What is OWI?

What is OWI?

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

OWI, or Operating While Intoxicated, is a legal term in Indiana synonymous with DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Intoxicated). It refers to the act of operating a motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs. In Indiana, an OWI charge can have serious consequences, and the role of an experienced OWI lawyer becomes critical.

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.

They not only provide legal representation but also guide the accused through the legal ramifications of their charges, aiming for the best possible outcome.

Facing OWI charges? Call now for a free consultation 317.671.8965



Indiana OWI Laws Explained

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

  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. 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.

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


A visual representation of a field sobriety test being conducted by law enforcement, demonstrating the enforcement of DUI and OWI laws, especially when controlled substances are involved.


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.


An image depicting an individual in the driver's seat being arrested for an intoxicated DWI offense under Indiana laws, highlighting the risk of losing driving privileges and potential jail time.


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.

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.


What is OWI? Graphic showing a driver's license being confiscated following DUI charges, with a backdrop of Indiana legal texts, emphasizing the serious implications of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, including jail time and community service.


OWI and License Reinstatement

After an OWI charge in Indiana, license reinstatement involves a specific process. This typically includes a mandatory 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.

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. today. 317.671.8965