Every state has its own drunk driving laws. Many states refer to this crime as driving under the influence, or DUI, but in Indiana, it is known as operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI). If you are accused of OWI—even if you are a first-time offender—you can face serious penalties. Is OWI charged as a misdemeanor or felony? What penalties will you face if you are convicted of this crime? Here’s what drivers in Indiana need to know about OWI laws:

What is Misdemeanor OWI?

OWI can be charged as either a misdemeanor or felony depending on the nature of the crime. First-time OWI offenders with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% to 0.14% at the time of their arrest will face class C misdemeanor charges. First-time DWI offenders who were under the influence of a controlled substance as opposed to alcohol will also face class C misdemeanor charges.

OWI is a class A misdemeanor if the offender’s BAC was above 0.15% at the time of their arrest. It is also charged as a class A misdemeanor if the offender was operating their vehicle in a way that put others in danger.

What is Felony OWI?

Under certain circumstances, OWI is charged as a felony crime in Indiana. For example, you can face level 6 felony charges if you are a repeat offender with at least one OWI conviction within the last seven years. You will also face level 6 felony OWI charges if you were driving while intoxicated with a passenger under the age of 18 in your vehicle.

The crime becomes a level 5 felony if you are a first-time offender who seriously injures someone while driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. If you are a repeat OWI offender who seriously injures someone, you can face level 4 felony charges.

OWI offenders who cause death or catastrophic injuries while intoxicated will also face felony charges with serious penalties. If you cause catastrophic or fatal injuries, you can be charged with level 4 felony OWI.

You will face a separate charge for each person who suffers catastrophic or fatal injuries as a result of your intoxication. For example, if you cause a car accident while under the influence and two people in the other car suffer catastrophic injuries, you can face two counts of felony OWI.

 What Are the Penalties For Misdemeanor OWI?

Don’t make the mistake of taking a misdemeanor charge lightly. Misdemeanor OWI charges are not as serious as felony OWI charges, but they still carry harsh penalties that can affect you for years following a conviction.

First-time OWI offenders charged with a misdemeanor may face a number of penalties, including up to one year in jail, substantial fines, mandatory enrollment in a substance abuse program, community service, and a two-year suspension of driving privileges.

Many first-time offenders facing misdemeanor charges are sentenced to probation. If you are sentenced to probation, you will have to comply with various terms and conditions in order to avoid additional legal penalties. For example, you may be required to submit to random drug and alcohol testing.

 What Are the Penalties For Felony OWI?

Felony charges carry more serious consequences than misdemeanor charges. Repeat OWI offenders will face felony charges that carry harsh penalties, including up to three years in jail, thousands of dollars in fines, hundreds of hours of community service, mandatory enrollment in a substance abuse education program, and the loss of driving privileges.

The penalties continue to increase in severity for OWI offenses involving serious bodily injury, catastrophic injury, or death. Being convicted of one of these crimes can lead to incarceration, substantial fines, the loss of driving privileges, and other penalties.

What Are the Consequences of An OWI Conviction?

The legal penalties are not the only consequences you will face if you are convicted of OWI. Being convicted of OWI can also affect your employment. Losing your driving privileges can make it hard to get to work, and having an OWI conviction on your record can make it more difficult to find employment in the future. If you are a commercial driver, an OWI conviction can mean the end of your career.

An OWI can also raise your auto insurance rates, which can cost you thousands of dollars in the years following your conviction. These are some of the many long-term consequences of an OWI conviction.

 Let Our Criminal Defense Attorneys Fight Your OWI Charges

Every second counts in an OWI case. If you have been accused of OWI, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Beeman Heifner Benge P.A. right away. We are committed to protecting your rights, freedom, and future.