Aggravating factors can be present in nearly any charge. But there are particular details of your situation that can make a DUI substantially worse to handle. As a DUI lawyer in Indiana will tell you, this state is fairly strict about OWIs and distributes penalties with a heavy hand.
Circumstances that are aggravating are specific factors that make the alleged crime more heinous or worse. However, the extent of these factors often plays out in a what-if scenario in the courtroom. For example, if you were driving and hit a sculpture in a lawn. The judge involved may pose the scenario: “What if that sculpture had been a child?”
These what-if or imaginary circumstances are more present in Indiana than other states because of the low tolerance of OWIs.
Previous DUI Convictions
If you have been convicted of a DUI related offense within seven years of your current arrest you will be charged with a Level 6 Felony. That level charge calls for a sentence of six (6) months to a maximum two and a half (2.5) years in state prison. In addition to the felony enhancement, if you have three prior convictions in your lifetime, you could be charged with being an Habitual Vehicular Substance Offender (HVSO). The HVSO enhancement penalty varies based upon the underlying charge.
Technically there is no outline for using property damage as an aggravating factor in an OWI charge. The allegations often refer people back to their insurance companies to let them sort it out. However, these issues can come up during sentencing. As mentioned above a judge could choose to use the property damage restitution amount as a term of your probation. That term could become a basis for violating your probation should the owner of the property that was damaged not be made whole.
It’s not right, and it’s not fair. Property damage happens in nearly all car accidents. Don’t let a cop, lawyer, or judge intimidate you into believing that property damage has anything to do with your OWI charge. You will have to make the property owner whole, but the damage cannot be used to enhance your charges.
The only thing to worry yourself with regarding property damage is your car insurance company. If you were involved with one or more other vehicles, then this would play out as a standard claim. Your OWI charge will cause problems and may delay the process for everyone involved. However, an OWI charge does not mean you were at fault in any way. You can fight the charge and fight the presence of that charge in your insurance claims.
It’s important to know that no detail of the situation will impact your case.
A DUI Lawyer in Indiana Explains Personal Injury Presence
Causing ‘serious’ bodily injury, including loss of life, will result in a higher level felony charge. That could mean significant jail time and possibly a ten thousand dollar fine.
If you inflict serious bodily injury on another person, the charge is a Level 5 Felony. If you have a previous OWI-DUI in the five years preceding the current charge, the charge is a Level 4 Felony. Even if your first charge contained no personal injury.
A Level 5 Felony charge has a possible one to a six-year prison sentence with the possibility of up to a ten thousand dollar fine. A Level 4 Felony conviction has a sentencing range of between two years and 12 years with the recommended sentence of six (6) years in jail.
One issue that is most present in these charges is: “what is a serious bodily injury?” The law is written as a vague umbrella statement so that judges can apply it where they see fit. A serious bodily injury could refer to someone losing the use of their legs for the rest of their life. That’s serious. However, in the past, many have argued that whiplash is serious injury due to ongoing pain.
If someone dies in the accident the offense is a Level 4 Felony. The potential sentence is the same as outlined above. In both the serious bodily injury case and a death case, if there are multiple injuries and deaths, the state will file a separate count for each person injured or killed.
With matters concerning personal injury as an aggravator, you need a DUI lawyer in Indiana.
Children Present in the Car
In Indiana, if a passenger is under the age of eighteen, the OWI charge becomes Level 6 Felony. Even if this is the driver’s first OWI charge. The mere presence of the minor is all that is required for the felony enhancement. Actual injury to the minor is not required.
A cop could have pulled you over for a standard traffic infraction, then built up to a DUI charge. Certain factors such as refusing to participate in a chemical test can result in an immediate OWI charge, and your child is in the backseat will boost that to a felony charge.
During these cases, you’ll likely have more legal trouble than just your OWI. You may have to deal with Child Protective Services, and charges of child endangerment.
Get Help from a DUI Lawyer in Indiana During Any of These Situations
When you are facing felony-level DUI charges, you will need legal guidance. If there were children in the vehicle, there was loss of life, or if there was extensive property damage don’t hesitate to contact a drunk driving defense attorney.
These charges could result in thousands of dollars in fines, years in jail, and countless administrative penalties as well. Not to mention that in some instances you could face a punitive damage award to pay to the other driver.
Make an appointment with the Rathburn Law Office now. You can learn more about your situation, the charges against you, and about your possible defense strategies.