Indiana lawmakers consider drinking and driving a severe criminal offense. Operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) can result in criminal and administrative penalties for those over 21, including jail time, fines and license suspension.

Those under the legal drinking age of 21 will face even harsher penalties. As college students return to class in the fall, understanding these penalties can help young people make smarter and safer decisions. Young people can also avoid making a mistake that can impact the rest of their life.

Consequences under Indiana law

Indiana operates under the implied consent law. This law dictates that anyone operating a motor vehicle in Indiana automatically consents to a chemical test when arrested for an OWI. The legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit for Indiana is .08 but drops to .02 for those under age 21. Failing this test will result in license suspension lasting 180 days. Refusing a test will suspend one’s license for a year.

Indiana considers an OWI a Class C misdemeanor if a person’s BAC is below .15, even for underage offenders. The offense carries maximum penalties of

  • $500 in fines, plus court fees
  • 60 days in jail

An OWI offense becomes a Class A misdemeanor if the driver tests at .15 BAC or was driving dangerously. Penalties include:

  • $5,000 fine
  • One year in jail

Offenders must also attend and pay for a victim impact program (VIP). These programs highlight the victims drunk driving and focus on the devastating effects that drunk driving can have on a person and their family.

Special considerations

A good defense can help ease sentencing, suspension periods and even one’s criminal record. Judges may allow special driving privileges by installing an ignition interlock device (IID) in a person’s car. Judges may also require those under the age of 18 to attend a service program.

Secure legal protections

An OWI conviction can have devastating consequences on a young person’s life. Convictions may appear in background checks for school applications, job interviews, rental applications, or home loans. Those convicted of an OWI find more success working with a lawyer familiar with Indiana’s OWI law.