Published in Criminal Law by Carey York on September 20, 2023.

People from all walks of life can get arrested for operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI). If you’ve been arrested a second time, you are likely to ask, “What is the punishment for 2nd offense OWI in Indiana?” If the State has charged you with this crime, you should know what legal hurdles you’re facing and how you might be able to avoid the harsh penalties that accompany a second offense OWI charge. The seasoned criminal defense attorneys of Eskew Law, LLC will answer your questions about penalties for OWI offenses. Contact us today!

Second Offense Penalties for OWI

The penalty you face for a 2nd OWI conviction depends on when your first conviction occurred and the nature of your first offense.  A second OWI conviction within seven years of your first is a Level 6 felony. Level 6 felony convictions carry between 6 months and 2 ½ years in prison, with an advisory sentence of 1 ½ years. There is a maximum $10,000 fine as well.

However, you could face a Level 5 felony if your previous conviction involved driving while intoxicated and causing death, catastrophic injury, or serious bodily injury. Level 5 felonies have prison sentences that range between one and six years, with an advisory sentence of three years. The court may assess a fine of up to $10,000.

However, the judge can treat your second offense as a Class A misdemeanor in certain circumstances. Class A misdemeanor offenses carry a fixed jail sentence of no more than one year and do not have a mandatory or advisory sentence. The court may also assess a fine of up to $5,000. 

How Can You Get a Felony OWI Knocked Down to a Misdemeanor?

Not every second offense OWI charge is eligible for a reduction from a felony to a misdemeanor. The judge cannot reduce your case to a misdemeanor if you have a prior unrelated felony that was reduced to a Class A misdemeanor and the first felony offense occurred less than three years ago. Therefore, if you have a previous second offense OWI that a court reduced a Class A misdemeanor within the last three years, the court cannot reduce the current charge.

Avoiding a felony conviction reduces your exposure to prison time and allows you to keep your record free from felony convictions. Not having any felony convictions is beneficial to you in many ways. Felony convictions may keep you from getting the job you want or pursuing higher education. You might also have trouble finding suitable housing or applying for a mortgage with a felony conviction on your record. Speak with one of our experienced lawyers to discuss your case.

Is Jail Time Mandatory for a 2nd Offense OWI in Indiana?

As stated above, most second-time OWI offenses that happen within seven years of the first require criminal penalties that include jail time. Even if it has been longer than seven years or your charges are reduced to a misdemeanor, there is a mandatory 5-day jail sentence for second-time OWIs. However, the judge has the discretion to order you to do 240 hours of community service in lieu of jail time. The judge could also send you to a drug and alcohol assessment and order you to complete a treatment program if appropriate under the circumstances.

The court will suspend your driver’s license in addition to any administrative suspension handed down by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The court could also order you to install an ignition interlock device on your car as a component of any specialized driving privileges the judge grants. 

Finally, the judge may order you to attend a drunk driving victim impact program. Victim impact program attendees will hear people talk about how OWI affected their lives and visit places like the coroner’s office, an emergency medical facility, or a treatment center for alcoholism.  

What Defenses Could You Have for a 2nd Offense OWI?

Every case is different. The defense that could be successful in your case could be completely different for someone else. Having a skilled, experienced, and knowledgeable OWI attorney review your case thoroughly is the first step in determining which defenses could work for you. Since OWI is a criminal offense, the prosecutor bears the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You enjoy the presumption of innocence until such proof is established. 

Trial Questions That Might Establish Reasonable Doubt

With the help of a skilled defense attorney, you could poke holes in the prosecutor’s case by questioning if the police performed their jobs correctly or drew the right conclusions. For example, if the officer asked you to perform field sobriety tests, your lawyer could question the officer about the appropriateness and accuracy of the instructions the officer gave you. 

Your attorney could also vigorously cross-examine the officer about their conclusions about your sobriety. For instance, if your eyes were red and glassy, did the officer inquire as to whether you suffered from allergies or any other medical condition that might account for that symptom? Or if you were unsteady when walking, did the officer give you a chance to explain any physical injuries that might account for that other than intoxication? Also, your lawyer might have a chance to call into question the results of any chemical test you took. Perhaps the machine was not properly calibrated or maintained, or perhaps the officer administered the test incorrectly.

Motion to Suppress Evidence Before Trial

These are all valid trial questions that could call the officer’s actions and conclusions into question and raise reasonable doubt. But even before your trial, your lawyer may also see an opportunity to argue that the police stopped you for no legally justifiable reason, thereby violating your rights. Winning a motion to suppress evidence based on an illegal stop means that the judge must throw out all of the evidence illegally seized by police. Suppression orders like this usually gut the prosecutor’s case and often end up in a dismissal of the charges.

Call Our Award-Winning OWI Lawyers from Eskew Law Today

Contact our office today to schedule a free consultation with our award-winning attorneys. We pursue justice aggressively while fostering a relationship built on honesty and trust with our clients. You will have the one-on-one attention you deserve when you work with us. Call us to learn more!

Author Photo
Carey York

Carey D. York is an attorney with experience in all types of legal matters, but mainly in criminal defense and family law. Prior to joining Eskew Law, Carey worked with Sorrell & Associates in Fortville, with a general practice centered in Hancock County, and Cairns Law, LLC, doing primarily divorce cases in Broad Ripple. Before that, Carey spent nearly eleven years at the Marion County Public Defender Agency, more than half of that time as a supervising attorney. A veteran of over one hundred jury and bench trials, Carey has tried cases all over central Indiana.