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Does a drunk driving arrest, first offense, implicate jail time?

In Indiana, the offense of drunk driving is called operating while intoxicated. Yet drunk drivers are not always charged with OWI. Depending on several factors, an experienced drunk driving defense attorney may be able to negotiate a more favorable plea with prosecutors. Specifically, an attorney might negotiate for the lesser charge of reckless driving, in place of OWI.

There is no universal standard or rule that will guarantee a successful plea negotiation. As a law firm that has represented many individuals accused of OWI, however, we evaluate our negotiating leverage based on a client’s prior criminal record, if any; the severity of the incident at issue, including whether others were injured; and whether the local court may be facing any logistical challenges.

Consider the example of a first offender with a blood alcohol level between 0.08 and 0.15 percent. Under state law, this OWI is classified as a Class C misdemeanor. A conviction might result in jail time up to 60 days and a fine up to $500.

An individual facing this type of Class C OWI misdemeanor, with an otherwise clean criminal record, may be situated to seek alternatives to jail time like community service, substance abuse classes, or even a reduced sentence. In addition, if the court’s docket is backlogged, an overworked prosecutor may be more open to the expedient resolution offered by a plea deal.

Of course, the penalties increase for BAC levels higher than 0.15 percent, as well as for repeat offenders or drunk driving accidents that resulted in injuries to others. However, our law firm has experience evaluating the plea potential of such situations, as well as preparing a strong criminal defense for anyone facing OWI charges. In our next post, we’ll look at some of the administrative consequences that the Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles may impose after an OWI arrest.

Source:, “Justice delayed in OWI cases,” Bill Dolan, Jan. 8, 2017

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