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What is The Difference Between OWI and DUI in Indiana?

 The difference between OWI and DUI in Indiana may be confusing. Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) has a broader definition than driving under the influence (DUI). Indiana traffic violations recognize OWI as the more common term for drinking-and-driving charges. At Stein Law, our team of expert attorneys in Indiana law can help you build a criminal defense case for your OWI or DUI charge.

If you’re facing charges related to drinking and driving in Indiana, it’s important that you learn the differences between an OWI and a DUI. While the penalties for operating while intoxicated and driving under the influence convictions are similar in the state of Indiana, their legal definitions and criteria differ. These distinctions are significant because they can impact the outcome of your court proceeding.

OWI and DUI charges can have uncertain court outcomes, so don’t wait to contact an attorney. The criminal defense attorneys at Stein Law can help you understand your OWI or DUI charges and provide expert legal counsel for your case.

Operating While Intoxicated

Operating While Intoxicated, or OWI, refers to any instance of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. “Intoxicated” is a broad term and can refer to any mind-altering substance, such as prescription drugs, pills, narcotics, alcohol, or marijuana.

The term “operating” is also broad. That is, you don’t have to be actively driving a vehicle to be charged with an OWI. You could just sit in your car while it’s on and idling.

The penalties of an OWI conviction vary depending on the specific details of your case. For a first-offense misdemeanor OWI, you could face 30 to 60 days in jail, and your license could be suspended for 90 days to 2 years. If your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is higher than 0.07 percent, you could face up to a year in jail.

Other factors influence the severity of your sentence if convicted. These include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Unwilling to submit blood or urine test: If you refuse to take the court-ordered test, your license will automatically be suspended for a year.
  • Being a minor (under 18): Minors can be arrested in Indiana if their blood alcohol level exceeds 0.02 percent BAC.
  • Operating a commercial vehicle: Commercial drivers can be arrested for OWI if their BAC exceeds 0.04 percent.

An OWI charge is a Class C misdemeanor in most cases. However, an OWI conviction may be a felony if your case contains one of the following elements:

  • Having a passenger who is a minor
  • Causing bodily injury to a passenger in your car or another car
  • Causing a catastrophic injury to a passenger in your car or another car
  • Killing a passenger in your car or another car
  • Being convicted of a third OWI offense

Driving Under the Influence

Driving under the influence, or DUI, is a narrower legal term. You must be actively driving the vehicle under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances to be charged with a DUI. Thus, DUIs fall under the OWI umbrella, but not every instance of an OWI counts as a DUI.

For example, if you drink alcohol while in the driver’s seat of an idling car, you may be arrested for operating while intoxicated but not driving under the influence. However, if you are arrested for drinking and driving, you could be charged with either a DUI or an OWI.

Like an OWI, a DUI is classified as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. If your BAC is between 0.08 and 0.14 percent, you can be charged with a Class C or Class A misdemeanor. You may face up to 60 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. If you have a 0.15 percent BAC or higher or your driving endangers another person, your charge becomes a Class A misdemeanor. In a Class A misdemeanor, you could be in jail for up to a year or pay a fine of up to $5,000.

If you have aggravating factors involved with your case, such as having a minor in the vehicle or causing catastrophic injury or death, you may be charged with a felony DUI. Potential felony DUI charges include:

  • Level 6 Felony: up to 2.5 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines
  • Level 5 Felony: Between 1 and 6 years in prison, plus the $10,000
  • Level 4 Felony: Between 2 and 12 years in prison, plus the $10,000 fine

Whether you are arrested for an OWI or a DUI, your best course of action is to submit to chemical drug tests or a breathalyzer. If you refuse to take a chemical test, you will be automatically arrested, and your refusal will be marked down for court proceedings.

When Should You Contact An Attorney Regarding a OWI or a DUI?

You have a right to legal representation if you are arrested for operating while intoxicated or driving under the influence. As soon as possible after your arrest, contact an Indiana criminal defense attorney experienced with OWI and DUI. The sooner you do this, the better your lawyer can help you prepare for your court appearance. Inform the details of your case and past legal history, especially regarding driving or operating a vehicle under the influence. Describe any police interactions you may have had with the police during or after your arrest.

While you are not legally required to have an attorney, having professional representation is a wiser choice rather than attempting to represent yourself. In fact, cases with pro se defendants (individuals who choose to forgo an attorney) tend to rule in the defendant’s favor only 14 percent of the time. OWI and DUI are serious charges, and you don’t want to take them lightly, even on the first offense.

Even if you plan on pleading guilty, having an Indiana criminal defense lawyer on your side is essential. The outcomes of your court appearances are uncertain, and you may not know what to expect. You’ll want an experienced, dedicated lawyer who can best respond to your charges and protect your rights.

Contact the DUI Lawyers at Stein Law Today

You have the right to obtain the best defense if you’ve been arrested and charged with OWI or DUI. You want a knowledgeable and experienced legal team to help you get the best possible outcome for your court appearances and proceedings. Work with a lawyer who cares about you and the outcome of your case.

Don’t delay contacting a lawyer if you face either of these charges. The attorneys at Stein Law are on your side to defend your rights during OWI and DUI court appearances. With over 75 years of combined experience, Stein Law defense attorneys have the required proficiency in Indiana state law, including testing and police procedures, to strategize and present a proper defense on your behalf.