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OWI and vehicular homicide: How does Indiana handle this offense?

Having one too many drinks and attempting to drive while drunk can lead to criminal charges in Indiana. Operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OWI) is a serious offense because of how a drunk driver can easily injure other drivers and pedestrians with their poor control over their vehicle.

But what happens if you hit someone while driving drunk, and that other person dies due to how severe their injuries are?

Vehicular homicide is an even graver criminal offense that carries even harsher penalties. From the charges all the way to the lifelong consequences of a conviction, the stakes couldn’t be higher when impaired driving leads to a tragic loss of life.

Vehicular homicide charges

According to state law, a person who causes the death of another person while operating a vehicle:

  • With a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher;
  • While intoxicated;
  • With a controlled substance in their blood

… can face charges vehicular homicide, which is a Level 5 felony. By comparison, a regular OWI usually only becomes a felony if the offender has a prior history of offenses, or was arrested while driving drunk with a passenger under 18.

The penalties for vehicular homicide

A Level 5 felony conviction for vehicular homicide in Indiana can result in a prison sentence of up to six years and $10,000 in fines.

If the person has a previous OWI conviction within the last seven years, or if the victim was a law enforcement officer or a first responder, the offense becomes a Level 4 felony. This carries a potential prison sentence of up to 12 years and $10,000 in fines.

The long term consequences

A conviction also leads to a felony added to the person’s criminal record. This can negatively impact the person’s future opportunities. A criminal record can make it harder for a person to secure employment or retain a professional license, for instance.

The court may also revoke the offender’s driving privileges, and depending on the number of prior offenses, the revocation could be permanent.

The loss of life resulting from impaired driving is a tragedy that carries severe legal and personal consequences for the offender. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t have any right to defend yourself in court if you face charges. An experienced legal professional may be able to advise you on your case and fight for a positive outcome to your case.