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How serious a problem is driving while intoxicated? Consider the following:
- It's been reported that an alcohol-related fatality occurs every 30 minutes.
- An alcohol-related traffic injury occurs every two minutes.
- Almost half of the drivers arrested for drunk driving are repeat offenders.
- Two-thirds of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive.
People process alcohol differently.
What may cause one person to feel tipsy, may have little effect on someone else. What may cause one person to register a higher than allowed blood alcohol content (BAC), may leave another within the legal limit.
In general, men can drink more than women without being legally drunk. In general, heavier people can drink more than those who are lighter.
But, what most people don't realize is that by the time you actually feel drunk, you are likely much over the legal BAC limit. What most people don't realize is that your driving skills begin to be impaired after your first drink.
Indeed, with a BAC of .04%―half the legal limit in Indiana―your chances of being involved in an accident elevate. What skills are affected? Your simple reaction time, and your emergency response.
By the time your BAC reaches .06%―still well under the legal limit―you are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as a non-drinking driver. Skills affected? Your coordination, comprehension, eye movement, lane tracking, and attention.
By the time you reach the legal limit of .08%, you're three times more likely to be in a fatal crash. All of the above skills are affected, and now also your speed control, braking, gear changing and overall judgment.
And, by the time your BAC reaches .10%, you're 12 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than the non-drinking driver. So, it should be obvious: Even if you're not legally "drunk," it doesn't mean it's safe for you to drive.
Indiana's substance abuse laws fall under the Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) umbrella. You may be found guilty of simply being under the influence of a substance while driving (meaning that it affected your ability to drive), or being over the blood alcohol content legal limit.
You are considered to be legally drunk in Indiana if you have BAC of at least .08%. If you have a commercial driver's license, however, the limit is .04%. If you're younger than 21, the limit is only .02%.
Additionally, if your BAC is over .15%, you will face more severe punishment.
If you are suspected of OWI, the police officer will ask you take a blood, breath or urine test to determine the amount of alcohol in your bloodstream. The officer chooses what test you take; you don't have a say. Also, you don't have the right to talk to a lawyer before taking the test.
If the test shows that your BAC exceeds the legal limit, you will lose your license for up to 180 days on an administrative suspension. Moreover, you will face additional suspension time and other penalties if you are convicted in court.
You may refuse to take the test, but if you do so, the police officer will take your license on the spot. Also, your license could be suspended for up to a year. Again, this is just the administrative suspension; you'll face other penalties if you are convicted in court.
If you are found guilty of OWI in court, you may lose your driving privileges for another 90 days to two years depending on the court's ruling. If you've had previous OWI infractions, your suspension time will be on the longer side. Also, you may face additional penalties (including jail time) and fines.
If you're convicted but are a first-time offender, the court may allow you to have a probationary license, which will allow you some driving privileges. Also, you may only have to serve 30 days of your suspension.
As a stipulation of these lesser penalties, the court may order you to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle. This device measures your BAC, and will not allow your engine to start if you're over the legal limit.
You may still have to serve jail time, and pay additional fines.
Anyone who drives while still under an OWI suspension will face a 60-day jail sentence.
The state has a habitual offender law that affects drivers guilty of multiple OWI offenses.
If you have two OWI offenses within a 10-year period that result in an injury or death, your license will be suspended for 10 years. Similarly, if you accumulate three or more OWI violations within that same period, you will also lose your driving privileges for 10 years.
If you are caught driving while under these suspensions, you may lose your license for life.
Moreover, if you are convicted of two OWI offenses that involve death, you will lose your driving privileges for life.
All of these violations also carry the possibility of jail time and fines. Anytime you're involved in an OWI offense, you might consider hiring a lawyer to defend you.
If you have a OWI offense, you will be required to have high-risk insurance for three years after your conviction. You'll need to have your insurance agent file an SR-22 form with the BMV. If you fail to do so, or if you cancel the insurance, your license will be suspended again.
Of course, high-risk insurance carries much greater premiums than that of the average insurance policy. Additionally, your current insurance company may cancel your policy after your OWI offense, thus forcing you to find another carrier.
Once you have served your suspension and other penalties, you may apply for reinstatement at any of the eight reinstatement branches located throughout Indiana.
You'll have to pay a hefty reinstatement fee, though. The first time you lose your license, you'll have to pay $150 to reinstate it. The second time it happens, you'll have to pay $225. If it happens three or more times, it'll cost you $300.
For more information on OWI laws and penalties, consult the Indiana Vehicle Code.Articles
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