You've just left O'Reilly's after a great night out. As you head out of town on Madison Avenue, you drive right into a DUI checkpoint. An officer approaches your car and asks you a few questions. She smells alcohol on your breath and asks you to get out of the car and perform a field sobriety test. After she puts you through your paces, she asks you to take a Breathalyzer test. Based on the results of the Breathalyzer, the officer arrests you, reads you your rights and takes you downtown for processing. Now you are smack in the middle of an Indianapolis DUI. What's next?
Processing and DUI Charges Filed
When you've been arrested for drunk driving, it's usually because an officer has given you a blood or breath test that shows that you had a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher (.02% if you're under 21). However, if there's strong evidence that your driving was impaired because you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you can be arrested and charged even if your blood or breath test showed a BAC below .08%.
Important to know: In Indiana, the law for drunk driving uses the phrase "operating a vehicle while intoxicated" so law enforcement and legal professionals sometimes use the term "OWI" or "OVWI" when they talk about drunk driving charges. However, most people in Indianapolis use the term "DUI" when they are referring to drunk driving charges, so that's the term that you'll see in this article.
The officer will likely take you to the Arrestee Processing Center (APC), where you'll be booked. Then, she'll look up your past driving and criminal records and consider the evidence against you. Under Indiana DUI law, if your BAC was between .08% and .15%, you'll be charged with a Class C misdemeanor. If you're BAC was .15% or higher, you'll be charged with a Class A misdemeanor. Circumstances that can elevate your misdemeanor charge to a felony charge include prior DUI conviction in the past five years, passengers in your vehicle who are minors, or previous DUI convictions where death or serious injury occurred.
After you're charged, the officer or processing agent will usually release you pending your arraignment. She'll confiscate your driver's license and give you a notice with information about your court date and the automatic suspension of your license. This notice will also act as a temporary driver's license until your license is suspended or returned to you.
Indiana BMV Administrative Review Hearing
Separate from the criminal charge is the administrative suspension of your license under Indiana's implied consent law. If you've been arrested on DUI charges after failing a BAC test or refusing to take a BAC test, under Indiana law, your license will automatically be suspended for at least 90 days unless you request an administrative review hearing with the Indianapolis Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).
The BMV hearing is held before a qualified representative who will hear evidence related to your DUI arrest from you and from the arresting officer. You're entitled to be represented by an attorney at this hearing, just as in your criminal hearing. If the BMV representative finds that there is insufficient evidence to justify your license suspension, your suspension will be lifted. However, if you're later convicted of the DUI charges at your criminal hearing, your license will likely be suspended based on that conviction.
DUI Criminal Case
You'll be given a notice to appear in court after your arrest. Criminal cases in Indianapolis are heard in the Marion Superior Court. Your first court appearance will be your arraignment, which typically is scheduled within 48 hours of your arrest.
At the arraignment, a judge will ask you if you are represented by an attorney. If you don't have an attorney and would like one, the court will probably postpone the arraignment until you've arranged to hire an attorney or, if you can't afford one, until a public defender is often appointed to your case. If your attorney is present, the judge will ask if what you plead to the charges.
If you plead guilty, the judge will either sentence you immediately or set a sentencing date for later. If you plead not guilty, the judge will set a date for your criminal trial.
Between the arraignment and the criminal trial, your attorney will hold a pre-trial conference with the County Prosecutor to discuss the possibility of a plea bargain.
When your criminal trial arrives, the prosecutor and your attorney will both make opening statements, present evidence, call and cross-examine witnesses, and make closing statements. If you're found guilty of the charges against you at the end of your trial, the judge may sentence you immediately or may schedule a sentencing date.
Possible Penalties for a DUI Conviction
Sentences for DUI convictions vary depending on the BAC results of your blood or breath test and whether your conviction was for a first time DUI offense or a repeat offense. For example, a conviction for a first time Class "C" Misdemeanor DUI comes with the possibility of:
- Jail time up to 60 days
- Fines up to $500
- License suspension up to 2 years
- court fees of at least $300
- probation up to 2 years
- Installation of an Ignition Interlock Devise at the judge's discretion
- Possible community service
- Attendance to a Victim Impact Panel or Substance Abuse Education program
Repeat DUI convictions carry harsher maximum penalties than those listed above, as does a conviction for a DUI with a BAC of .15% or higher.
Busted for a DUI? Talk to a DUI Attorney Today
It can happen to just about anyone -- but being convicted of driving under the influence can derail your plans and make life difficult for quite some time. An experienced attorney will know how to challenge the evidence against you and provide the best outcome possible. Get started today by reaching out to an Indiana DUI attorney near you.