Rates of arrests for drunk driving (DUIs) rise substantially during the summer months. Punishment can vary drastically depending on the circumstances that led to the arrest, ranging from a small fine to several years in prison. Factors that influence how harsh of a punishment a drunk driver will receive include how drunk the driver was, whether the driver injured another person while driving drunk, and whether the driver has been arrested for driving drunk before. This blog post will explain how DUIs are classified in Indiana based on these factors, and how serious of a punishment a drunk driver can expect to receive depending on how the DUI is classified.
The law classifies criminal offenses as either misdemeanors or felonies. Misdemeanors carry lighter sentences and usually result in fines rather than jail time. Felonies are usually punished with at least a short period of jail time and can warrant punishment of over a decade in prison, depending on the seriousness of the offense. Our blog post on criminal sentencing details the sentencing ranges for each type of misdemeanor and felony in Indiana.
Misdemeanors (Indiana Code §§ 9-30-5-1 and 9-30-5-2)
A DUI will be classified as a misdemeanor rather than a felony if the drunk driver has never been arrested for a DUI before and did not injure anyone while driving drunk. DUIs may be either Class C or Class A misdemeanors, depending on the driver’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) and whether their driving endangered anyone else.
If a driver’s BAC was more than 0.08 grams of alcohol but less than 0.15 grams of alcohol, the DUI will be a Class C misdemeanor. This is the lowest classification of a DUI and will result in the lightest sentence range of all DUI charges.
Alternatively, if a driver’s BAC was more than 0.15 grams of alcohol or the driver endangered another person, the DUI will be classified as a Class A misdemeanor. Endangerment does not require actually harming anyone, but merely putting another person at risk of harm. Class A misdemeanors carry higher sentences than Class C misdemeanors, but lighter sentences than all types of felonies.
Felonies (Indiana Code §§ 9-30-5-3, 9-30-5-4, and 9-30-5-5)
A DUI will be classified as a felony if the drunk driver injured another person and/or has been arrested for a DUI within the previous five years. DUIs may be classified as Level 6, Level 5, or Level 4 felonies, depending on whether the driver caused serious bodily injury to another person, caused death to another person, or has been arrested for a DUI before. The sentence range will be harsher if more of these circumstances were present in the case.
A DUI will be a Level 6 felony under one of two circumstances. First, if the driver was convicted of a separate DUI within the previous five years. Or second, if the driver was at least twenty-one years old and endangered a minor who was a passenger in the driver’s vehicle. Level 6 felonies carry the lightest sentences of all felonies.
More harshly, a DUI will be a Level 5 felony if one of two circumstances was present. First, if the driver caused serious bodily injury to another person. Or second, if the driver had previously been convicted of a DUI causing either death or serious bodily injury to another person. Level 5 felonies carry harsher sentences than Level 6 felonies, but lighter sentences than Level 4 felonies.
Finally, a DUI will be a Level 4 felony in one of two circumstances. First, if the driver caused serious bodily injury to another person and had been arrested for a separate DUI within the previous five years. Or second, if the driver caused the death or catastrophic injury of another person. Level 4 felonies carry the harshest sentences of all possible felony and misdemeanor charges for a DUI.
Remember to drive safely and never operate a vehicle while intoxicated. However, if you have been charged with a DUI, contact McNeelyLaw today at 317-825-5110 to talk to an experienced criminal law attorney who can help you navigate your case.
This McNeelyLaw LLP publication should not be construed as legal advice or legal opinion of any specific facts or circumstances. The contents are intended for general informational purposes only, and you are urged to consult your own lawyer on any specific legal questions you may have concerning your situation.