Level 6 Felony in Indiana

In Indiana, driving under the influence (DUI), or operating while intoxicated (OWI), is treated as a grave criminal offense within the criminal justice system, often leading to serious felony or misdemeanor charges. Under Indiana law, particularly the Indiana Code Title 9 – Motor Vehicles, section IC 9-30-5, strict legal limits are set for blood alcohol concentration (BAC).

Violating these limits can result in a range of penalties, from fines and jail time to a felony conviction, depending on specific circumstances like BAC level and prior offenses.


Table of Contents

Brief Overview of DUI Laws in Indiana

First-time offenders might face misdemeanor charges, but repeat offenses or aggravating factors like causing serious injury can elevate the charge to a felony level, particularly to a Level 6 felony in Indiana. This can lead to tough penalties, including lengthy jail sentences, substantial fines, and a lasting criminal record, which can impact future opportunities.

In such cases, consulting with an experienced Indianapolis criminal defense attorney is crucial. These lawyers are well-versed in the nuances of Indiana law and can provide a robust defense strategy, possibly negotiating plea agreements or alternative misdemeanor sentencing to reduce the severity of the sentence.

Their expertise in navigating the criminal justice system, including dealing with prosecuting attorneys, probation officers, and court procedures, is invaluable for anyone facing a DUI/OWI charge in Indianapolis.

Legal BAC Limits

  • For drivers aged 21 and over: The legal BAC limit is 0.08%.
  • For commercial drivers: The legal BAC limit is 0.04%.
  • For drivers under 21: The legal limit is 0.02%, reflecting Indiana’s zero-tolerance policy for underage drinking and driving.

Implied Consent Law

Under Indiana law, the implied consent rule mandates that all drivers must undergo chemical testing if there is suspicion of operating a vehicle under the influence (DUI/OWI). This law is a critical aspect of the state’s efforts to enforce DUI regulations and maintain road safety. Non-compliance with this requirement can result in immediate and severe consequences, such as an automatic license suspension, which is often a precursor to more serious criminal charges.

Refusal to submit to chemical testing can aggravate the legal situation, potentially leading to a felony charge, especially in cases involving prior offenses or aggravating circumstances like causing an accident. In such scenarios, the refusal can be used as evidence in court, significantly impacting the prosecution’s case against the defendant.

For those facing charges under this law, it’s advisable to seek guidance from an experienced Indianapolis criminal defense attorney. These professionals are knowledgeable about Indiana law, including specific statutes related to DUI/OWI offenses and the complex procedures of the criminal justice system.

They can offer a comprehensive defense strategy, possibly including negotiations for plea agreements or exploring alternative misdemeanor sentencing options. Their expertise is essential in navigating the potential penalties and complexities of cases involving the implied consent law in Indiana.

DUI Offense in Indiana

In Indiana, a DUI (driving under the influence) offense is formally recognized when a driver is found operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeding the legal limit, or if they are impaired by drugs or alcohol to an extent that compromises their ability to safely operate a vehicle. This violation is a serious criminal offense, falling under the purview of Indiana’s stringent DUI laws.

When a driver is charged with a DUI in Indiana, they face potential criminal charges that can range from misdemeanors to felonies, particularly a Level 6 felony for more severe cases or repeat offenses. The severity of the charge often depends on specific circumstances such as the driver’s BAC level, prior convictions, and whether the impaired driving resulted in an accident or serious injury.

Navigating a DUI offense in Indiana’s criminal justice system requires understanding the complexities of Indiana law, including the nuances of criminal offenses and the potential penalties involved. It is crucial for individuals facing such charges to seek the expertise of an experienced Indianapolis criminal defense attorney.

These attorneys can provide a robust defense strategy, potentially negotiating plea agreements or exploring alternative misdemeanor sentencing to mitigate the consequences of the charge. Their role is vital in dealing with the prosecution’s case, advising on the implications of the conviction, the criminal defense lawyer and guiding their clients through the sentencing hearing and other legal proceedings.

Key Factors

There are multiple key factors that affect a level 6 felony some of which include the following:

  • Aggravating Circumstances: In Indiana, certain aggravating circumstances in a DUI incident, such as having minors in the vehicle or a prior DUI offense within a specific timeframe, can elevate the charge to a Level 6 felony. These factors reflect a heightened degree of negligence or repeat offending and are taken seriously within the state’s criminal justice system.
  • Serious Bodily Injury: Serious bodily injury resulting from a DUI incident also warrants a Level 6 felony classification in Indiana, underscoring the severe consequences of driving under the influence. This level of charge signifies the gravity of causing harm while impaired, aligning with the state’s commitment to road safety and legal accountability.
  • BAC Levels: The criminal offense of operating a vehicle with a BAC at or above the legal limit constitutes a DUI or OWI charge in Indiana. Penalties for such offenses vary, influenced by factors like the driver’s BAC level, prior convictions, and the involvement of injury or property damage. This tiered approach to sentencing reflects the state’s nuanced stance on DUI/OWI offenses.
  • Impairment: Impairment in DUI cases is defined by a reduced capacity to safely operate a vehicle, whether due to alcohol, illegal drugs, prescription medications, or over-the-counter substances. Observable signs of impairment include slurred speech, poor coordination, erratic driving, delayed reactions, and difficulty adhering to traffic laws. These indicators are critical in DUI investigations and prosecutions.
  • Control of the Vehicle: Physical control in DUI contexts refers to an individual’s capacity to operate or control the vehicle, extending to scenarios where the person is in the driver’s seat with access to the ignition, regardless of whether the vehicle is moving. This aspect of DUI law aims to preclude impaired individuals from starting to drive, addressing the potential threat to public safety.
  • Comparison with Other Offenses: Comparatively, a Level 6 felony in Indiana, which includes offenses like auto theft, is the lowest tier in the state’s felony system and is a step above a misdemeanor. This classification helps contextualize the seriousness of a DUI offense within the broader scope of criminal offenses, distinguishing it from more severe felonies, such as burglary (e.g., Level 4 felony), thereby aiding in understanding the relative severity of different criminal convictions within Indiana law.

