Written by attorney Jeffery Michael Haupt

When does a DUI become a Felony under Indiana law?

Under most scenarios and for most people an OWI or DUI charge will lead to a misdemeanor charge. However, there are instances when an OWI can become more than just a misdemeanor.

Under Indiana Code 9-30-5-3 if you have a prior conviction for an OWI case in the past five (5) years and you end up with a new OWI charge, there is a good chance that you could be looking at a class D Felony:

Except as provided in subsection (b), a person who violates section 1 or 2 of this chapter commits a Class D felony if: (1) the person has a previous conviction of operating while intoxicated that occurred within the five (5) years immediately preceding the occurrence of the violation of section 1 or 2 of this chapter

Facing a misdemeanor DUI charge can create stress enough, but as a felony, you are facing a higher sentence range (6 months to 3 years), a felony criminal record, higher fines, lengthy terms of probation, etc.

A prior conviction is not the only reason a DUI can become a felony under Indiana law. Other examples can be situations where an OWI can become a felony charge include situations where:

  • you cause serious bodily injury while driving while intoxicated (a Class D or Class C Felony)
  • you have a passenger who is under the age of eighteen (18) ( a Class D Felony)
  • you cause death during the course of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (a Class C or Class B Felony)

The possible penalties for Class C and Class B Felonies are rather extreme and could lead to prison terms of up to 20 years in the case of a Class B Felony.

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