If you’re arrested for DUI / OVWI in Indiana, chances are good that your license will be suspended almost immediately. If you think it’s unfair that you’re being punished before you’re convicted, you have a point.
The State, however, will say that no one has a right to drive, and it’s not really a punishment if no one is depriving you of your rights. Like it or not, the State has already won this argument by distinguishing driving privileges from constitutional rights. If you want to be able to drive while your case is pending, you need an experienced DUI / OVWI attorney on your side.
The Administrative Suspension
The good news is, if you’re highly-motivated and willing to jump through some hoops, it’s usually possible to continue driving, even while your criminal case is pending! At your initial hearing, the judge typically notifies the BMV and recommends an administrative driving privilege suspension of 180 days.
The way to prevent the judge from doing this is by filing a notice of intent to petition the court for Specialized Driving Privileges. The granting of this petition is entirely discretionary—there’s no law that says the judge must approve Specialized Driving Privileges. There are, however, a few scenarios where Specialized Driving Privileges are not allowed, including:
- where you’re suspended for refusing a chemical test offered by police;
- where you’re suspended for failing to stop for a school bus; and
- where you’ve previously been granted Specialized Driving Privileges and have more than one conviction for violating them.
The most common of these stumbling blocks is the chemical test refusal. You should never refuse a chemical test. When a law enforcement officer asks you to take a chemical test, it’s always in your best interests to comply, no matter how intoxicated you believe yourself to be. Not only does a refusal disqualify you from Specialized Driving Privileges, it also earns you an automatic driving suspension—even if you’re completely sober.
Requirements of Specialized Driving Privileges
If you’re eligible for Specialized Driving Privileges, you should coordinate with your attorney and have them file a petition on your behalf. This petition is a formal way of asking the court for the privilege of driving to-and-from necessities like:
- family obligations;
- medical appointments; and
- court hearings.
Specialized Driving Privileges represent a great opportunity if you absolutely need to drive while your DUI / OVWI case is pending, but this arrangement also has its drawbacks. The most inconvenient condition of court-imposed Specialized Driving Privileges is likely to be the ignition interlock requirement.
An ignition interlock device is basically a breathalyzer that’s installed in your vehicle. In order to start the car, you have to blow into the mouthpiece to demonstrate that you haven’t been drinking. The machine will also demand samples at random times while you’re driving.
If you’re charged with DUI / OVWI, and the judge in your case is willing to grant Specialized Driving Privileges, ignition interlock will almost certainly be part of the deal. The only exceptions are where the alleged intoxication wasn’t alcohol-related. For example, judges don’t typically require alcohol monitoring for defendants who got caught with prescription pills or other drugs.
They will, however, insist on seeing proof of enhanced insurance coverage before granting an order. Every court in Indiana that’s friendly to Specialized Driving Privileges requires you to show that they have at least $100,000/$300,000 bodily injury liability coverage. This translates to policy limits of $100,000 per person and $300,000 per accident. You’ll also have to get an SR-22 certificate on file with the BMV before the court will grant your order.
The Alternatives to Specialized Driving Privileges
If you don’t want to jump through the Specialized Driving Privileges hoops, you still have a few limited options to choose from. First and most obviously, you can simply ride out the suspension. If you can get by for six months without driving, you should seriously consider this alternative.
If you prefer to live dangerously, you can ignore your suspension and drive illegally, but this is not a good idea. Driving on a suspended license inevitably leads to further criminal charges, and when you ignore them, BMV penalties have a way of snowballing.
Your final option that doesn’t involve Specialized Driving Privileges is to ask the court to allow you to drive so long as you have ignition interlock installed in your vehicle. In this scenario, you can drive where you want, when you want. You won’t receive an administrative suspension while charges are pending, but you’ll be subject to the interlock requirement until your case is resolved.
Weighing Your Options
The benefit to opting for Specialized Driving Privileges over an interlock order is that your administrative suspension and your driving restrictions will automatically terminate after 180 days. You don’t have to worry about the timeline of your case stretching out indefinitely, which would obligate you to continue paying the interlock company to lease their equipment.
The downside to Specialized Driving Privileges is that they don’t leave you much room for improvisation. Once your order is signed, you’re only allowed to drive to predetermined locations at specific times. If you get caught driving outside the bounds of your order, this can result in further criminal charges.
The main advantage to foregoing Specialized Driving Privileges in favor of an interlock order is that you’ll enjoy relative freedom of movement. Your only driving constraints—apart from the normal rules of the road—are that you must have interlock installed in your vehicle and you must not have alcohol on your breath. It’s also worth noting that the interlock order is available to people who’ve refused a chemical test, whereas Specialized Driving Privileges are not.
The problem with the interlock order is that it’s not limited to 180 days—it will last until your case is resolved. It may sound outrageous to non-lawyers, but it’s entirely possible for your criminal case to last longer than six months. If your case ends up experiencing a series of unanticipated delays, you may end up stuck with interlock for more than 180 days.
The good news is, according to Indiana law, if you have an ignition interlock device installed in your vehicle, the period of the installation shall be credited as part of the suspension of driving privileges. This means that any time you spend with interlock in your vehicle counts toward your ultimate driving suspension. This works the same whether you’re driving with Specialized Driving Privileges or just with an interlock order.
Make the Right Call
Specialized Driving Privileges aren’t for everyone, and their availability depends on a number of factors. The most important considerations are usually the county where you’ve been charged and your driving and criminal history.
If you’ve been charged with DUI / OVWI, you need to hire an attorney who understands how these cases are prosecuted and the consequences than can result. Call the Marc Lopez Law Firm at 317-632-3642, and remember—always plead the 5th!