not lose his or her license unless he or she refused chemical testing.
This does not mean the first time has no consequences. Aside from any fines resulting from committing a misdemeanor, if you are convicted of a first-time DUI, you have a permanent mark on your record. The next case will be tried as a second-time DUI.
- Second time. Second time DUI offenses bring with them a mandatory five-day jail sentence or an 180-day community service requirement. There may also be a counseling requirement added to any other restrictions.
- Third time. The consequences of a third DUI conviction are even steeper. Third time DUI convictions have a jail sentence of 10 days and a requirement of at least 360 hours of community service. At least two of the days have to be served consecutively, and all days have to be served within a six month period.
Like second time DUI convictions, a dedicated Indianapolis DUI lawyer can negotiate down your jail sentence and have fines and community service substituted. However, these requirements will be much stronger the third time than they were the second.
DUI convictions can have additional consequences depending on a few other factors:
- BAC of 0.15. If you have a blood alcohol content double the legal limit, 100 hours of community service and an additional fine of $500 for a first-time offense will be added to any other sentences. For a second time offense, two days will be added to the jail sentence and an additional fine of $1,250 will be imposed. A third or higher offense results in a minimum addition of 90 days imprisonment and a $2,500 fine.
- The presence of children under 16. A first DUI offense with a child under 16 in the vehicle is considered a Class 6 felony. If there are any prior DUI offenses, the charge is upgraded to a Class 5 felony.
- Injuries and death. DUIs that result in injuries and death are always felonies. Any DUI charges that result in the death or injury of another person are upgraded if there are any DUI charges in the past 5 years.
In addition to jail time, fines, and community service, other restrictions can be levied for DUI charges.
Loss of License
A refusal to submit to testing automatically results in a one-year license suspension for the first refusal. Subsequent refusals result in two-year license suspensions. Driving while impaired by marijuana use can result in a license suspension of six months.
Violating a probationary requirement, other than in an emergency, is also grounds for suspending a license, whether that restriction is an ignition interlock device or time restrictions.
Ignition Interlock Device
For DUI offenses after the first, an ignition interlock device is mandated in Indiana. Ignition interlocks require you to pass a breathalyzer test before you are allowed to start your car. The maximum BAC equivalent to pass this test is 0.02. If the court mandates an ignition interlock device, you are also required to pay a fee for its installation and maintenance.
Tampering with an ignition interlock device, whether on your own or requesting someone else to do so, is a misdemeanor. If you need to change your vehicle for anything other than an emergency situation, you are required to notify the authorities prior to driving the vehicle.
Driving a vehicle without an ignition interlock device is a higher class misdemeanor than tampering with a device.
Substance Abuse Counseling and Treatment
For offenses after the second, people receiving DUI convictions are required to undergo a professional evaluation for substance abuse problems. If the professional considers it necessary, substance abuse counseling and treatment may be required by the judge. This requirement may be an additional stipulation, but it cannot be the only consequence, either individually or jointly. Additionally, any person convicted of a DUI offense might have to attend a safe driving class and demonstrate that he or she attended the class.
A third DUI conviction requires the person to undergo professional evaluation. Substance abuse counseling and treatment will likely be mandated after that.
Additional fees are a potential consequence of any court ruling. For DUI convictions, the following fees may be levied:
- Court fees
- Counselling and treatment fees
- Ignition interlock device associated fees
Possible Outcomes and What to Expect
The ideal resolution for a DUI case is that the charge will be considered invalid and all restrictions will be lifted. Although some of the relief will come from the removal of restrictions, most of it should come from the fact that the DUI charge will no longer be on your record. Indiana does not keep records of invalidated DUI charges, so this event will not continue to follow you through life. The following circumstances can invalidate a DUI charge:
- Indiana DUI law requires officers to tell you that refusing chemical testing will result in the forfeiture of your license. They must then re-offer the test. Plus, they are required to log your refusals and this warning in a specific manner. If they do not log the refusals correctly or do not offer you the test a second time, you have legal grounds to contest the revocation of your license.
- Officers may also have difficulty distinguishing between alcohol related symptoms of impairment and symptoms of stress, mechanical issues, or illness. Sometimes, police officers make mistakes and attribute bloodshot eyes to alcohol use when it could just be fatigue, or they see stressed hands trembling and assume it was because of drinking. Indiana requires all reports to be promptly submitted.
- For defendants under 21, make certain that any appropriately used medical treatments are noted. Indiana law does allow leeway in the no alcohol detected limitation for the appropriate use of oral medications, such as cough syrups. Cough syrups and cold medications often have an alcoholic base, which can give any tests a functional false-positive; although alcohol was in the driver’s system, it does not count as an illegal use of alcohol.
Even individuals over the age of 21 should say whether they are using these medications. It might not eliminate the charges, but it could introduce the element of reasonable doubt as to whether the BAC test was an accurate measure of impairment.
- All chemical testing is required to be performed by licensed personnel, whether it is by doctors, registered nurses, or registered technicians. For breathalyzer checks in Indiana, officers are required to be certified on the machine. Also, samples not taken immediately can be argued as invalid. If you did not contest the blood test but sampling took a while, there is a possibility that your Indianapolis DUI attorney can get the results successfully dismissed. Tests administered over three hours after arrest are almost always considered invalid.
While the above circumstances may lead to a not-guilty verdict, not every case is going to have these conditions. Indiana law does not allow you to enter a plea for a “wet reckless,” but there can still be positive repercussions to not contesting a charge. Offering a plea of guilty means minimal sentencing is more likely, and in the case of later DUI offenses, prison time can be avoided or replaced with other sentencing options. This can include the following outcomes:
- In the case of second and third DUI convictions, there is leeway in the sentencing requirements. Other alternatives include community service or greater fines. As the Indiana legal system is searching for ways to reduce the prison population, judges may favor these options.
- When multiple convictions for DUI occur over a relatively short periods of time, the alcohol or substance use may be a symptom of a deeper problem.
While treatment and counseling for substance abuse can never take the place of all punitive measures, they can be used as substitutes for some of them. Treatments help to solve the underlying and very real problem rather than simply punishing the symptoms.
Need Legal Help? Call a DUI Lawyer in Indianapolis, IN
DUI law is a fairly straightforward practice, but there are still areas of uncertainty. With the seriousness of charges and their severe consequences, you need good legal counsel for the best outcome.
At Eskew Law LLC, we will take into account all possible sources of error and make certain that common mistakes on the part of court officers did not occur in your case. One of the most important considerations is whether or not the officers and technicians handled the DUI testing process correctly. Many police officers have never received appropriate training in how to handle DUI cases according to the most recent Indiana statutes. This is the fault of the training system rather than the officer, but an incorrectly processed case can help you avoid some of the penalties.
We will stay in close contact with you throughout this difficult time, and we will seek to get you the best future possible. Whether that means arguing for the invalidation of a first DUI charge, entering a “guilty” plea for a reduced sentence, or getting mental health and substance abuse counseling included to prevent another DUI charge in the future, we can help. No matter what happens during this time, you will never be left to fight by yourself. Call (317) 974-0177 or contact us online to schedule an initial consultation with an Indianapolis DUI attorney.