Indiana Laws for Operation While Intoxicated

Please see our Glossary of Legal Terms for more specific and detailed definitions and information about your case.

The Basics

There are three basic offenses for Operating While Intoxicated: (1) Operating while Intoxicated, class C misdemeanor or class A misdemeanor if endangerment is alleged; (2) Operating with a .08% A.C.E. or greater breath or blood alcohol level; (3) Operating with .15% A.C.E. or greater breath or blood alcohol level.


Intoxicated: In Indiana, ‘Intoxicated’ means under the influence of alcohol or drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs, so that there is an impaired condition of thought and action and the loss of normal control of one’s faculties.

Certified Chemical Test: Is a measurement of breath, blood, or urine by a device inspected and approved by the Indiana State Department of Toxicology.  This excludes alco-sensors and portable breath tests.

Prima facie:  Prima facie evidence of intoxication means a chemical test that results in an alcohol level of .08% A.C.E. or greater combined with evidence of operating a vehicle.

License Suspensions

The basic initial license suspension in Indiana is called the summary  administrative suspension. A citizen receives this suspension because he fails a certified chemical test (.08% A.C.E.or higher) or, he refuses the certified chemical test. This summary administrative suspension is unrelated to whether you are ultimately found guilty or ‘not guilty’ at trial.

If you are ultimately convicted of an OWI/DUI offense by trial or plea bargain, a conviction suspension will apply. You may receive credit for the time you spent suspended pursuant to a summary administrative suspension so long as you did not refuse the certified chemical test.

Typical conviction suspensions for OWI/DUI include 90 days – 2 years for first offenders, 1-2 years for 2nd offenders, and, 1-2 years for the conviction suspension followed by 10 years for 3rd offenders deemed to be habitual traffic violators depending on the timing of the offenses.

Some other license suspensions including longer suspensions can be imposed for drug cases, death or injury cases, failure to insure cases, and, leaving the scene of an accident cases.

Don’t guess – check with Shapiro & Lozano to see the minimum license suspension that applies to you and your case.

Additional Notes

In OWI/DUI cases, if you are found guilty, you must pay a price far in excess of simply paying a ticket.

Not everyone who ‘drinks and drives’ is guilty of a drinking and driving crime.

An OWI/DUI conviction can have serious consequences and can lead to:

  1. Loss of your ABC server or owner’s liquor license for 1 year on a first offense and for life on a 2nd or subsequent offense.
  2. Disqualification of your CDL license for 1 year on a first offense and life on a 2nd or subsequent offense.
  3. Mandatory counseling as part of your licensing in the medical, legal, or other professional fields.
  4. Loss of your security clearances in any top secret or military facility that requires such clearances.
  5. Potential questioning and possible loss of your ability to obtain a firearm permit or even own a firearm if the OWI/DUI is a felony.
  6. Negative consequences for future employability and insurability.

Your Driver’s License in a nutshell

  1. At the time of your arrest, the officer exchanges your license for a receipt.
  2. Your physical document, i.e. license is given to the prosecutor’s office.
  3. The license and probable cause paperwork is given to the judge.
  4. 99% of the time, the judge finds probable cause based on a chemical test failure or refusal and he will either suspend your license immediately or, he will send your information to the BMV and they will send you a suspension letter.
  5. If you have an out of state license you are suspended in Indiana only, unless your home state also suspends you. This is unlikely unless you are ultimately convicted of the OWI offense. Your home state will probably not suspend you based on chemical tests in Indiana alone.
  6. If you have an Indiana License and get suspended by the judge or the BMV, you cannot drive, period.
  7. Your suspension is for 180 days if you failed the chemical test and 1 year if you refused it with no prior convictions and 2 years if you have 1 or more prior convictions. Those suspensions may be shortened depending on how quickly your case is resolved. Your license is in effect used as bait to induce you to plead guilty quickly to get it back and accept the OWI. If your goal is to get back to driving as soon as possible, the guilty plea is the most efficient way to do that but the trade off is the OWI on your record. The hardship license for 1st offenses allows a work license but requires that you have an alcohol evaluation and file a lawsuit to obtain the hardship license while your OWI case is pending. Refusals do not qualify for any work license.  At the expiration of the 180 day summary administrative suspension you may have to carry Hi Risk SR22 insurance for 3 years as a condition of reinstatement and you must pay a reinstatement fee
  8. 1st offenders may qualify for probationary or hardship licenses, whether they plead guilty or file a lawsuit for the work license.
  9. 2nd offenses with a prior conviction within 5 years of the current arrest  = 1year Suspension, prior conviction outside 5 years from the current arrest = 180 day  suspension.
  10. 3rd offenses qualify you for habitual traffic violator treatment, which can mean a 10 year license suspension. The court does not have to inform you of this fact, therefore, you may think you are getting a 1 year suspension according to your plea bargain for the OWI/DUI but when your 3rd conviction is certified to the BMV you may really be getting a 10 year suspension depending on the timing of your convictions.
  11. You get no credit for the time your license is suspended in the event you are convicted if you refused the chemical test. A refusal results in a lost of credit time and no opportunity for a hardship license.
  12. To get your license reinstated after the 180 days or the 1 year passes, if your case is not over, simply go to the license branch and apply.   Whether convicted or not,  a reinstatement fee and Hi Risk SR22 insurance for 3 years is required as a condition of reinstatement.

Please see our Glossary of Legal Terms for more detailed information on mandatory minimum license suspensions and mandatory minimum jail time in specific OWI/DUI case situations.