No one sets out intending to get charged with DUI / OVWI, but it happens every day. For anyone who has been charged, it’s important to understand what to expect. This blog will try to take an overwhelming amount of information and make it digestible.
In Indiana, every DUI / OVWI that results in conviction involves at least three issues: (1) an administrative license suspension, (2) a criminal sentence, and (3) post-conviction requirements from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles. This is generally true even for first-time offenders.
An arrest for DUI / OVWI usually triggers an immediate suspension, which is sometimes called the pre-conviction suspension. No, this is not fair. The administrative suspension is imposed by the BMV (not the court), and by default it lasts for 180 days.
If the police are claiming you refused a chemical test, that’s a different set of problems on its own. A refusal suspension lasts for at least a year, and if you have a prior DUI / OVWI conviction, it’ll be two years. DO NOT refuse a certified chemical test.
Many courts in Indiana allow for Specialized Driving Privileges during the administrative suspension, but some don’t. Some courts won’t allow you to drive on the administrative suspension but will consider Specialized Driving Privileges once the case has been resolved. The law leaves it up to each individual judge.
Beyond the administrative license suspension, there’s the actual criminal case. In the State of Indiana, the lowest possible DUI / OVWI charge is a Class C misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. You’re probably not going to jail for a Class C misdemeanor, but the maximum jail sentence is important because it’s also the maximum length of your driving suspension.
In many cases, however, DUI / OVWI is charged as Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum penalty of 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. The difference between a Class C misdemeanor and a Class A misdemeanor is a little bit of dangerous driving, and it doesn’t take much for police to add an endangerment charge.
The good news is that whatever suspension time you serve while the case is pending should count toward your ultimate criminal suspension. That is, if you spend 90 days suspended during the course of your criminal case, and then the judge sentences you to a 180-day license suspension, you’ll only have 90 more days of suspension.
If this is your first DUI / OVWI, you probably won’t be charged with a felony. The exceptions might be if you had a passenger under the age of 18 or there was a collision that resulted in serious bodily injury or death. If you’re charged with a felony, you should contact an attorney as soon as possible.
After your criminal case is over, you still need to worry about making peace with the BMV. In most cases, all this requires is getting an SR-22 certificate on file. The purpose of SR-22 is to make it so you can’t allow your auto insurance to lapse without the BMV getting notice. You’ll likely need to carry the SR-22 for three years following your DUI / OVWI.
If this is your first DUI / OVWI, but you’ve also accumulated nine other moving violations in the last 10 years, you might qualify as a Habitual Traffic Violator. This is not a good thing. An HTV suspension of this sort will leave you without driving privileges for five years.
You might also be eligible for a 10-year HTV suspension. Even if this is your first DUI / OVWI, if you also have two felony convictions involving the operation of a motor vehicle in the past 10 years—this includes reckless driving and leaving the scene of an accident—the BMV can impose a 10-year driving suspension. It’s important for your attorney to be able to look at your driver record and anticipate this sort of problem.
Make the Right Call
These are the consequences you can expect if you’re facing you’re first DUI / OVWI in Indiana, but not all defense lawyers are created equal. If you want the best possible outcome for your case, you should reach out to a practice that was built on DUI / OVWI defense. Call the Marc Lopez Law Firm at 317-632-3642, and remember—always plead the 5th!