Risks of Being a Passenger Involved in an OWI

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There are urban legends or modern ‘old’ wives tales where a passenger spends a night in jail. Is it possible? Maybe. However, it’s unlikely that the passenger involved will even have to go down to the station. It is possible that you could face some charges. There are a lot of “could” and “possibly” situations here because the laws surrounding OWIs aren’t always so clear. An Indiana drunk driving defense attorney can help explain your charges.

OWI/OWI Related Charges and Involving a DUI Attorney in Indiana

Indiana has a host of laws about drinking and driving. Commonly dubbed as ‘DUI’ the official term in Indiana is an OWI or Operating While Intoxicated. It applies to the use of alcohol as well as other legal and illegal drugs. Even taking over the counter medication such as Benadryl can lead to an OWI.

The modern myths of OWI related charges started in the most extreme scenarios. An accident leading to the loss of life and severe property damage could result in the passenger facing reckless endangerment charges. Then that possibility warped into a scary tale of every passenger in a DUI facing “OWI related charges.”

What If the Passenger was also Intoxicated?

Can a cop arrest you for being drunk in public? Yes. Is it warranted in this situation? No. It’s also very uncommon.

After a cop pulls charges the driver, they have to decide what to do with you and the vehicle. Generally speaking, police will conduct a field sobriety test and occasionally a breathalyzer to determine if the passenger is also drunk. If not, they can become responsible for the car and leave the scene.  This is rare.

If the passenger is unfit to drive, the police have a few options. Some will allow you to call someone to come pick you up and allow a sober person to take possession of the vehicle. Or, they can take you with them to the station, let you call someone, and have them pick you up there without charges.

On a rare occasion, a cop will attempt to charge the passenger with public intoxication. These charges are stressful for everyone because that wasn’t your intention. Before anything else, get yourself an Indianapolis drunk driving attorney.  Most importantly, do not answer questions or make any statements.

What if the Passenger Witnessed the OWI?

If you were a passenger and allowed the driver to operate the vehicle while intoxicated, you might feel that you’re at risk. Afterall you knew that to some degree they had been drinking and that drunk driving is illegal. Depending on your level of sobriety that night, the strong argument is that you would never have allowed a person you though was drunk drive you anywhere.

First, you have no way of knowing the extent of their intoxication. It is both possible and plausible for you to believe that the driver was under the legal limit. Additionally, it may have appeared that they were more capable of driving than you if you were also drinking.

Second, there is the possibility that you were not aware of the situation. Falling asleep in the car or being unconscious are both possibilities that could exempt you from being able to protest or respond to the driver’s actions.

You might face reckless endangerment charges if you were aware that the driver was severely intoxicated. There are certain aspects to consider though. If you made no report, and there was extensive property or personal damage, then reckless endangerment is a possibility. These charges are seen usually when a DUI crash results in loss of life.

Can I Be in Trouble as A Passenger? Contact an Indianapolis DUI Lawyer

It’s unlikely that you’ll have anything to answer to, but you probably do need legal help. If you are facing any OWI related charges, you will want to spend time carefully thinking over your options.

For example, if an officer arrested you for public intoxication, you will need to fight this charge. You had no intention of being under the influence of alcohol in public. Many people are caught in an OWI while heading home. That’s even more true when passengers face charges.

Call the Rathburn Law Office for help in your defense. An experienced drunk driving defense attorney on the Rathburn team can help you understand your charges and your options for fighting the charge.