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What are the penalties for a first-time OWI offense?

On Behalf of | Jan 7, 2024 | Criminal Defense |

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) charges are relatively common in Indiana. Police officers arrest people at sobriety checkpoints, at the scene of car crashes and on the side of the road after one-on-one traffic stops. A combination of poor performance at the wheel and failed chemical tests could lead to the state prosecuting someone for drunk driving.

Many motorists accused of an OWI offense in Indiana decide to plead guilty. They may think that a lack of prior convictions and a good standing in the community might help them avoid the worst possible consequences. However, judges have to follow state law when sentencing someone after an OWI. There are minimum standards that the penalties typically need to meet. Additionally, many judges hand down relatively hard penalties specifically because they want to deter someone from reoffending and others from driving after drinking.

What penalties are possible after an OWI?

The penalties for an OWI depend on the circumstances of someone’s arrest and their prior record. Someone who caused a crash that injured people or led to someone dying can expect to face major charges and often harsh penalties imposed by the court.

Those arrested for a technical infraction without causing injury to others usually face lesser penalties. Even OWIs that did not lead to injury can lead to serious consequences. Someone convicted of an OWI must cover all relevant court costs, which can add up to be quite expensive. They may also need to pay up to $5,000 in fines. The judge hearing their case could sentence them to up to a year in jail.

The state can also suspend someone’s driver’s license for up to two years. They may also need to pay for and attend a substance abuse education course. In some cases, the courts may order someone to attend a victim impact panel where people discuss the real-world consequences of drunk driving. The courts could also require drug and alcohol testing and other probation terms.

A defense is possible in most cases

Although people often despair of defending themselves against OWI charges, there are numerous defense strategies that often work. Some people may have a medical explanation for why they failed a breast test. Others might have questions about the conduct of police officers or the accuracy of the test results.

Understanding the serious consequences of an OWI conviction might help motivate people to fight back against even a first-time OWI charge. Seeking legal guidance is generally a good way to get started.