How to Understand Indiana DUI Charges

Some DUI / OVWI charges are more serious than others, and the State of Indiana has a number of ways to justify this. Factors such as endangerment of and/or harm to others, prior convictions, and severity of intoxication can make the consequences you face more extreme. Let’s break it down, starting with the least alarming scenario.

Class C Misdemeanor

In Indiana, a DUI / OVWI charge always starts as a Class C misdemeanor. At the bare minimum, this charge claims that you either operated a vehicle while intoxicated, or you operated a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent (ACE) of at least .08.* A Class C misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

This kind of charge typically results from a traffic stop that’s unrelated to suspicious driving, like when you’re pulled over for a broken taillight or a minor speeding violation. At the Class C misdemeanor level, there’s no mention of bad driving, which typically leads to a more serious DUI / OVWI charge that includes endangerment.

Class A Misdemeanor

The more common DUI / OVWI charge is the Class A misdemeanor. This means the State is alleging endangerment (bad driving) or that your ACE was .15 or greater. The ACE measurement seems straightforward enough, but the element of endangerment is tough for some people to get their head around—No one else was on the road, so who was I endangering?

The short and somewhat silly answer is that you were endangering yourself by driving so badly. The case law on this point is nonsense, but that’s the rule. What you need to keep in mind is that it’s amazingly easy for police to add endangerment to the DUI / OVWI charge. A Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Level 6 Felony

If you have a prior DUI / OVWI conviction within the past seven years, your current DUI / OVWI will likely be charged as a Level 6 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of two-and-a-half years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

You can also be hit with a Level 6 felony DUI / OVWI charge by combining any one of the following with a passenger under the age of 18:

  • an ACE of .15 or more;
  • a schedule I or schedule II controlled substance (or its metabolite) in your blood; or
  • endangerment

The key thing to remember when it comes to having a minor in the vehicle is that it’s not an automatic felony, so long as your ACE is under .15.

Level 5 Felony

Things are rarely so bad that they can’t get any worse. If you get into a collision and someone else suffers serious bodily injury, you can be charged with DUI / OVWI as a Level 5 felony, which carries a maximum penalty of six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Serious bodily injury is a legal term of art. In the State of Indiana, it means “bodily injury that creates a substantial risk of death or that causes:

  • serious permanent disfigurement;
  • unconsciousness;
  • extreme pain;
  • permanent or protracted loss or impairment of the function of a bodily member or organ; or
  • loss of a fetus.”

There are no pretty car crashes. Some are just uglier and more horrible than others.

Level 4 Felony

Speaking of horrible, this brings us to Level 4 felony DUI / OVWI, which carries a maximum penalty of 12 years in prison and a $10,000 fine. If you’re charged with this, it means the State has accused you of a DUI / OVWI that resulted in someone’s death. From a DUI / OVWI, perspective, it doesn’t get any worse than this.

Make the Right Call

In the State of Indiana, a DUI / OVWI charge starts out as a misdemeanor, but it doesn’t always stay that way. If you’re facing criminal charges, the attorneys at the Marc Lopez Law Firm are here to help. Call us at 317-632-3642, and remember—always plead the 5th!

*This means .08 of a gram of alcohol per 100 milliliters of your blood or 210 liters of your breath.