DUI Laws in Indiana

This article provides a comprehensive overview of DUI laws in Indiana, including definitions, legal limits, penalties, and procedures.

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense in Indiana, with stringent laws and penalties designed to deter impaired driving and protect public safety. This article provides a comprehensive overview of DUI laws in Indiana, including definitions, legal limits, penalties, and procedures. It draws on official sources and legal statutes to ensure accuracy and reliability.


In Indiana, the terms DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) are often used interchangeably. However, the official term used in Indiana law is OWI. According to Indiana Code § 9-30-5, an individual commits an OWI offense if they operate a vehicle while:

  • Having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more.
  • Under the influence of alcohol, a controlled substance, or any other intoxicant that impairs their ability to operate the vehicle safely.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits

Indiana law sets specific BAC limits for different categories of drivers:

  • General Drivers: A BAC of 0.08% or higher.
  • Commercial Drivers: A BAC of 0.04% or higher.
  • Drivers Under 21: A BAC of 0.02% or higher.

These limits are enforced through chemical tests, including breath, blood, and urine tests, which are administered by law enforcement officers.

Penalties for OWI Offenses

First Offense

A first-time OWI offense in Indiana is classified as a Class C misdemeanor, but it can be elevated to a Class A misdemeanor under certain conditions.

Class C Misdemeanor

  • Jail Time: Up to 60 days.
  • Fines: Up to $500.
  • License Suspension: Typically 180 days, but it can vary based on the circumstances.

Class A Misdemeanor

If the driver's BAC is 0.15% or higher, or if there is a passenger under 18 years old in the vehicle, the offense is elevated to a Class A misdemeanor.

  • Jail Time: Up to 1 year.
  • Fines: Up to $5,000.
  • License Suspension: Typically 180 days, but it can vary.

Second Offense

A second OWI offense within five years is classified as a Level 6 felony.

  • Jail Time: 6 months to 2.5 years.
  • Fines: Up to $10,000.
  • License Suspension: Minimum of 1 year.

Third and Subsequent Offenses

A third or subsequent OWI offense within ten years is classified as a Level 5 felony.

  • Jail Time: 1 to 6 years.
  • Fines: Up to $10,000.
  • License Suspension: Minimum of 1 year.

Aggravating Factors

Certain factors can elevate the severity of an OWI offense, including:

  • Causing Serious Bodily Injury: Classified as a Level 5 felony.
  • Causing Death: Classified as a Level 4 felony, with penalties including 2 to 12 years in prison and fines up to $10,000.

Administrative Penalties

Indiana's implied consent law (Indiana Code § 9-30-6-1) requires drivers to submit to chemical tests if a law enforcement officer has probable cause to believe they are impaired. Refusal to submit to testing results in automatic administrative penalties.

  • First Refusal: 1-year license suspension.
  • Subsequent Refusals: 2-year license suspension.

Administrative License Suspension

In addition to criminal penalties, drivers arrested for OWI face administrative license suspension.

  • First Offense: 180 days.
  • Second Offense: 1 year.
  • Third and Subsequent Offenses: 2 years.

Drivers may be eligible for a specialized driving permit, allowing limited driving privileges for work, school, or medical appointments.

Arrest and Booking

When a driver is suspected of OWI, they are typically arrested and taken to a police station for booking. This process includes:

  • Chemical Testing: Breath, blood, or urine tests to determine BAC.
  • Fingerprinting and Photographing: Standard booking procedures.
  • Initial Hearing: The driver is informed of the charges and bail is set.

Pretrial Procedures


During the arraignment, the driver enters a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest. The court may also address bail and other pretrial matters.

Pretrial Conference

A pretrial conference is held to discuss the case, including potential plea bargains, evidence, and trial dates.


If the case goes to trial, both the prosecution and defense present evidence and arguments. The trial may be conducted before a judge or jury, depending on the severity of the charges and the defendant's preferences.


If the defendant is found guilty, the court imposes a sentence based on the severity of the offense, prior convictions, and other relevant factors.

Diversion and Treatment Programs

Alcohol and Drug Education Programs

First-time offenders may be eligible for diversion programs, which include alcohol and drug education classes. Successful completion of these programs can result in reduced penalties or dismissal of charges.

Substance Abuse Treatment

For repeat offenders or those with severe alcohol or drug problems, the court may mandate substance abuse treatment as part of the sentencing. This can include inpatient or outpatient treatment programs, counseling, and support groups.

Impact on Driving Record and Insurance

Driving Record

An OWI conviction remains on the driver's record for life. This can impact future employment opportunities, driving privileges, and legal proceedings.

Insurance Rates

An OWI conviction typically results in significantly higher insurance premiums. Drivers may also be required to file an SR-22 form, which is a certificate of financial responsibility proving they have the required insurance coverage.

Challenging the Stop

One common defense is to challenge the legality of the traffic stop. If the officer did not have probable cause to stop the vehicle, any evidence obtained during the stop may be inadmissible in court.

Questioning the Test Results

Defendants may also challenge the accuracy and reliability of chemical test results. This can include questioning the calibration and maintenance of testing equipment, the qualifications of the person administering the test, and the procedures followed.

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions can mimic the symptoms of intoxication or affect BAC readings. For example, diabetes, acid reflux, and certain medications can impact test results.

Resources and Support

Individuals facing OWI charges are advised to seek legal assistance from an experienced attorney. Legal representation can help navigate the complex legal system, explore defense options, and negotiate plea bargains.

Government Resources

  • Indiana Criminal Justice Institute (ICJI): Provides information on traffic safety and impaired driving. ICJI Traffic Safety: Impaired Driving
  • Indiana Code: The full text of Indiana's OWI laws can be found in Indiana Code § 9-30-5. Indiana Code

Support Groups

Support groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) and Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) offer resources and support for individuals struggling with alcohol addiction and those affected by impaired driving.


Indiana's DUI laws are designed to deter impaired driving and enhance public safety. Understanding these laws, the associated penalties, and the legal procedures can help individuals navigate the complexities of an OWI charge. By adhering to the legal limits and seeking appropriate legal and support resources, drivers can mitigate the consequences of impaired driving and contribute to safer roadways.

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Von Wooding

Von Wooding

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