What is OWI?

What is OWI and the Role of an OWI Defense Attorney?

In Indiana, the term “OWI” (Operating While Intoxicated) encompasses the legal definition of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The key distinction in OWI cases lies in the definition of “operate” versus “drive” when it comes to a motor vehicle.

Under Indiana law, the term “operate” is broadly defined beyond merely driving a vehicle. It includes being in physical control or manipulating any of the vehicle’s controls, even if the vehicle is stationary. This means that a person can be charged with OWI even if they are not actively driving the vehicle on the road but are in a position where they can control its movement or functionality.

In Indiana, drunk driving laws delineate OWI into three categories, influenced by factors like blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and prior offenses. The BAC legal limit in Indiana is 0.08% for adult drivers. However, impairment can occur at lower BAC levels, with even small amounts of alcohol potentially affecting driving ability. As BAC levels rise, so do the negative effects on the central nervous system, impairing essential abilities for safe driving​​.


An OWI defense attorney in Indiana plays a crucial role in navigating these complex legal waters. Their responsibilities typically include:

  • Evaluating the Case: Assessing the details of the arrest and charge to identify potential defense strategies.
  • Challenging Evidence: Contesting the validity of the BAC results, the legality of the traffic stop, and other procedural aspects.
  • Negotiating Penalties: Working towards reducing charges or penalties, especially in cases where a misdemeanor might escalate to a felony.
  • Representing in Court: Providing representation in legal proceedings, advocating on behalf of the client.
  • Advising on Legal Rights: Informing the client about their legal rights and the implications of an OWI charge.
  • Handling License Issues: Assisting with issues related to license suspension and reinstatement.

Given the potential for significant fines, jail time, and long-term consequences like driver’s license revocation, having a skilled OWI lawyer is essential for anyone facing an OWI charge in Indiana. The seriousness of an OWI conviction cannot be overstated, as it carries severe legal consequences and penalties.

They not only provide legal representation but also guide the accused through the legal ramifications of their charges, aiming for the best possible outcome. A law enforcement officer’s perception of impairment plays a crucial role in determining and charging individuals with OWI, making it vital to understand the nuances of these charges.

Facing OWI charges? Call now for a free consultation

Indiana OWI Laws Explained

In Indiana, impaired driving offenses are defined under three main categories of OWI offenses:

  1. Operating a motor vehicle with a BAC of 0.08 or higher.
  2. Driving with any level of drugs in your system.
  3. Driving while actually intoxicated by drugs or alcohol.

Any of these offenses can lead to a misdemeanor charge, and in some cases, escalate to a felony. An OWI offense in Indiana is determined by factors such as blood alcohol content, the presence of drugs, and the driver’s behavior. It’s essential to engage an OWI attorney early in the process.

Understanding DUI Penalties in Indiana

Indiana prohibits intoxicated driving, whether due to alcohol or drugs. For alcohol, the legal limit is a BAC of 0.08. A breath test device is commonly used to measure BAC. Penalties for OWI vary:

  • A BAC of 0.08 constitutes a Class C misdemeanor, potentially leading to up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.
  • A BAC of 0.15 or higher escalates to a Class A misdemeanor, with penalties including up to a year in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Driving while intoxicated is considered a serious criminal offense in Indiana. The gravity of the offense means that individuals charged with OWI face significant legal consequences, including potential jail time and substantial fines.

Consulting a DUI lawyer is advisable for anyone facing these charges in Indiana, as the legal intricacies of OWI charges and drunk driving offenses can be complex.

Driving Under the Influence of Drugs in Indiana


In Indiana, driving under the influence of drugs results in an OWI charge. This includes operating a vehicle while under the influence of Schedule I or II controlled substances, such as:

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Opiates
  • Hallucinogenic
  • Methamphetamines

The presence of these drugs or their metabolites in your system leads to OWI charges.

The state’s statutes also cover driving while actually intoxicated by any drug. Even without immediate testing, signs of intoxication can warrant an arrest.

Therefore, it’s crucial to understand that any drug impairment while driving is prosecutable under Indiana’s OWI laws.

Comparing OWI and DUI: Understanding the Differences

While OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) are often used interchangeably, there are subtle differences in some jurisdictions.

In Indiana, OWI is the more commonly used term. Both OWI and DUI involve operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or controlled substances, but the specific legal definitions and implications can vary. A drunk driving offense, whether classified as OWI or DUI, carries serious legal consequences that can significantly impact an individual’s life.

Understanding these nuances is crucial, especially when facing such charges. It’s advisable to consult with an experienced attorney who specializes in these areas to navigate the complexities of Indiana’s laws on intoxicated driving.

OWI and License Reinstatement

After an OWI charge in Indiana, license reinstatement involves a specific process. This typically includes a mandatory driver’s license suspension period, after which the driver may apply for reinstatement.

The process might also require completing a substance abuse education course, paying reinstatement fees, and providing proof of financial responsibility.

In some cases, the court might require the installation of an ignition interlock device on the driver’s vehicle. The exact requirements can vary based on the severity of the offense and any prior convictions.

FAQs About OWI

What is an OWI in Indiana?

Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or higher, or while intoxicated by drugs, is considered OWI.

What are the penalties for OWI in Indiana?

Penalties can include jail time, fines, license suspension, and mandatory participation in substance abuse programs.

Can I refuse a chemical test in Indiana?

Refusal can lead to automatic license suspension and potentially aggravate your case.

How can an OWI attorney help?

An OWI attorney can provide legal guidance, help challenge evidence, and negotiate for reduced penalties or alternative sentencing.

OWI Lawyer

Indiana takes a Zero Tolerance Approach. Contact a DUI Defense Attorney.

Indiana takes a zero-tolerance approach to controlled substances and their metabolites in your body or an alcohol concentration in excess of .02 for a minor.   Regardless of your charge, you will need an OWI lawyer. Contact an OWI defense lawyer at Rathburn Law Office P.C. P.C. today. 317.671.8965