Do not fool yourself into thinking a first-time OWI in Indiana will simply result in a slap on the wrist with no real consequences. There are significant penalties for your first OWI that could impact your life now and in the future.
Before we delve into the penalties, keep in mind that if you get an OWI and your blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) is at or above 0.08% but less than 0.15%, you have committed a Class C misdemeanor.
If your BAC is at or above 0.15%, you have committed a Class A misdemeanor. The penalties for a Class A misdemeanor are greater than a Class C misdemeanor even if it is your first OWI.
Getting an OWI can be a major hit to your pocketbook. If your BAC was at or above 0.08% but less than 0.15%, you can face a fine of up to $500. If your BAC was 0.15% or greater, that fine jumps up to as much as $5,000.
In addition, the court fees and costs associated with processing an OWI can cost $300 or more.
Moreover, you may be legally required to carry SR22 insurance before you can begin driving again after getting an OWI. SR22 insurance is not a separate policy. Instead, it is an endorsement that shows you meet the minimum coverage required by the state. Still, SR22 insurance can cost as much as 70% more than standard motor vehicle insurance making it a very costly consequence of an OWI.
Penalties on your time
You might think a first-time OWI is simply a slap on the wrist, but this is not true in Indiana. Your first OWI can land you in jail for 30 to 60 days if your BAC was at or above 0.08, but less than 0.15. If your BAC was 0.15% or greater, that jail sentence ratchets up to one year.
Even if you are not jailed for your first OWI, your time will still be compromised due to other possible requirements of your sentence. There is the possibility that you will be placed on probation. You may need to complete a substance abuse course at your own cost. You might also have to attend a victim impact panel. Finally, there is the possibility that you will have to regularly submit to drug and alcohol testing.
If you get an OWI, you may be subject to a two-year driver’s license suspension. It is also possible that the court will order you to have an ignition interlock device (IID) installed on your vehicle.
There are also consequences for getting an OWI that are imposed by society, not the courts.
For example, if you get an OWI, even if it is your first one, it will show up on a criminal background check. Potential employers, landlords and other members of the public have the right to perform a background check before offering you a job or housing. With an OWI on your record, you could have trouble gaining employment or finding a place to live.
Moreover, even if you had a good job prior to getting an OWI, your OWI could put that job in jeopardy. If your job involves driving, and your license is suspended due to OWI, you may be let go for not being able to perform your main job duties. If you have a professional license and you get an OWI, that license can be suspended.
Having an OWI on your record can disqualify you from certain benefits. For example, you might be ineligible for federal student loans if there is an OWI on your record. In addition, having an OWI on your record might make it more difficult to qualify for public housing.
Take your OWI charges seriously
The penalties for a first-time OWI are harsh in Indiana. Moreover, if there are exigent circumstances, such as getting an OWI with a minor in the vehicle or getting into a drunk driving crash that causes injury or death, you can expect to face felony charges and enhanced penalties for a conviction, even if it is your first OWI.
So, you will want to take your OWI charge seriously, rather than assuming that because it is a one-time mistake there will not be any significant consequences.