What you need to know if you have been charged with DUI / OWI in Northwest Indiana but probably don't.
If you have been charged with DUI / OWI in Northwest Indiana, you may be facing the criminal justice system for the first time, are likely scared and/or nervous, and have more questions than answers. Let's face it: the unknown can be scary.
This article will address some of the most common items you need to know if you have been charged with DUI / OWI in Northwest Indiana but probably don't. To discuss the specific details of your case with a lawyer devoted to representing the accused, simply contact Northwest DUI / OWI Lawyer Joseph M. Roberts to schedule your FREE case evaluation. To learn more about the DUI / OWI charges you are facing, read on.
What is the difference between DUI and OWI and DWI?
The short answer, here in Northwest Indiana, is: nothing. The acronyms used simply indicate the language a particular state uses to describe its drunken driving offenses. Indiana law describes its drunken driving offenses OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) or OVWI (Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated). Many people, even here in Northwest Indiana, still commonly say DUI (Driving Under the Influence). Some people also refer to it as DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). For the purposes of this website and our conversations, we will use DUI and OWI interchangeably. The citation you likely received if arrested in Northwest Indiana, however, will almost always list the charges as OWI offenses.
DUI / OWI offenses are crimes
Because you were driving (or "operating a vehicle") at the time of your stop, you may consider DUI / OWI offenses to be simple traffic offenses, akin to speeding tickets. The truth is, however, DUI / OWI charges are criminal in nature and subject you to the same potential punishments as other crimes. Examples of common potential criminal penalties are jail, probation, community service, fines, fees, and costs. You can find a more comprehensive list of potential criminal penalties by clicking here.
You were probably charged with multiple DUI / OWI offenses, even though you were only stopped once
Many people charged with DUI / OWI are often surprised to find out they have been charged with more than one DUI / OWI offense. Even someone who has no prior criminal history is likely to be charged with up to three different offenses. The reason for this is that Indiana law allows the State to prosecute you in several ways and enhance the offense under certain circumstances. Below is a list of common DUI / OWI charges you are likely facing and an explanation of each.
OWI (Operating While Intoxicated), as a Class C Misdemeanor
Indiana Code 9-30-5-2(a) states, "Except as provided in subsection (b), a person who operates a vehicle while intoxicated commits a Class C misdemeanor."
This is the base charge of DUI / OWI in Northwest Indiana. If you were stopped and charged, you will most certainly be charged with this offense. It is important to note that the language of this statutory subsection does not mention anything about alcohol or controlled substances. Therefore, the State may proceed in prosecuting you for this offense even if you refused a certified chemical test or blew less than 0.08.
OWI-Endangering a Person, as a Class A Misdemeanor
Indiana Code 9-30-5-2(b) states, "An offense described in subsection (a) is a Class A misdemeanor if the person operates a vehicle in a manner that endangers a person."
This statutory subsection is an simply an enhancement to the base OWI offense described above. If you are facing DUI / OWI charges in Northwest Indiana, you will likely be charged with this enhanced offense. Many people feel as though their actions did not endanger anyone. Unfortunately, however, the Indiana Court of Appeals and Indiana Supreme Court have upheld convictions under this subsection under a wide degree of circumstances.
This enhanced offense, along with its greater potential penalties, is often an area at the core of Attorney Roberts's negotiations with the State.
Operating with a B.A.C. at least 0.08 but less than 0.15, as a Class C Misdemeanor
Indiana Code 9-30-5-1(a) states, "A person who operates a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least eight-hundredths (0.08) gram of alcohol but less than fifteen-hundredths (0.15) gram of alcohol per: (1) one hundred (100) milliliters of the person's blood; or (2) two hundred ten (210) liters of the person's breath; commits a Class C misdemeanor."
You may hear people say, "a person is legally drunk at 0.08." This statutory subsection is precisely why. This offense is often considered to be a per se violation of the DUI / OWI law. A person's behaviors, coordination, and abilities may or may not be affected at this level. The effect a certain level of alcohol has upon a person depends on many factors. It is important to note that the language of this statutory subsection does not mention anything about your behaviors, coordination, or abilities. Therefore, the State may proceed in prosecuting you for this offense even if you believe you were not intoxicated and/or passed standardized filed sobriety tests.
