Written by attorney Jeffery Michael Haupt

Operating while intoxicated doesn't just mean drinking in Indiana

When most people think of OWI or DUI charges they probably relate it to driving under the influence of alcohol. To be certain, this is probably the majority of OWI or DUI convictions and charges in Indiana, but what about driving under the influence of other substances?

First, let’s consider the definition of intoxication under Indiana law. I.C. 9-13-2-86 provides the following definition for intoxication:

“Intoxicated" means under the influence of: (1) alcohol; (2) a controlled substance (as defined in IC 35-48-1); (3) a drug other than alcohol or a controlled substance; (4) a substance described in IC 35-46-6-2 or IC 35-46-6-3; or (5) a combination of substances described in subdivisions (1) through (4); so that there is an impaired condition of thought and action and the loss of normal control of a person’s faculties.

Just from the definitional standpoint it is clear that intoxication can result from anything that could impair your ability to operate a car. How does this relate to an OWI or DUI charge under Indiana law?

We can look at two different statutes to get an idea of how a person can be charged for Operating While Intoxicated (even if the intoxication is not caused by alcohol). First would be I.C. 9-30-5-1 which charges as a Class C Misdemeanor as follows, “ A person who operates a vehicle with a controlled substance listed in schedule I or II of IC 35-48-2 or its metabolite in the person’s body commits a Class C misdemeanor." However, even the consumption of substances outside schedule I or II could lead to an OWI or DUI charge if you are operating a vehicle, because I.C. 9-30-5-2 provides for a Class C Misdemeanor charge for operating a vehicle while intoxicated. This charge can be enhanced to a Class A Misdemeanor if you are being accused of “endangering a person."

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