Some DUI / OVWI charges are more serious than others, and the State of Indiana has a number of ways to justify this. Factors such as endangerment of and/or harm to others, prior convictions, and severity of intoxication can make the consequences you face more extreme. Let’s break it down, starting with the least alarming scenario.

Class C Misdemeanor

In Indiana, a DUI / OVWI charge always starts as a Class C misdemeanor. At the bare minimum, this charge claims that you either operated a vehicle while intoxicated, or you operated a vehicle with an alcohol concentration equivalent (ACE) of at least .08.* A Class C misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

This kind of charge typically results from a traffic stop that’s unrelated to suspicious driving, like when you’re pulled over for a broken taillight or a minor speeding violation. At the Class C misdemeanor level, there’s no mention of bad driving, which typically leads to a more serious DUI / OVWI charge that includes endangerment.

Class A Misdemeanor

The more common DUI / OVWI charge is the Class A misdemeanor. This means the State is alleging endangerment (bad driving) or that your ACE was .15 or greater. The ACE measurement seems straightforward enough, but the element of endangerment is tough for some people to get their head around—No one else was on the road, so who was I endangering?

The short and somewhat silly answer is that you were endangering yourself by driving so badly. The case law on this point is nonsense, but that’s the rule. What you need to keep in mind is that it’s amazingly easy for police to add endangerment to the DUI / OVWI charge. A Class A misdemeanor carries a maximum penalty of 365 days in jail and a $5,000 fine.

Click here to read on about felony DUI / OVWI charges.

*This means .08 of a gram of alcohol per 100 milliliters of your blood or 210 liters of your breath.