Drug-Related DUI

In Indiana, operating a vehicle under the influence extends beyond alcohol to include the influence of controlled substances, illegal drugs, or prescription medications that impair driving ability, constituting a DUI offense. This broad definition recognizes that any substance that compromises a driver’s capacity to safely operate a vehicle poses a significant risk to public safety.

This inclusive approach to DUI offenses is crucial within the criminal justice system, as it encompasses a range of impairments beyond alcohol, including the effects of various drugs and medications. Violations involving these substances can result in criminal charges, potentially leading to a misdemeanor or even a felony conviction, depending on the severity of the offense and other factors like prior convictions or the presence of aggravating circumstances.

For instance, driving under the influence of prescription medications that significantly impair cognitive or motor skills can attract similar penalties to those for alcohol-related DUIs. In Indiana, such offenses are taken seriously, with the law firm stance that impairment, regardless of its source, is unacceptable when operating a vehicle.

The legal implications of a DUI charge in this context can be complex, necessitating the expertise of an experienced criminal defense attorney, particularly in Indianapolis, where the nuances of Indiana law and the specifics of criminal offenses like DUI come into play.

These attorneys are adept at navigating the legal system, offering defense strategies, and advising on potential penalties, including alternative misdemeanor sentencing or plea agreements, tailored to the unique circumstances of each case involving DUI under the influence of controlled substances or prescription medications.

What is a Level 6 Felony?

In Indiana’s criminal system, a Level 6 felony is the least severe type of felony, with six levels in total, plus murder, where a lower number indicates a more serious crime. For context, burglary is a Level 4 felony, while auto theft falls under Level 6.

OWI (operating while intoxicated) is categorized as a Level 6 felony, one step above a misdemeanor. It escalates to a felony under circumstances such as a previous OWI within the past five years or having a minor under 18 in the vehicle. A key aspect of a Level 6 felony is judicial discretion, allowing a judge to potentially treat it as a Class A Misdemeanor. Effective legal representation, particularly from an experienced attorney familiar with Indiana law, is crucial in pursuing this option.

Criteria for a Level 6 Felony

In Indiana, a DUI (Driving Under the Influence) charge can escalate to a Level 6 felony due to factors that increase the offense’s severity and penalties. Normally misdemeanors, DUIs can reach felony status under certain conditions.

Prior DUI convictions within a set timeframe are a key criterion for this upgrade. A new DUI charge coupled with past DUIs, particularly within recent years, can lead to a Level 6 felony, highlighting the gravity of repeat offenses under state DUI laws.

Furthermore, aggravating circumstances like causing serious bodily injury or death during a DUI incident can also elevate the charge to a Level 6 felony offense. This underscores the imperative of sober driving to avoid serious legal repercussions.

Penalties for a Level 6 felony

The penalties and consequences of a Level 6 felony DUI (Driving Under the Influence) conviction in Indiana are substantial and can have a lasting impact on various aspects of an individual’s life. When a DUI offense is elevated to a Level 6 felony, the following penalties and consequences may apply:

  1. Jail Time: A Level 6 felony DUI conviction can result in a jail sentence of up to 2.5 years. This period of incarceration can disrupt one’s personal and professional life.
  2. Fines: Convicted individuals may face significant fines, which can reach up to $10,000. These fines can place a substantial financial burden on the offender.
  3. Felony Record: A Level 6 felony conviction becomes a permanent part of the individual’s criminal record. This can affect future employment prospects, housing opportunities, and even the ability to obtain certain licenses or certifications.
  4. Driver’s License Suspension: The convicted individual may also face a lengthy driver’s license suspension, which can severely limit their ability to drive legally.
  5. Probation: In some cases, the court may impose probation as part of the sentence, requiring the offender to adhere to strict terms and conditions, which may include drug and alcohol testing, counseling, and regular check-ins with a probation officer.
  6. Ignition Interlock Device: Depending on the circumstances, the court may mandate the installation of an ignition interlock device on the offender’s vehicle, which requires the driver to pass a breathalyzer test before the vehicle can be started.
  7. Impact on Insurance: A Level 6 felony DUI conviction can lead to significantly increased auto insurance premiums, making it more costly to maintain coverage.
  8. Collateral Consequences: Beyond the legal penalties, a felony DUI conviction can result in a range of collateral consequences, including damage to one’s reputation, strained personal relationships, and limited opportunities in various aspects of life.

