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.   Indiana is currently using Intoximeters to measure breath alcohol as of 2013/2014.

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 pre-conviction 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 pre-conviction 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 post-conviction suspension will apply. You may receive credit for the time you spent suspended pursuant to a pre-conviction summary administrative suspension so long as you did not refuse the certified chemical test, or, if you are allowed to ‘vacate’ the refusal of that test.  However, a chemical test refusal will prevent you from receiving a specialized driving privilege.  Also, for those of you with out-of-state driver’s licenses [includes many IU students] – the pre-conviction summary administrative suspension may affect your ability to drive in Indiana, but unless your home state [the state that issued your driver’s license] suspends you -then you are free to drive in every state EXCEPT Indiana.  However, if you are convicted, then your post-conviction suspension will be given full faith and credit by your home state.  Your home state will then impose whatever license suspension is required for your conviction independently of whether your privilege was suspended in Indiana pre-conviction.

Indiana law has for the most part as of January 1 2015 eliminated mandatory license suspensions for OWI offenses.  [some still apply for serious bodily injury or death].  For most cases, the trial judge has the discretion to impose a license suspension post-conviction from 0 days up to 2 years.  Since our law is fairly new [Jan 1 2015], many courts have not yet begun to dole out more lenient license suspensions but are wed to the old law which required 90 days suspensions, 180 day suspensions, and 1 year suspensions for different circumstances.

Some other types of 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.  You should always determine if you are eligible for a specialized driving privilege in the event your license suspension can be STAYED.

Don’t guess – check with Shapiro & Lozano to see the license suspension OR specialized driving privilege 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.  Check with Indiana’s Alcohol Beverage Commission website and rules for more specific information.
  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
  7. Immigration issues when you try to travel to countries for hunting, fishing, vacation, e.g. Canada!

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 unless and until you obtain a specialized driving privilege if you are eligible.  [no refusal, no commercial driver’s license]
  7. Your pre-conviction suspension is for 180 days if you failed the chemical test and pre-conviction 1 year if you refused it with no prior convictions and pre-conviction 2 years if you have 1 or more prior convictions. Those suspensions may be shortened depending on how quickly your case is resolved. There are very few mandatory suspensions applicable after January 1 2015, you should always check to see if you are eligible for a specialized driving privilege.
  8. 3rd or subsequent major traffic 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.  You should again check to see if you are eligible for a specialized driving privilege.   There is also a mini-habitual traffic violator [5 year license suspension ] applicable to you if you have nine (9) minor traffic tickets [moving violations] coupled with a major violation.   [typically an OWI or Reckless Driving or Leaving the Scene].  You again, must check to see if you are eligible for a specialized driving privilege.
  9. You get no credit for the time your license is suspended pre-conviction for a chemical test refusal unless the refusal is vacated. A pre-conviction refusal also results in ineligibility for a pre-conviction specialized driving privilege. 
  10. To get your license reinstated after the 180 days or the 1 year passes, if your case is not yet resolved and you did not obtain a specialized driving privilege, simply go to the license branch and apply.   Whether convicted or not,  a reinstatement fee and Hi Risk SR22 insurance for 3 years may be 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.