Published in Criminal Law by Chris Eskew on October 14, 2021.

first offense dui indiana and indiana dui laws

Anyone is capable of a slight mistake or error in judgment and, unfortunately, even just a few drinks can turn into a drunk driving arrest.

In Indiana, the term “Operating While Intoxicated” (OWI) refers to driving while impaired by the effects of alcohol, but the implications are the same as in many other states: You can lose your driving privileges and are guilty of a crime if convicted.

A first-time offense is a misdemeanor if no one was hurt or killed by your actions, and serious penalties apply.

If you were arrested for drunk driving in Indiana, you should consult with an experienced DWI/OWI attorney right away. Our Indiana DUI attorneys can help you understand which Indiana DUI Laws apply to your case.

Some general information should also help you understand how the Indiana DUI laws work.

To discuss your case with a reputable Indianapolis criminal lawyer, call Eskew Law or contact us online.

What are the Grounds for a Drunk Driving Arrest?

The legal limit for purposes of a DUI in Indiana is .08 percent, as established by a test that measures your blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Other limits may apply if you are a commercial driver or under 21 years old, at .04 percent and .02 percent, respectively. In addition, if you have an extremely high BAC of .15 percent or more, the consequences are more severe.

Keep in mind that you may also be arrested for drunk driving in Indiana if an officer has reason to believe that you were intoxicated while operating a vehicle.

Officers may determine intoxication by reviewing and analyzing the conduct, demeanor, and physical features of the driver or suspected driver to determine if the individual exhibits one or more identifiable signs of intoxication.

Therefore, you may face DUI/OWI charges even if your BAC is below the legal limit.

Proceedings in an Indiana DUI/OWI Case

An arrest for drunk driving triggers two types of proceedings under Indiana DUI law, so there are two penalties for a first offense DUI in Indiana:

Penalties Assessed by the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV)

The administrative side of a DUI case affects your driving privileges.

If you are found to be in violations of drunk driving laws, sanctions may include:

  • Suspension of your driver’s license for up to two years;
  • Required alcohol and/or drug testing;
  • Completion of a substance abuse education course; and
  • Installation of an ignition interlock device that prevents your car’s engine from starting if it detects alcohol on your breath.

Criminal Sanctions for a First Offense OWI Conviction

Because drunk driving is also a crime in Indiana, there are additional penalties for a DUI/OWI conviction.

A judge may sentence you to:

  • Incarceration for up to one year;
  • Pay fines up to $5,000; and
  • Remit court costs and fees, which start at around $300.

In addition, a first-time offense DUI in Indiana has consequences for your future. If you are arrested again for drunk driving, the penalties for a second and subsequent convictions are extremely harsh.

For non-first-time offense DUI offenses in Indiana, you could face additional serious consequences.

A lengthy driver’s license suspension, potential enhanced sentencing penalties under the Habitual Vehicle Substance Offense Statute, mandatory jail time, and any new DUI offenses could be filed as felony offenses if you have a prior conviction for DUI within the last five years.

Should I get a Lawyer for My First DUI?

Driving under the influence is a serious offense. DUIs charges are fairly complex to navigate, and it is critical to have an experienced attorney with you throughout the process to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf.

Consider the following:

Did You Take a Roadside Chemical Test?

In addition to any court-ordered suspension, if you refused a chemical test after being stopped, then you will become subject to a one-year suspension associated with the refusal.  It will be very difficult to get to work and meet other responsibilities without your license, so you would benefit from a lawyer’s assistance.

Do You Understand How a Conviction Will Affect Subsequent Convictions?

You should always try to keep any and all DUIs off your record. Once you receive an initial conviction, you will face greater punishment for any subsequent DUIs, including, but not limited to:

  • A second DUI carries a mandatory five days in jail or 240 days of community service.
  • A third DUI carries a mandatory 10 days in jail and 480 hours of community service.
  • Further, there may also include other restrictions required by the court, such as an ignition interlock device which you must pay to have installed on your car.

Don’t wait for a second or third DUI to finally get around to hiring an attorney to help you. Your best defense is to try to keep an initial DUI off your record so that you will not face steeper punishments later if you become charged with DUI offense again.

Did Someone Become Injured in the Accident?

If you injure someone while driving intoxicated, you will face much more severe punishments. Regardless of whether this is your first DUI or not.

In particular, if you cause serious bodily injury to another person, Indiana will treat the accident as a Level 6 felony which carries a maximum punishment of up to 2.5 years in prison. If someone died in the accident, Indiana can charge you with a Level 5 felony.

Furthermore, if you have a prior DUI on your record within the applicable time period, the state can upgrade the level of the offense. For example, a fatality sometimes becomes treated as a Level 4 felony.

Can you fight your DUI and/or help reinstate your driving privileges?

The best outcome, to get a DUI taken off your record so that it no longer hangs over your head. In some situations, officers do not properly perform tests or advise you of your rights, which may also help your situation.  This includes, but not limited to the following:

  • The officer does not tell you the consequences of refusing a chemical test and does not give you a second chance to take one.
  • Or, the officer does not properly log your refusal to take a chemical test.
  • The officer does not perform the test properly or follow the necessary protocols.

Only a qualified DUI attorney can carefully canvass the factual record to identify whether you can fight your DUI charge.

The True Costs of a DUI

DUIs are costly; 31% of all traffic fatalities are attributed to driving under the influence, and  in 2000 cost the United States an estimated $114.3 billion dollars.  If you do get pulled over for a suspected DUI, make sure to comply, but do not volunteer any evidence.  Call your trusted criminal attorney as soon as possible.

cost of DUI in Indianapolis

Trust a Knowledgeable Indiana Criminal Defense Lawyer for DUI/OWI Cases

If you have been arrested on drunk driving charges, please contact the Indiana DUI defense attorneys at Eskew Law right away.

You can reach our Indianapolis, Indiana office or contact us online for more information.

Author Photo
Chris Eskew

Chris Eskew is the founding partner of Eskew Law. With over 15 years of experience, he focuses his practice on criminal defense, DUI defense, and family law. Chris is known for his dedication to his clients, his strong advocacy skills, and his commitment to achieving the best possible outcomes in legal matters. He is well-respected within the legal community and has earned a reputation for providing personalized and effective representation.