Understanding Driving While Suspended, OVNRL, Reckless Driving, and Speed Contest

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Indiana’s Common Driving Offenses

Without question driving related offenses make up a huge majority of criminal cases filed each year. But that makes sense — as the majority of Americans drive at least twice a day for work, and for a significant amount of miles each day. Inevitably, hundreds of thousands of people on a daily basis receive traffic related tickets and criminal offenses ranging from simple speeding tickets, to driving while suspended, and high speed offenses such as Reckless Driving and Speed Contest. The Indianapolis Criminal Defense Attorney team at Banks & Brower takes a look at these common driving offenses.
This blog will focus on the four major driving related offenses above simple traffic tickets and DUI/OVWI’s: (1) Driving While Suspended (as an infraction and a criminal charge), (2) Operating a Vehicle Having Never Received a License, (3) Reckless Driving, and (4) Speed Contest.
Considering how easy it is to have your driving privileges taken away from you by the BMV or the police in Indiana, it’s easy to see why many people find themselves in a situation where they need to drive, but have been forbidden from doing so. Unfortunately, that pushes people to make the tough (and illegal) decision to drive anyways. After all, you have to get to work to make money and support your family, right? As a result, DWS is the most commonly charged offense outside of simple moving violations like speeding, etc.
In Indiana there are two different types of Driving While Suspended Charges: (1) a simple infraction (meaning non-criminal), and (2) a criminal charge as an A-Misdemeanor.

  • DWS INFRACTION: I.C. 9-24-19-1 says that when a person ” operates a motor vehicle upon a highway while the person’s driving privilege, license, or permit is suspended or revoked commits a Class A infraction.” Simply put, a DWS Infraction is when you are caught driving on a suspended license, and you DO NOT have a prior driving while suspended conviction/infraction in the past ten (10) years.
    • PRIOR WITHIN 10 YEARS: I.C. 9-24-19-2 says that a person, “who: (1) knows that the person’s driving privilege, license, or permit is suspended or revoked; and (2) operates a motor vehicle upon a highway less than ten (10) years after the date on which the judgment was entered against the person for a prior [Driving While Suspended]” commits a Class-A Misdemeanor.
    • DRIVING ON A SUSPENSION FROM A PRIOR CRIMINAL CONVICTION: I.C. 9-24-19-3 says “a person who operates a motor vehicle upon a highway when the person knows that the person’s driving privilege, license, or permit is suspended or revoked, when the person’s suspension or revocation was a result of the person’s conviction of an offense . . . ” commits an A-Misdemeanor.

Probably the second most often charged driving offense is driving without a valid license to do so. I.C. 9-24-18-1 states, “a person . . . who knowingly or intentionally operates a motor vehicle upon a highway and has never received a valid driving license commits a Class C misdemeanor. However, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor if the person has a prior unrelated conviction under this section.”
Reckless driving, as a Class-B Misdemeanor, is another very common charge. Typically, though not always, it is charged when someone is driving at such a high rate of speed that it endangers others as a result. Most counties don’t charge Reckless Driving/MB unless your speed is over 20 miles an hour over the limit, and your driving behavior is aggressive or reckless as well. Below are the statutory definitions of reckless driving.

    • I.C. 9-21-8-52(a) states that “A person who operates a vehicle and who recklessly: (1) drives at such an unreasonably high rate of speed or at such an unreasonably low rate of speed under the circumstances as to: (A) endanger the safety or the property of others; or (B) block the proper flow of traffic; (2) passes another vehicle from the rear while on a slope or on a curve where vision is obstructed for a distance of less than five hundred (500) feet ahead; (3) drives in and out of a line of traffic, except as otherwise permitted; or (4) speeds up or refuses to give one-half (1/2) of the roadway to a driver overtaking and desiring to pass; commits a Class-B misdemeanor.”
      • I.C. 9-21-8-52(b) states: “A person who operates a vehicle and who recklessly passes a school bus stopped on a roadway when the arm signal device specified in IC 9-21-12-13 is in the device’s extended position commits a Class B misdemeanor. However, the offense is a Class A misdemeanor if it causes bodily injury to a person.”
      • I.C. 9-21-8-52(c) states “If an offense under subsection (a) or (b) results in damage to the property of another person or bodily injury to another person, it is a Class C misdemeanor and the court shall recommend the suspension of the current driving license of the person for a fixed period of not more than one (1) year.”

I.C. 9-21-6 addresses speed contests. Movies like Fast and Furious glamorize racing with other vehicles on normal roads with other non-racing vehicles sharing the space unwillingly, but our legislators decided it was no laughing matter. The Indiana legislature, in fact, drafted a statute that says, “a person may not engage in a motor vehicle speed contest on a highway or street” nor can a person “obstruct or place a barricade or an obstacle across a highway or street: (1) to facilitate or aid; or (2) as an incident to a motor vehicle speed contest.” And, if you do, you can face a Class-B misdemeanor. However, it can be a harsher penalty with mandatory license suspensions if it is within a highway construction/work zone.
Given how much we all rely on our ability to drive and then realizing how easy it is to lose your license in the state of Indiana, it’s important that you hire an attorney who knows how to protect your license and your ability to earn a living. As such, if you or a loved one has been accused of committing a traffic related offense, give the experienced Indianapolis Traffic Lawyers at the Indianapolis Criminal Defense firm of Banks & Brower, LLC a call today. We’ll make sure your rights are protected every step of the way. Call us at 317.870.0019 or email us at info@banksbrower.com.