Operating with a B.A.C. at least 0.15 or greater, as a Class A Misdemeanor
Indiana Code 9-30-5-1(b) states, "A person who operates a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent to at least fifteen-hundredths (0.15) gram of alcohol per: (1) one hundred (100) milliliters of the person's blood; or (2) two hundred ten (210) liters of the person's breath; commits a Class A misdemeanor.
This statutory subsection is an simply an enhancement to the B.A.C.-based offense described above. If you are facing DUI / OWI charges in Northwest Indiana and performed a certified chemical test, you will likely only be charged with this enhanced offense or the prior offense. As you can see, the per se violation charges are based upon your B.A.C. results of a certified chemical test.
Your Indiana Driver's License will be suspended, even though you haven't been found guilty or admitted guilt
Many people are surprised to find out their Indiana Driver's License is suspended, even though they are actively disputing their case and have not been convicted of a DUI / OWI offense. Upon the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) receiving notice that you either failed or refused a certified chemical test, the BMV will suspend your driving privileges. This is commonly referred to as an administrative driver's license suspension, as it is done administratively by the BMV, with statutory authority, but without a Court Order.
The length of the administrative suspension is dependent upon two factors: 1) whether you failed the certified chemical test or refuse to take a certified chemical test; and 2) whether you have any prior DUI / OWI convictions. If you submit to the certified chemical test but fail, meaning blow at least 0.08 or test positive for a controlled substance, your driver's license will be administratively suspended for 180 days. If you refuse to submit to the certified chemical test, your driver's license will be administratively suspended for one year. The refusal suspension is doubled to two years if you have any prior DUI / OWI convictions.
Fortunately for you, the administrative driver's license suspension may be minimized and terminated well before these statutory lengths. In every DUI / OWI case, Attorney Roberts negotiates with the State and/or argues to the Court that the administrative suspension should be terminated. Although costly, the administrative license suspension may be avoided if the Court orders that an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) be installed in your car, in lieu of the administrative suspension.
You could be charged with DUI / OWI, even if you haven't been drinking
Indiana Code 9-30-5-1(c) states, "A person who operates a vehicle with a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II of IC 35-48-2 or its metabolite in the person's body commits a Class C misdemeanor."
It is a common misconception that DUI / OWI only applies to drinking alcohol and driving. This statutory subsection gives the State the authority to prosecute a person for DUI / OWI, even if the person has never consumed a drop of alcohol. This subsection presents great dangers for people who perform a certified chemical test in the form of a blood draw. It is not uncommon throughout Northwest Indiana for a driver suspected of DUI / OWI to be offered a certified breath test, refuse the certified breath test, and be brought to the local hospital for a blood draw. This could expose a person to this criminal subsection for having traces of marijuana or other controlled substances in their blood, although the person may not be immediately impaired by its presence.
You have the right to challenge each aspect of the State's case, beginning with the traffic stop
You may feel like the deck is stacked against you. You may feel as though there is nothing you can do but plead guilty as charged and take whatever punishment the Court throws your way. Although your feelings may be genuine, Northwest Indiana DUI / OWI Attorney Joseph M. Roberts knows those feelings do not need to be justified. EACH AND EVERY ASPECT OF THE STATE'S CASE MAY BE CHALLENGED. Attorney Roberts investigates your case thoroughly and discusses all potential defenses with you.
Just because you were pulled over, doesn't mean the traffic stop was justified. Just because the officer said you failed the standardized field sobriety tests, doesn't mean your abilities were impaired by alcohol or a controlled substance. Just because you refused the certified chemical test, doesn't mean you must accept the consequences associated with the refusal. Just because you had a few drinks, drove home, and got arrested for DUI / OWI, doesn't mean you're guilty. Yes, you read that correctly. Contact us now!
You have rights and you don't have to do it alone!
Put forth your best defense. Northwest Indiana DUI / OWI Lawyer Joseph M. Roberts has the training and experience necessary to navigate the complexities of Indiana DUI / OWI law. Receive the legal representation you deserve. Contact us now to receive your FREE case evaluation and initial consultation with an attorney who has dedicated his career to protecting your rights and preserving your freedoms.