One of the most common offenses committed in Hamilton County is drunk driving, or operating while Intoxicated as it is more formally known. Under Indiana Code 9-30-5 there are multiple ways an individual can be charged with operating while intoxicated and many carry different minimum and maximum penalties. Moreover, each charge contains different elements that the State of Indiana must prove beyond a reasonable doubt in order to convict you of an offense. In this blog post I will discuss the most commonly charged operating while intoxicated offenses.
Two Types of Operating While Intoxicated Per Indiana Law
Typically when an individual is arrested for operating while intoxicated in Hamilton County, the prosecutor’s office will charge two offenses if the facts support them. It is not unusual to see a charge for:
- Operating While Intoxicated Endangering a Person, a Class A Misdemeanor and
- Operating a Vehicle with an Alcohol Concentration Equivalent of .08 or More (or .15 or more depending upon the blood or breath alcohol content of the individual).
In order for the State to convict someone of Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangering a Person, the State must prove:
- that the driver
- a vehicle
- while intoxicated and
- in such a manner that a person was endangered.
To further break down the elements of this offense, we will focus on intoxication and endangerment. The State has to prove that the driver was intoxicated while driving. “Intoxication” is defined under Indiana Code 9-13-2-86 as impaired on a substance such as alcohol, drugs, or medication so that there is an impaired condition of thought and action and the loss of normal control of a person’s faculties. To prove intoxication, the State will use a combination of the driver’s performance on the standardized field sobriety tests, the officer’s observations, and blood or breath alcohol content. In addition to intoxication, the State will also have to prove that the intoxicated driver endangered a person. Indiana case law has held that a passenger, another motorist, or even the driver constitutes “a person” under the meaning of the statute. Endangerment can come in the form of swerving across lanes, speeding, or other traffic violations.
The offense of Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated Endangering a Person is a Class A Misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
Operating While Intoxicated Endangering a Person is distinct from the charge of Operating a Vehicle With an Alcohol Concentration Equivalent of .08 or More (or .15 depending upon the blood or breath content of the individual). To prove this offense, the State must only prove that the driver of a vehicle was driving with a blood or breath content or .08 or more, a Class C Misdemeanor. If the driver’s blood or breath content was .15 or greater, the offense is elevated to a Class A Misdemeanor. The State will use the results of a blood or breath test to prove the content of alcohol in a driver’s system. These tests are helpful to the State’s prosecution but are not foolproof. The offense of Operating a Vehicle with an Alcohol Concentration Equivalent of .08 or More is a Class C Misdemeanor punishable by up to sixty (60) days in jail and a $500 fine.
In addition to these offenses, the State can also charge a driver with Operating While Intoxicated, a Class C Misdemeanor. To convict a driver of this offense the State must only prove that the driver:
- a vehicle
- while intoxicated
As mentioned above, intoxication can be proved with a combination of the officer’s observations, blood or breath results, and performance on field sobriety testing.
These are just a few of the most commonly charged forms of “drunk driving”. These offenses can be elevated based upon certain circumstances such as a prior offense within the previous five years or if a minor is in the car at the time the offense occurred.
There are also driver’s license suspensions that are associated with these offenses. These suspensions may be shortened through plea negotiations or you may be able to obtain specialized driving privileges for all or a portion of the suspension.
Each OWI case is unique and may contain meritorious defenses or methods of excluding evidence based upon the case’s circumstances. If you have been charged with Operating While Intoxicated it is important you hire counsel to review your case and advise you as to the possible defenses available to you. Only after speaking with counsel will you be able to determine whether to negotiate a plea agreement with the State or take the case to trial.
If you have been charged with and OWI contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Cate, Terry & Gookins LLC immediately. There may be deadlines associated with your case that require prompt attention. Give us a call at 317-564-0016.