Given the severe repercussions of a Level 6 felony DUI conviction, it is crucial for individuals facing such charges to seek legal counsel immediately. An experienced attorney can help navigate the legal process, explore potential defenses to criminal conviction, and work to minimize the impact of the charges on the individual’s life and future.

Legal Process and Procedures for DUI Charges in Indiana

Legal Process Following a DUI Arrest

For individuals charged with DUI, grasping the nuances of these early stages is essential, as they constitute the bedrock of the legal proceedings and shape the course of any future legal responses. Let’s take a look into some of these early phases:

  • Initial Stop and Arrest: The process usually begins with a traffic stop where an officer suspects impairment. If the officer finds probable cause, such as through field sobriety tests or BAC testing, the driver is arrested.
  • Booking and Processing: After arrest, the driver is taken to a police station for booking, which includes recording personal information, taking fingerprints, and possibly conducting further BAC testing.
  • First Court Appearance (Arraignment): The arraignment is the first court appearance where the charges are formally presented, and the defendant can enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest).

Steps Involved from Arrest to Trial

Navigating the legal landscape following a DUI arrest can be complex and multifaceted, involving several critical stages from the initial arrest to the final verdict and sentencing. Each phase of this journey plays a vital role in shaping the outcome of the case. Understanding these stages not only helps in preparing for what lies ahead but also underscores the importance of knowledgeable legal representation. Below is an overview of the key steps in the legal process after a DUI arrest:

  • Pre-Trial Activities: This phase may involve legal motions, plea negotiations, and discovery, where both sides exchange evidence.
  • Preliminary Hearing: In some cases, a preliminary hearing is held to determine if there is enough evidence to proceed to trial.
  • Trial Preparation: Both the defense and prosecution prepare their cases, which can include gathering evidence, interviewing witnesses, and developing legal strategies.
  • Trial: The trial itself is where the prosecution and defense present their cases, including evidence and witness testimonies, before a judge or jury.
  • Verdict and Sentencing: If found guilty, the defendant will be sentenced, which can vary based on the severity of the offense and other factors like prior history.

Importance of Understanding Procedural Rights

In the realm of DUI law, being aware of and understanding one’s legal rights is not just a matter of procedural formality; it is a critical component that can significantly influence the trajectory and outcome of a case. These rights, enshrined in law, are designed to ensure fairness and justice in the legal process.

From the moment of arrest to the conclusion of a trial, these rights serve as a protective shield for the accused, offering avenues to challenge the charges and seek a fair resolution. Here are some fundamental rights that play a pivotal role in DUI cases:

  • Right to Legal Representation: One of the most critical rights is the right to an attorney. Understanding this right ensures that the defendant can seek proper legal counsel, which is vital in navigating the complexities of DUI law.
  • Rights During Arrest and Trial: This includes the right to remain silent, the right to avoid self-incrimination, and the right to a fair and public trial.
  • Right to Challenge Evidence: Defendants have the right to challenge the evidence presented against them, including the results of BAC tests or the conduct of law enforcement officers.
  • Impact on Case Outcome: A clear understanding of these rights can significantly impact the case’s outcome. It helps in ensuring a fair trial and in some cases, can lead to reduced charges or even acquittal.

Can my Level 6 Felony be Reduced?

In Indiana, there is a possibility for the reduction of a Level 6 felony, subject to certain conditions and the discretion of the judge. A reduction in felony charges can significantly lower the severity of the penalties. For instance, potential jail time may be reduced to a maximum of 1 year, and the maximum fine could be decreased to $5,000.

There are three primary avenues through which your Level 6 felony can be reduced:

  1. At Your Sentencing Hearing by a Judge: During the sentencing hearing, the judge has the authority to assess the circumstances of your case, including factors such as the nature of the offense, your criminal history, and any mitigating circumstances. Based on this evaluation, the judge may decide to reduce the severity of your felony charge.
  2. Pursuant to a Plea Agreement: Often, plea agreements negotiated between your defense attorney and the prosecutor can include provisions for reducing charges. This could involve pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a reduction in the severity of the penalties associated with the Level 6 felony.
  3. Potential through a Sentence Modification: After sentencing, there may be opportunities to seek a sentence modification. This typically requires filing a petition and demonstrating compelling reasons for the modification, such as good behavior, completion of rehabilitation programs, or new evidence that mitigates the severity of the original offense.

It’s important to note that the process of reducing a Level 6 felony can be complex and is contingent on various legal factors and the specifics of your case. Therefore, consulting with an experienced attorney who can navigate the legal system and advocate on your behalf is crucial for exploring these options effectively.”


Contact a DUI Defense Lawyer to Fight Your DUI Charge

Most misdemeanors do not carry a jail sentence. Whether you will actually face incarceration depends on your prior record and the judge. With DUI charges you don’t want to take a chance. Contact a defense lawyer  for DUI at Rathburn Law Office P.C.s today for a free consultation..[/cta]