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Injured by a Drunk Driver? Here’s Everything You Need to Know About Indiana OWI Laws

November 4, 2016 Automobile Accidents

Don’t drink and drive; it’s very wise advice. The consequences for driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol are severe. An impaired driver endangers himself and others, he risks his future, and he risks his finances. The legal and financial penalties for driving under the influence can be steep. In the following article, the personal injury attorneys at Wilson Kehoe Winingham briefly explore the nature of impaired driving cases in Indiana.

What is Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) in Indiana?

driving-drunkDrunk driving, or Operating While Intoxicated (OWI), is a criminal charge in the state of Indiana. Any substance that hinders a driver’s cognitive ability to control the vehicle and drive safely, namely alcohol or mind-altering drugs, is considered OWI. Impaired drivers experience a slower reaction time, shorter attention span, weakened hand-eye coordination, and warped judgement.

Driving while intoxicated (DWI), operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI), driving under the influence (DUI), drunk driving, and impaired driving are all the identical offense. They carry the same penalties, and the state of Indiana refers to these crimes collectively as OWI. No matter the name, the crime is the same: to operate a motor vehicle of any kind under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

What are the Blood Alcohol Concentration Laws (BAC) in Indiana?

Indiana law considers a driver intoxicated if his or her Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) levels are equal to 0.08 or above, meaning that 0.08% of the bloodstream is composed of alcohol. The state of Indiana requires that commercial drivers maintain a BAC under 0.04, and that underage drivers maintain a BAC under 0.02.

As BAC increases, individuals tend to experience the following:

  • 0.02. Mild impairments to speech, memory, attention, coordination, and balance
  • 0.05. Weakened motor control and reaction time
  • 0.08. Significant impairments to concentration, short-term memory, depth perception, and information processing
  • 0.15. All driving-related skills are dangerously impaired
  • 0.20 or higher. Severe impairments to balance, speech, coordination, sense of judgement, and decision making ability. Individual may experience symptoms of alcohol poisoning, such as nausea, dizziness, and complete loss of consciousness

Drive Sober, or Get Pulled Over

If an officer suspects a driver of OWI, he or she is entitled to ask for a blood, breath, or urine test to determine the degree of intoxication the suspect’s blood stream.

If the suspected driver exceeds Indiana’s legal BAC limit or is found to be otherwise cognitively impaired, he or she will receive an administrative license suspension and a hefty fine, which could range upwards of $500. This driver’s license suspension typically lasts for 180 days. After the first 30 days, probationary license privileges may be available. A conviction in court could result in further penalties, an extended license suspension, and a jail sentence.

Suspected impaired drivers also have the option to refuse a chemical test. Indiana’s implied consent laws allow suspected drivers to refuse tests from officers at the expense of an automatic license suspension and a steep fine. In this case, the driver’s license will remain suspended for up to two years. Although the driver may avoid an arrest this way, a conviction in court is still ultimately possible.

Consequences and Penalties for OWIs in Indiana

The criminal penalties for OWIs in Indiana vary with the exact nature of each offense and the driver’s criminal history (which may include repeat offenses). Penalties for a driver’s first OWI offense typically include:

  • Fines
  • Suspension or probation of license
  • Jail time
  • Community service

Some offenders may be required to take frequent alcohol or drug tests, enroll in substance abuse programs, and participate in victim impact panels.

Penalties become more severe for repeat offenses and for those caught driving with a BAC of 0.15 or higher. Some convicted drivers are required to drive with an ignition interlock device, which requires a clean breath test to start the vehicle. A driver’s license can be permanently revoked if a driver commits two major offenses within a ten-year period.

The convicted driver’s insurance policy will suffer as well. Offenders are required to have high-risk, high-premium insurance policies for three years following their respective convictions. Failure to comply, either by not enrolling in the correct policy or driving without one altogether, will lead to further license suspension and more legal trouble.

It is possible to reinstate a license after it’s been suspended. Indiana has reinstatement offices that review impaired driving cases after a driver has complied with all penalties and requirements following a conviction.

Thinking About Hiring an Indianapolis Accident Attorney? Get in Touch

If you have been injured by an impaired driver, you may be entitled to compensation. The auto accident attorneys at WKW have devoted over 30 years to helping victims after car accidents, and they’re ready to take your side. Call today for a free case evaluation at 317-920-6400. You may also fill out an online form and an accident attorney will contact you promptly.

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