Most people will not come into contact with the criminal justice system throughout their lives. However, if there is one type of criminal case that seems to impact people who would least expect to have a criminal case, that is the OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) charge. Often times when people face their first OWI case, they can be shocked at the severity of the potential penalties. In St. Joseph County, it is not uncommon for the first OWI case to lead to a year of probation with significant probationary requirements, a loss of driving privileges, or the possibility of spending several weekends in jail.
When charged with an OWI, it is important that you have a lawyer who has handled many types of OWI cases and can help you understand the case against you. As your lawyer, I will work to minimize the potential impact that the OWI case can have on your life. Whether it is negotiating a plea that allows you the ability to avoid an OWI conviction in some circumstances, or fighting to suppress the validity of the traffic stop that led to the OWI in the first place, I will make sure that you understand all of your options and work to get the best outcome for your case.
OWI as a Misdemeanor in Indiana
Indiana, like most states, has a very strong statutory stance against Operating While Intoxicated. The first type of OWI charge is a Class C Misdemeanor. What does this mean? If you are facing your fist OWI charge with a low BAC or ACE you can expect to face the following:
- Possible jail sentence of up to sixty (60) days, with the possibility of probation
- Fines of up to $500, plus court costs
- Driver’s license suspension of up to two (2) years
Additionally, you may also have to do community service, substance abuse classes, and have to use an ignition interlock device. Keep in mind that this is not an automatic sentence as well. Many times, you can work with the Prosecutor’s office to enter a plea agreement that may result in a shorter license suspension, or no significant suspension with the use of an interlock system.
Even if you are facing your first DUI/OWI you could still be facing a stiffer charge (Class A Misdemeanor). For instance, if you have a BAC of .15 or higher or you have been charged with endangering others while intoxicated, the penalties can be even more severe. With a Class A Misdemeanor you could be looking at:
- A possible jail sentence of up to 365 days and probation for up to one (1) year
- Fines of up to $5,000, plus Court fees
- Loss of license, up to 2 years
Finally, if you have prior DUI/OWI convictions you run the risk of being charged with a Felony crime. If you have been charged with a Level 6 Felony, you could be looking at the following possible sentence:
- A jail sentence of up to 2 and 1/2 years
- Fines of up to $10,000, plus court costs
- Loss of license, minimum of 6 months, but up to 2 years
If you have been charged with a DUI/OWI you need to get information and answers. We can help you examine the strength of the prosecutor’s case and help you determine the best course of action for your particular situation. In some cases that could be taking the matter to trial. In other situations, it could be working with the prosecutor’s office to get a plea bargain that helps you regain your driving privileges and has the least impact on your life.