Top 7 Answers to DUI/OVWI Questions
Top Indiana DUI attorney Mark Nicholson answers 7 questions people accused of Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (OVWI) need to know.
1. What Happens If I Am Suspected of an OVWI Accident?
First, an OVWI is Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (aka DUI, Driving Under the Influence or DWI, Driving While Intoxicated). In Indiana, it is OVWI.
Second, if there was an accident, the police will want to know who was involved, and who appeared to be at fault. The police will talk to the people involved right away. They will see if there are other witnesses. The police will look to see if either driver has been drinking. The officer may even check the passengers to determine if they are under the influence of alcohol or some other illegal substance.
The police will look for bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and an odor of alcohol. I will point out that alcohol technically does not have an odor. But it is common practice for the police to write in their reports that they smelled the odor of alcohol. They will look to see if you were unsteady on your feet, or your clothes were disheveled.
If someone is in a severe accident and suffering from a head injury, then they may have an unsteady walk or cannot walk, and officers should put that in their report.
2. Can Police Lie to You?
Can police officers lie to you? Absolutely! Yes, police officers can lie to you. And it’s legal for them to do so. You need to remember that you have the right to remain silent. You have the right not to incriminate yourself.
3. Do I Have To Talk To The Police?
You have the right to remain silent. You have no duty to tell the police anything except your identity and provide them with identifying paperwork such as driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance.
If you choose not to answer the police’s questions, do so politely. Always be polite because, in most instances, the officer will not be happy and will be very nervous. You can let the officer know you will exercise your right to remain silent.
If you have any doubts about whether you were under the influence, then the minute the police approach, you should respectfully tell them you do not want to make any further statements without an attorney present. Do not be rude or belligerent because the officer will not like the fact you are exercising your Fifth Amendment Right to remain silent.
You may also ask if you are being detained or are you free to leave. If you are free to leave, then you may want to take that opportunity to leave the scene, preferably by walking away if you have been drinking. If you are not free to leave but are detained, then you should stop talking because the police are not there to help you but arrest you.
4. What is a Standard Field Sobriety Test?
At some point, the officer will ask you to exit your vehicle and perform Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST). Field Sobriety Tests are a quick and easy way for the police to investigate if a person is under the influence of alcohol. The tests can be subjective, and if you fail, even one of the Field Sobriety Tests, the police will use that failure as evidence you were intoxicated.
If you decline to take the Field Sobriety Tests, then there will be less evidence the police have against you. You have the right to refuse the Field Sobriety Tests. Also, you may also decline the test if you are over a certain age, have physical problems or other physical issues that may affect your ability to complete the tests successfully.
5. Do I Have To Blow Into The Portable Breath Test?
What is a PBT test? After asking you to do the Field Sobriety Tests, the police will ask you to blow into a Portable Breath Test Machine (PBT). If you blow into the Portable Breath Test Machine and there is alcohol in your system, the police now have additional evidence against you. You have the right to decline the Portable Breath Test.
6. What is the Implied Consent Law and the Chemical Test?
Finally, the police will read you Indiana’s Implied Consent Law and ask you to submit to a Chemical Test. The police put you in a Catch-22. You have the right to refuse the Chemical Test; but there are severe legal consequences.
First, your license is automatically suspended for at least one year. Second, refusing to take the chemical test can be used against you in court and at trial. Third, if you refuse, the police can get a warrant to have your blood drawn by a qualified person. It is harder for the prosecutor to prove a case without the field sobriety tests or breath tests. In addition, it’s harder for them to prove when they have and no blood test.
7. What Are The Penalties?
What are the penalties for a DUI/OVWI in Indiana? Prosecutors typically charge first-time drunk driving cases with no accident or injury, as a Class C or A misdemeanor. A Class A misdemeanor carries a penalty of up to one year in jail and a $5,000.00 fine. The level of offense will depend on the level of Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) and if you have had previous OVWI convictions. If you have previous OVWI convictions it will increase your potential penalties. Your penalty will be higher if someone was injured or killed or if you had a minor child in the vehicle. In certain situations, the charge can be a felony.