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Operating While Intoxicated

Operating While Intoxicated is a charge that can have severe consequences for any Hoosier driver. One can lose one’s liberty if so convicted. A minimum of a weekend in jail is a very typical sentence imposed upon a first time defendant convicted of an OWI. In addition, one can be expected to be placed on probation for 1 year and have their driver’s license suspended for 180 days.

Caveat: There is a way for a defendant to legally drive during this suspension period. However, it does require that the attorney make a request for a “Special Driving Privilege” (“SDP”). This is an avenue that a defendant needs to explore with their lawyer ASAP. Conditions of probation are very standard and should be reviewed with your lawyer, before you enter into such an agreement.

There are different OWI charges that can be filed. OWI as a Class “A” Misdemeanor means that you have operated a motor vehicle after consuming a substance which has impaired your normal thought and control to such an extent that you are a danger to yourself or others. Another frequent charge is OWI Per Se. In order to be guilty of this charge, you must have consumed enough alcohol to present with a B.A.C. of .08 % or more. One’s level of impairment is not relevant.




What are the Next Steps After Jail Release?

What should you expect after you have been released from jail: You will be given a court date to appear for your initial hearing. If you can, you should retain an attorney to represent you at this initial hearing. If it is your first time OWI and is charged as a misdemeanor, your attorney can file the appropriate paperwork and you can avoid having to appear in person at this hearing. In most cases you will have to surrender your driver’s license and you will have an administrative suspension of 180 days. However, in most cases you will be entitled to petition the court for a special driving privilege, which will usually allow you to drive to and from work in during the course of your employment. If you have a commercial driver’s license, it will be suspended without the opportunity without the ability to reinstate it. Should you refuse to take a certified test down at the station or a hospital, this refusal will prevent you from retaining a Specialized Driving Privilege (SDP). That is why you should take the test when offered.



What is Considered Impairment?

Impairment can arise as a result of consuming any substance that can cause intoxication including prescription drugs. If you consume your medication in quantities greater than prescribed and you are impaired you can be charged with Operating While Intoxicated endangering another.

Caveat: If you are stopped and asked to submit to a breath test, you should submit to such a request. You suffer no consequence for refusing to submit to a portable breath test but if you refuse to take a test down at the police station that is a “certified” breath test, you can lose your license for one year in addition to any suspension caused by a conviction for OWI. So there is no advantage to refusing the test.


What are the Financial Consequences?

The financial consequences for being arrested for OWI are quite severe. A typical retainer for an OWI by an experienced lawyer can range from $5,000 to $7,500. There are a number of qualifications that should go into helping you make your choice. Experience in OWI, experience in the county in which your case is pending and familiarity with the science involved in these charges, to name a few. In addition, you should have a toxicologist as your expert consultant. That fee can range from $2,500 to $3,500.

You should know that there are defenses to these charges. Remember your freedom is at stake, your privilege to drive is in jeopardy and some very important financial consequences will probably arise as well. It is important that you be proactive.