Distinguishing Between OVWI Charges

Although DUIs (or OVWIs in Indiana) are unfortunately all too common, there are several charges that can be brought based on the circumstances, and the charges can range from simple misdemeanors to complex felonies. Below is a breakdown of each Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (“OVWI”) charge from least to most serious.

OVWI – Base Level Charge

Operating a vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 to 0.14 or under the influence of drugs so there is an impaired condition of thought and action leads to the base level OVWI charge, which is a Class C Misdemeanor, the lowest criminal charge in Indiana. Penalties include a potential fine up to $500 and a sentence of 0-60 days.

OVWI – Endangering a Person OR OVWI – with a BAC of 0.15 or More

If a person operates a vehicle while intoxicated with a BAC of 0.15 or more or operates the vehicle in a way that endangers any person (including the driver), the charge may be elevated to a Class A Misdemeanor. Penalties include a potential fine up to $5,000 and a sentence of 0-365 days.

Proving “endangerment” requires some evidence beyond just intoxication, however this is an easy threshold to establish. The evidence can be any showing that the defendant’s driving could have endangered any person, including the driver. This includes swerving across the center line, bumping into a curb on a turn, following too closely, or even speeding.

OVWI – with a Prior OVWI Conviction in the last 7 Years OR OVWI – Causing Serious Bodily Injury OR OVWI – with a Child less than 18 in the Vehicle

These three separate OVWI charges each result in a Level 6 Felony charge. States have recently emphasized the seriousness of drunk driving and have extended the “prior conviction” charge from within the last five years to last years.

Penalties of a Level 6 Felony include a potential fine up to $10,000 and a sentence of 0-910 days (or 2.5 years), and in the case of having one prior OVWI conviction, a required license suspension of 365 days and a mandatory five-day jail sentence. If two prior OVWIs, the license suspension is effective for 730 days and the mandatory jail sentence is ten days.

Additionally, the OVWI charge may be elevated to a Level 6 Felony if the driver has a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 18, or if it results in “Serious Bodily Injury.” This injury includes extreme pain, unconsciousness, permanent disfigurement, and loss of a fetus.

OVWI – Resulting in Death

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated that results in the death of another is a Level 5 Felony. However, this charge is elevated to a Level 4 Felony if the driver’s BAC is .15 or more or if the driver has a prior OVWI conviction. Penalties for a Level 5 Felony include a potential fine up to $10,000 and a sentence between one and six years. Penalties for a Level 4 Felony include a potential fine up to $10,000 and a sentence between two and six years.

The attorneys at Banks and Brower have successfully handled countless OVWI cases on both the defense and prosecutorial side. If you or a loved one are facing one of these many OVWI charges, reach out to (317) 870-0019 or info@banksbrower.com to contact an experienced OVWI attorney to assist you through this stressful time.