Most people realize that when you drive while intoxicated with a BAC over a .08 in Indiana you can be charged with Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated as a Class C misdemeanor. Many also realize you can face a Class A misdemeanor for submitting a blood result over .15. Further still, many know that if you have priors or if the facts are particularly bad (minors involved, injuries, etc.) you can easily get into the felony range. What people are surprised to learn is that often accompanying a BAC related charge is a separate, additional charge for Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Causing Endangerment. This carries with it an additional Class A misdemeanor penalty (up to 365 days in jail).
Inevitably, this leads people to ask, “What in the world is endangerment and why am I being charged with it?”
We find the endangerment charge in IC 9-30-5-2(b), which reads, a person who operates a vehicle while intoxicated commits a Class A misdemeanor if the person operates a vehicle in a manner that endangers a person. Interestingly enough, IC 9-30-5-2(a) allows for you to be charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated without a BAC and without endangerment as a Class C misdemeanor! How could that be? It could be that the driving behavior is clearly not dangerous such as sitting in your car while in gear on a highway or not having your lights on, etc. Again, whether it is endangerment or not, IC 9-30-5 allows for an additional penalty, regardless of if there is a BAC count or not.
For reference, it is IC 9-30-5-1 that lists out the penalty range for the traditional BAC related charges over .08 and .15 respectively.
Many people believe the endangerment statute was created by the legislature as a means to stack additional charges on defendants as well as to add a count to operating while intoxicated cases that does not require a BAC level at all. Whatever the reason, it is a stand-alone charge. It can be proven without a BAC in cases where someone refused to submit to a chemical test or the result was excluded or it can be proven in addition to a case where the BAC is known.
So, you might be asking, what is endangerment? And who has to be endangered. The caselaw is very specific and includes many, many things. First and foremost, you might think that endangerment requires you to endanger someone else other than yourself. The law says otherwise. In fact, you can be charged with endangerment if you wrecked your vehicle on a lone highway with no other cars. Why? Because the law says that you endangered yourself in the process. You can also be charged with endangerment if just one other car is on the road with you, like a police officer. Obviously, it is dangerous to drive while intoxicated with many cars on the road in a reckless way, but as you can see, it doesn’t always require that extreme of facts.
But what type of driving behavior is considered endangering others? Speeding alone has been determined to be enough. As well as improper lane movements, driving on the wrong side of the road, weaving, following too closely, accidents, etc. So, as you can plainly see, it doesn’t take much to find yourself facing an endangerment charge on a run of the mill operating a vehicle while intoxicated case where you were simply pulled over for speeding a few miles per hour over the limit.
If you or a loved one are facing an operating a vehicle while intoxicated charge, it’s imperative that you hire an experienced Indianapolis DUI attorney to represent you. Experienced lawyers are versed in the relevant case law, field sobriety tests, etc. The attorneys at Banks & Brower have handled hundreds, if not thousands, of Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Cases both on the prosecutorial and defense side. Reach out to us 24/7/365 at firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 3178700019. We look forward to assisting you!