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Is a DWI a Felony or Misdemeanor in Indiana?

January 28th, 2020 by CLLB Law

COURTS COME DOWN PRETTY HARD ON DWI CASES, BUT EXACTLY HOW HARD DEPENDS ON WHETHER IT IS A MISDEMEANOR OR A FELONY.

Judges and juries are less and less forgiving of drunk and impaired drivers these days, and so is the public at large.  But whether the DWI was caused by one evening of bad choices versus a long-term pattern of drunk driving can make a big difference in sentencing.  Generally, if you’ve received one DWI arrest, this will fall under the misdemeanor category unless someone was severely injured or killed or a minor child was in the vehicle.  On the other hand, if you’re someone who has been convicted of more than one DWI offense in the past five years, you will likely be looking at a class D felony and time behind bars.

If you’re asking yourself “Is a DWI a felony or a misdemeanor in Indiana?”, multiple factors will determine the answer to that question.  Whether the penalty is a felony or a misdemeanor depends specifically on the facts in your case.  A highly skilled and experienced DUI defense lawyer in Indiana at CLLB Law in New Albany can answer your questions, explain your options, and build a strong case on your behalf.  Our attorneys can help minimize the impact of a DWI on your life. Call us at (812) 725-8224 if you have questions. We offer a free initial consultation about your case.

Is a DWI Considered a Felony in Indiana?

THINK OF IT THIS WAY – IF THERE’S CATASTROPHIC INJURY, DEATH, A MINOR CHILD OR REPEAT DWI OFFENSES INVOLVED, YOU’RE LOOKING AT A FELONY CHARGE.

Under Indiana Code 9-30-5-3 if you have repeat DWI convictions or are driving drunk with a minor child in the car, you’re facing stiffer penalties, including higher fines, longer prison sentences, a felony criminal record and lengthy probation.

Tampering with an interlock ignition, driving with a probationary or revoked driver’s license, or driving with an open container or while consuming can also make the penalty more severe.

Most certainly, if you seriously injure or kill another person while driving drunk – even if it’s your first DWI offense – you will face felony charges.  The reason repeat DWIs within five years are classified as felonies is because the likelihood that you’ll cause bodily injury to someone else increases significantly the more often you drive drunk.  There’s also a sense that you were already put on notice and sent to alcohol education and follow-up after your first DWI, so if you decided to drive drunk again anyway, then you are careless and deserve a more severe penalty.

The goal of tough penalties and longer prison time is to protect the public and keep you off the road.  It’s not just about punishing you, it’s about saving innocent lives.

How Many DWIs are a Felony in Indiana?

TYPICALLY, TWO (2) DWIs WITHIN FIVE (5) YEARS RESULTS IN A FELONY.  BUT IF YOU SERIOUSLY INJURE OR KILL SOMEONE, A FIRST-EVER DWI CAN BE A FELONY.

Indiana actually uses the term “operating while intoxicated” (OWI) rather than the more typical DWI or DUI referred to in other states.  Indiana OWI laws prohibit all motorists from operating a vehicle …

  1. With a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or greater
  2. With any amount of a schedule I or II controlled substance in their system (street drugs, opioids, heroin, cocaine, marijuana and the like), or
  3. While actually intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

Indiana has a “zero tolerance” law for underage drivers (anyone under age 21) making it illegal to drive on roadways with a BAC of 0.02% or greater.  There are also penalties for fake IDs.

HERE ARE DWI PENALTIES AS DEFINED UNDER INDIANA LAW:

First Offense

  • You will have to pay court costs and fees in excess of $300. 
  • You may receive a jail sentence of up to one year. 
  • You will be fined up to $5,000. 
  • Your license may be suspended up to two (2) years. 
  • You may be placed on probation and be required to enroll in, and pay for, a substance abuse education course. Your license may also be suspended for a minimum of 30 days followed by a 180-day probationary period in which you can drive only for employment purposes. 
  • You may be required to attend a victim impact panel. 
  • You may be required to submit to urine testing for drugs and alcohol. 
  • You may also face other terms of probation.

Second Offense

  • You will be imprisoned for a minimum of five days or up to three years and/or be required to perform community service. 
  • You will be fined up to $10,000. 
  • Your license will be suspended for at least 180 days and up to two years. 
  • You will also face other terms of probation listed under first offense.

Third Offense

  • You may be imprisoned for a minimum of 10 days and up to three years and/or be required to perform community service. 
  • You will be fined up to $10,000. 
  • Your license will be suspended for a least one year and may be suspended for up to 10 years. 
  • You may be adjudged as a habitual traffic violator. 
  • You may be charged and sentenced as a habitual substance offender, for which you may be imprisoned for an additional term of one year and up to an additional eight years. 
  • You will also face other terms of probation listed under first offense.

Contact an Indiana DWI Lawyer Today

If you’re uncertain whether your DWI arrest is considered a misdemeanor or a felony, contact a skilled defense attorney at CLLB Law at (812) 725-8224 for a free initial consultation. We can assess your situation and give you real answers.