DWI fatalities are a serious problem in Indiana. There were more than 210 alcohol-impaired fatalities in 2019 alone. During that same year, there were 8,524 arrests related to driving under the influence. 28 of those arrests were for children under the age of 18. It’s clear that driving while intoxicated is problematic in the region, but that doesn’t mean those people arrested don’t deserve a fair chance in court.
There are several factors that can influence the legitimacy and seriousness of a DUI charge. Faulty equipment, poor testing procedures, and false evidence can all lead to an erroneous arrest. In some cases, you may be charged with a far more serious felony DUI. Working with a Marion County Felony DUI Defense Lawyer presents a chance to have those charges reduced or eliminated entirely.
At Rathburn Law in Marion County, IN, we deal with serious DUI charges on a daily basis. Some of these charges have no real foundation to support them. Your case may be one where the charges simply do not match the crime. If you’re currently facing a felony DUI charge, then you need to stop and contact an experienced law firm. Call us today at 317.671.8965 to discuss your case.
Can I Be Charged with a Felony DWI in Indiana?
Yes. A DUI charge can run the range from a simple misdemeanor to a very serious felony. It will depend on various circumstances, including your criminal history, whether children were involved, and whether injury or death occurred at the time. In some cases, the judge is allowed to use discretion and may be convinced that a misdemeanor is a more appropriate charge.
Your blood alcohol level(BAC) at the time will also influence the severity of the charge in Indiana. Indiana relies on a “per se” BAC limit law. This means that if your BAC is above 0.08 percent while operating a vehicle there is no additional evidence required to support an OWI charge.
If your BAC is between 0.08 and 0.15 percent on your first DUI charge, then it will be considered a Class C misdemeanor. This is punishable with a period of 60 days in jail and a fine of $500. If your BAC is above 0.15 percent, then the charge is upgraded to a Class A misdemeanor. This charge can carry a 12-month imprisonment period and a fine as high as $5,000.
When you have a driver’s license and operate a vehicle in Indiana you are consenting to submit to chemical testing by authorities when required. Refusing a breathalyzer in this state will lead to the immediate suspension of your license for one year and a temporary arrest. If you have a previous DUI charge, then the suspension will be two years regardless of whether you were intoxicated. Whether you are arrested for refusing a breathalyzer or arrested for having a BAC above 0.08 percent, your next step should always be to contact a professional DUI defense attorney.
What is Considered a Felony DUI in Indiana?
If you have a BAC above 0.15 percent and operate a vehicle with a passenger who is under the age of 18, then the charge can be upgraded to a level 6 felony even if it is your first offense. A level 6 felony is considered the least serious category of a felony in the state. By comparison, burglary is a level 4 felony. Felonies in a lower numbered category are considered more severe.
The prison time for a level 6 DUI felony can range from 6 months to 2 1/12 years. It can also carry a fine as high as $10,000. The judge does have the option to reduce the felony, which can lower the required prison time or fine. A felony can be reduced by the judge, as a result of a plea agreement, or through a later sentence adjustment. Your lawyer can help you pursue each of these options to reduce your charges.
There are a few other ways in which a DUI charge can be upgraded to a felony in Indiana. If you are a habitual violator, cause serious harm or injury, or cause the death of a law enforcement animal, then you will be charged with a DWI felony. These felonies range from level 6 to level 4.
What is a Habitual DWI Felony Charge?
The most common felony DWI charges throughout the country are habitual DWI charges. Each state has slightly different legislation to determine exactly what is considered a habitual DWI felony. However, the premise always stays the same. Habitual felony charges are specifically for offenders who repeat the same or similar crimes within a specified time frame.
In many states, you are allowed up to 3 DUI charges within a certain period before you can be charged with a habitual DWI felony. In Indiana, your second DWI charge can immediately qualify you for a level 6 DWI felony. The charge must have taken place within 7 years of the current charge. A habitual DWI charge carries a maximum sentence of 30 months and a maximum fine of $10,000.
What Other Felony DUI Charges Could I Face?
There are five clear DUI felonies outlined in Indiana legislation. Any misdemeanor or DWI felony can be escalated to an aggravated felony if it meets certain criteria. A few examples include driving while intoxicated in a school zone, receiving a DUI charge without a license, and operating a school bus while intoxicated. These are all considered aggravated felonies and carry harsher penalties.
Some states separate their vehicular homicide charges into separate categories and stages. Those charges relate specifically to deaths that occur during the operation of a vehicle. Indiana does not have these types of statutes. Instead, they most often rely on reckless homicide charges.
A person operating a vehicle can be charged with reckless homicide if they acted in a reckless way that caused the death of another person. That includes acting in a way with clear disregard for the potential harm it could cause. Reckless homicide is a level 5 felony. Most charges that involve unlawful death while driving intoxicated are classified as reckless homicide.
Reckless Homicide – Driving While Intoxicated
This charge requires a person to operate a vehicle with a BAC of at least 0.08 percent or while under the influence of a schedule I or II substance. While intoxicated, if they cause the death of another person, then they can be charged with a level 5 felony. This charge carries a maximum term of six years in prison and a fine of $10,000. The charges are identical to a standard reckless homicide charge.
Indiana does not have a separate category for misdemeanor death by vehicle. It is a state that takes road safety and DUI charges very seriously. Any reckless action that results in the death of another person could result in serious felony charges. However, with the right DUI defense lawyer, you can still build a strong defense.
Felony Serious Injury by Vehicle
This is another very common way in which a misdemeanor DUI charge can be upgraded to a serious felony. Any person who causes serious bodily injury to someone else while operating a vehicle under the influence will face this charge. It is classified as a level 5 felony and carries the same punishment as reckless homicide.
For these charges to land, it needs to be shown that the victim did suffer serious bodily harm and that harm was the direct result of the defendant driving while intoxicated. Serious bodily harm is classified as any injury that results in permanent disfigurement, permanent loss of bodily function, the loss of limbs or organs, extreme pain, or the loss of a fetus.
If there are multiple victims involved, then a separate charge will be applied for each injured person. The same applies to reckless homicide cases involving DWI charges. Each dead or injured party will add a count to the charge and increase the potential fine and jail time.
Aggravated Felony DWI Charges
Any of these DWI felony charges can be escalated to a more serious felony under certain conditions. Typically, if minors were involved or if the accident took place in a school zone, then the charges will be more severe. Similarly, if you have a history of DWI charges within the last five years, then the charges will be escalated.
In these cases, level 5 felony charges become more severe than level 4 felonies. These new charges carry a prison term between 2 and 12 years. The maximum fine remains at $10,000.
Contact An Experienced Marion County Felony DUI Defense Lawyer Today!
The best way to avoid DWI charges is to stay sober on the road. But even that is no guarantee that an eager officer or attorney won’t try to add erroneous charges to build their case. As an American and a resident of Marion County, Indiana, you have a legal right to the best legal representation available. You may be able to avoid the charges entirely or at least reduce the severity of the punishment. You’ll need professional help to get the job done. Call our office at 317.671.8965 to discuss your felony DUI defense.