What Is the Punishment for OWI in Indiana?

Samuel R. Robinson

Author: Samuel R. Robinson

POST DATE: 4.10.24
Ccha  Criminal Law

An operating while intoxicated (OWI) charge in Indiana can throw your world into a tailspin. It’s natural to wonder what the potential consequences are, especially if this is your first brush with the law. OWI penalties vary depending on both your blood alcohol content (BAC) level and any prior offenses you may have on your record.

Below, the criminal defense attorneys of Church Church Hittle and Antrim (CCHA Law) explain the potential penalties for OWI offenses in Indiana and how prior offenses can affect your sentencing.

What Constitutes an OWI in Indiana?

Operating while intoxicated in Indiana is defined as:

  • Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher; or

  • Operating a vehicle while under the influence of a Schedule I or Schedule II controlled substance.

Even small amounts of substances that affect your ability to drive, whether prescription or not, can result in an OWI charge. The main message is clear: never drive under the influence of any substance that impairs your judgment.

What Is the Punishment for OWI in Indiana?

The severity of the penalties for a first OWI charge depends on your BAC level at the time of the arrest.

First Offense OWI (BAC Under 0.15%)

An OWI Indiana first offense with a BAC under 0.15% is considered a Class C misdemeanor. Potential penalties include:

  • Up to sixty (60) days in jail,

  • Fines up to $500.00 and

  • Driver’s license suspension for up to sixty (60) days.

You may also be required to complete mandatory substance abuse programs and consent to the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID).

Beer bottle outside a car door

First Offense OWI (BAC 0.15% or Higher)

A higher BAC raises your first offense to class A misdemeanor OWI in Indiana, leading to potentially more severe consequences, including:

  • Up to one year in jail,

  • Fines up to $5,000,

  • Driver’s license suspension for up to a year, and

  • Mandatory court-ordered programs to address alcohol or drug abuse.

These are the maximum penalties. The judge decides your sentence after considering your driving record, the specific circumstances of your arrest, and any mitigating factors. A first-time offense can also involve probation, community service, and mandatory attendance at victim impact panels.

The Impact of Prior OWI Convictions

Having a prior conviction for OWI can result in more severe penalties. All subsequent OWI offenses carry a mandatory minimum imprisonment.

Consequences of a Second OWI Offense

If charged with a 2nd OWI in Indiana within 7 years, your charge is elevated to a level 6 felony with significantly steeper penalties, including:

  • A mandatory minimum of five (5) actual days in jail with a maximum penalty of 2.5 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections,

  • License suspension of at least one (1) year, and

  • Fines up to $10,000.

The court may also order you to complete an alcohol abuse education program and victim impact panel participation.

Regardless of when your 2nd OWI is charged, upon being found guilty, you will be required to serve a mandatory minimum jail sentence of 5 days. However, the judge has the discretion to sentence you to 240 hours of community service in lieu of jail time. The judge could also sentence you to alcohol and drug assessment and treatment.

Police officer giving OWI test

What Is the Punishment for a 3rd OWI in Indiana?

A third OWI offense within 10 years is considered a level 6 felony. There are also a number of enhancements that the State of Indiana could file as a result, including the Habitual Traffic Offender and Habitual Vehicular Substance Offender enhancements. The consequences of such an offense and enhancements are severe and can include the following:

  • A mandatory minimum of ten days in jail with a maximum penalty of 2.5 years in the Indiana Department of Corrections as a Level 6 felony, up to an additional eight (8) years if a Habitual Vehicular Substance Offender enhancement is filed.

  • Fines up to $10,000 for a Level 6 felony,

  • Driver’s license suspension for a minimum of 1 year but up to 10 years if adjudicated as a Habitual Traffic Violator, and

  • Mandatory court-ordered programs.

These are the potential penalties, and the judge may consider your prior convictions when deciding your sentence.

A Note on the Seriousness of Felony OWI Charges

When an OWI is elevated to a level 6 felony in Indiana, it requires serious attention. Factors like causing injury or death while intoxicated or having a previous OWI conviction within the last five years can escalate the offense. In the case of a level 6 felony OWI in Indiana, you could face a maximum imprisonment for up to two-and-a-half years and fines of up to $10,000.

Refusing to Submit to a Chemical Test

Refusing to submit to a chemical test can result in additional driver’s license suspensions in addition to the suspensions outlined above. On a first time OWI, a refusal to submit to a chemical test could result in an additional one (1) year driver’s license suspension. A refusal to submit to a chemical test on a 2nd or 3rd OWI may result in an additional two (2) year driver’s license suspension.

Don’t Let an OWI Charge Impact Your Future. CCHA Law Can Help.

If you are charged with OWI, we highly recommend you seek the assistance of a qualified attorney. A lawyer can guide you through the legal process and work towards securing the best possible outcome for your case.

We here at CCHA Law understand the gravity of OWI charges. With over 140 years of experience serving clients in Hamilton County, Indiana, we are dedicated to guiding you through this challenging time. Our team of skilled attorneys deeply understands OWI laws, and with our strong track record of success in these cases, you can trust us to fight for your rights and provide the best possible defense.

Contact us today to arrange a complimentary consultation to discuss your case and receive the expert legal representation you deserve.