The Marc Lopez Law Firm built its reputation on DUI / OVWI defense, and one thing that’s always been true is that the State of Indiana has lots of punishment in store for DUI / OVWI defendants. If you’re charged with DUI / OVWI (no matter what it’s called), there are at least four distinct penalties you might be facing, in addition to fines and court fees.

The Administrative Suspension

When you’re charged with DUI / OVWI, the State suspends your license before you’ve been proven guilty. If a certified chemical test showed evidence of your intoxication, the court will notify the BMV and “recommend” a 180-day license suspension. This is supposed to happen at your initial hearing, or possibly later if the State is waiting on blood results.

Some courts, however, won’t wait for the initial hearing to suspend your license—they’ll do it sooner and without warning. Other courts aren’t interested in the test results that are supposed to show intoxication. As far as they’re concerned, they can (order the BMV to) suspend you simply for having been arrested on DUI / OVWI charges. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to work.

You’re supposed to have some advance notice and an opportunity to let the court know you want Specialized Driving Privileges, but telling a judge they’re wrong is a tricky and delicate thing. One way or another, that administrative suspension is coming and it’s probably arriving sooner than you want it to.

Specialized Driving Privileges are available in many situations, but they’re also completely discretionary. Some judges have personal policies, such as only granting driving privileges after the case has been resolved. Other judges won’t grant them at all and in that situation, you’re simply out of luck. If they were owed to you, the State would call them Specialized Driving Rights.

Jail Time?

Criminal penalties for DUI / OVWI are all over the map. Generally, for a first-time offender, the maximum jail sentence is one year. Most people are not going to jail for a year over their first DUI, but it might be a possibility where the charges involved:

  • an accident;
  • passengers in the vehicle;
  • driving at a high rate of speed; or
  • a remarkably high level of intoxication.

A judge can also consider prior convictions, even if they aren’t related to DUI / OVWI. If the passengers in the vehicle were under 18 years of age, you’re probably facing a felony charge, which is much more problematic.

Things are obviously more serious when it comes to repeat offenders. It may feel like a 40-year-old DUI / OVWI conviction can’t cause you problems, but it can. If you give the State the chance, it will use your past against you. Here’s a quick breakdown of how priors can affect your current case:

  • Two or more prior DUI / OVWI convictions from more than 10 years ago could leave you facing the statutory maximum of one year behind bars.
  • A prior DUI / OVWI conviction within seven years will result in felony charges and you can face up to two-and-a-half years in prison.
  • Two or more prior DUI / OVWI convictions with at least one in the last 10 years will qualify you as a Habitual Vehicular Substance Offender, and you can be facing up to 10-and-a-half years in prison.

Again, criminal penalties are all over the map, but a first-time offender is always in a better position than a repeat offender. If you are a repeat DUI / OVWI offender, you must hire a defense attorney who knows what they’re doing. Ideally, this attorney will already have some working knowledge of the county where you’ve been charged, the prosecutor assigned to the case, and the specific expectations of the judge.

The Criminal Suspension

If you plead or are found guilty, there may be an additional driver’s license suspension included in your sentencing order. The good news is that whatever time you’ve served of the 180-day administrative suspension counts toward the criminal suspension. In the best-case scenario, a first-time offender will not be facing an additional criminal suspension.

For repeat offenders, on the other hand, the minimum license suspension is one year. As a result, almost all repeat DUI / OVWI offenders end up with some sort of criminal suspension on top of the 180-day administrative suspension.

Let’s make things more complicated for a moment. Imagine you’re pleading guilty to your second DUI / OVWI, and the police claimed that you refused a chemical test. If your attorney isn’t able to get your refusal suspension terminated and the judge imposes the maximum license suspension, the two-and-a-half year criminal suspension can’t begin until after the two-year refusal suspension has run its course.

If this sounds complicated, that’s because it is. There’s a reason that most defense attorneys don’t want to touch DUI / OVWI cases.

BMV Requirements and Penalties

After the criminal case is behind you, you still have the Bureau of Motor Vehicles to worry about. The BMV will likely require you to carry SR-22 insurance for three years following a DUI / OVWI conviction. This is the State’s way of trying to ensure that you’re going to have insurance in the future.

A DUI / OVWI conviction also gets your name entered into a BMV lottery. “Winners” are then required to show affirmative proof that they had auto insurance on the day they got in trouble. If you win the lottery and can’t show proof of coverage—guess what? You get another suspension!

Convictions also lead to points on your record. The BMV will step in and suspend you once you reach the magic number.

Finally, if your driving history is bad enough, you might have a Habitual Traffic Violator suspension to look forward to. If you’re lucky, your attorney already saw this coming and has a plan in place. If you’re unlucky, you get blindsided one day by a piece of mail from the BMV. If you’re really unlucky, you learn about this suspension from the officer who pulls you over.

Ten years is a long time to go without driving. If you end up with an HTV 10-year and driving matters at all to you, you need to speak to an attorney who understands Specialized Driving Privileges.

Make the Right Call

If you still have questions about any of this, don’t be shy. Give us a call at 317-632-3642, and remember—always plead the 5th!