In Indiana, a second DUI / OVWI is treated much more seriously than a first offense. Whether it’s called an OWI, a DWI, or a DUI, Indiana formally categorizes these crimes as OVWI, or operating a vehicle while intoxicated.
DUI: Not a “Normal” Crime
Most crimes require that the State prove mens rea, which is fancy-pants Latin for guilty mind. This makes it necessary for the prosecution to prove a defendant didn’t simply engage in criminal behavior—they knowingly acted with criminal intent.
DUI / OVWI is not a normal crime, and one of the things that sets it apart is the absence of a mens rea requirement. Indiana makes no distinction between people who drive drunk on purpose and people who drive drunk accidentally. It doesn’t matter if you meant to do it.
Judges and prosecutors understand this, and they know that a first-time DUI / OVWI offender is not necessarily a bad person or a problem drinker. After all, it can happen to almost anyone. As you might expect though, the State becomes much less understanding with every subsequent arrest. Judges typically take this to mean you haven’t learned your lesson.
Two DUIs Within Seven Years: Automatic Felony Charge
If you get a second DUI / OVWI within seven years of the first one, this will be charged as a Level 6 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of two-and-a-half years in prison and $10,000 fine.
Everyone can agree that felonies are no good. Having a felony conviction means you can’t own a gun. Many employers actively discriminate against people with felony records. Professional licenses can be suspended or revoked.
If your first DUI / OVWI is more than seven years old, it’s not an automatic felony, but it’s still not great.
Two DUIs Within Your Lifetime: Mandatory Jail Time
A second DUI / OVWI conviction—regardless of when the first one occurred—results in a mandatory minimum of five actual days in jail or 240 hours of community service. This is true even if your prior DUI / OVWI was 25 years ago in a different state.
Keep in mind that prosecutors almost always seek more than the minimum sentence, and do the math before you go assuming community service is the better option. Assuming you’re given one year to complete 240 hours, that works out to more than four-and-a-half hours of community service every week.
Two DUIs Within Your Lifetime: Minimum One-Year License Suspension
Everything is more serious with a second DUI / OVWI, including the effect on your driving privileges. At the minimum—if your second DUI / OVWI is charged as a misdemeanor—you’ll be facing a one-year license suspension.
If your second offense is charged as a felony, your license can be suspended for up to two-and-a-half years. Whether you’re allowed Specialized Driving Privileges during this period is entirely up to the judge, but it never hurts to ask.
Refusals Always Make Things Worse
Of course, we haven’t even mentioned refusal suspensions yet. If you refuse the certified chemical test that’s offered to you by a police officer, this results in a mandatory one-year license suspension. If you have a prior conviction for DUI / OVWI, the suspension lasts for two years.
A refusal suspension is ineligible for Specialized Driving Privileges under Indiana law. It’s also required by statute to run consecutively to a suspension for chemical test failure, meaning that the refusal suspension has to conclude before the next one can begin.
Refusal cases are bad, but they’re not necessarily doomed, and it’s important to recognize the severity of the situation without abandoning all hope.
Make the Right Call
The bottom line is that a second DUI / OVWI charge means you’re facing potentially severe penalties. Standard punishments may vary from county to county, and even from judge to judge. You definitely want to hire an experienced DUI / OVWI attorney to defend you.
If you have any questions about DUI / OVWI charges in Indiana, call the Marc Lopez Law Firm at 317-632-3642 and remember—always plead the 5th!