According to a study conducted by Forbes Advisor, Indiana is the fifth-least expensive state to own a car in. Thus, it comes as no surprise that it also ranks ninth among the states with the highest number of vehicle registrations in 2021. However, this statistic comes with another grim reality: a separate statistical analysis by Insurify’s data science team has shown that Indiana ranked as the 10th most car accident-prone state in 2022. Around 9.6% of drivers within the state have an at-fault accident on their record, which is 9% higher than the national average.
Fatalities in alcohol-impaired collisions in Indiana represented 14% of all traffic fatalities within the state in 2020. Out of the drivers killed in fatal DUI collisions, around 40% were alcohol-impaired, while 50% tested positive for one or more drugs. As part of its efforts to combat drunk driving, Indiana is among the 37 states where DUI checkpoints are legal. Ignition interlock devices are also required to be installed on the offender’s vehicle after their second DUI offense.
This article will discuss the DUI laws in the Hoosier State as well as the possible penalties for each offense. It will also provide details on the statute of limitations for DUI claims and the applicable damage caps, depending on your case.
General DUI Laws in Indiana
In Indiana, you can be charged with Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (OVWI) for using a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. While OVWI is the legal term, OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) and DUI (Driving Under the Influence) are also acceptable terms. The specifics of the state’s DUI laws are defined in Indiana Code § 9-30-5.
If a driver meets the following blood alcohol concentration limits, then they are legally considered to be intoxicated and may face DUI charges:
Type of Driver
Drivers under 21
However, the results of a BAC test are not the only basis for a DUI charge. If the traffic officer can prove that the driver had been showing signs of intoxication at the time of questioning, such as slurred speech and confusion, a driver may still be convicted of DUI. Failure to pass the officer's field sobriety test can also result in a DUI charge.
Drug and Metabolite DUIs in Indiana
Traffic law enforcement officers in Indiana administer a test known as the SoToxa Oral Fluid Test, which is used to test for the following drugs:
Chemical components of drugs such as THC can remain in an individual’s system for weeks after they have taken such drugs. These are known as metabolites, and the presence of metabolites can serve as a basis for a DUI conviction in Indiana, even if the driver is not showing signs of impairment at the time of the test.
However, drivers must keep in mind that they have the right to refuse the SoToxa test, and its results cannot actually be used in court as proof of impairment. It is not also recognized by Indiana law as a chemical test, so refusing to take it does not incur the penalties for refusing a chemical test.
Indiana’s Implied Consent Laws
The details of implied consent laws in the state can be found in Indiana Code § 9-30-6. According to this law, anyone who decides to drive a vehicle in Indiana automatically gives their consent to undergo certified chemical tests administered by traffic law enforcement officers. However, the officer must first have probable cause to believe that the driver is violating the state’s DUI laws.
A probable cause can be established by field sobriety tests or portable breath tests. In the event that the driver fails or refuses these tests, then the officer can proceed to offer a chemical test, and refusal may result in a one-year license suspension. Drivers must be aware that license suspensions resulting from refusal to take chemical tests are not eligible for specialized driving privileges.
DUI Checkpoints in Indiana
DUI checkpoints are legal in Indiana, but the officers conducting them must follow a consistent pattern in how they select which cars to check and refrain from any profiling behavior. Although drivers are not required to drive through the checkpoint, they must also keep in mind that avoiding DUI checkpoints may draw the attention of the officers, and they must still comply once they have been given the order to stop.
Drivers undergoing a DUI checkpoint retain their rights to remain silent and refuse field sobriety tests. In addition, they may refuse requests to search their vehicle. DUI checkpoint arrests can also be challenged on the following grounds:
The duration of the stop.
The reason provided by the officer for the stop.
The defendant’s ability to identify the stop and the checkpoint.
Publicness of the checkpoint.
The rationale behind the checkpoint’s location.
Underage DUI Laws in Indiana
Indiana follows a “zero-tolerance” policy when it comes to underage drinking, which penalizes everyone under the age of 21 for possessing, consuming, purchasing, and transporting alcohol. Offenders will be tried in the state’s juvenile court system, and some of the consequences include community service, probation, and restitution. Underage DUI offenders may also be required to attend alcohol and drug treatment programs.
Indiana’s Open Container Law
Open container laws in the context of DUI state that drivers may be penalized for consuming alcoholic beverages while operating their vehicle. The law defines an “open container” as a vessel used for holding alcoholic beverages that had been either opened, had its seal tampered with, or had already been partially consumed.
Indiana Code § 9-30-15-3 further specifies that even passengers in a car are not allowed to consume alcohol while the vehicle is running. However, drinking inside a parked car is not considered a violation of this law. Those who are caught violating this law may be subject to a fine of up to $500, and the offense is classified as a Class C infraction.
Expungement of DUI Records in Indiana
Drivers with one or more DUI records in Indiana can request expungement of their records as a one-time event. For DUI records that fall under Class A or C misdemeanor, the requesting individual must meet the following criteria:
More than five years have already passed since the conviction.
There are no pending criminal charges or convictions within the last five years from the date of requesting the expungement.
The expungement filing fee has already been paid, along with all the fines, fees, and restitution orders.
The court must grant the request to expunge the misdemeanor conviction.
The same aforementioned criteria apply to the expungement of Class D felony DUIs, with the only notable difference being:
More than eight years have passed since the conviction.
There must be no convictions within the last eight years since the date of requesting the expungement.
For DUIs classified as serious felonies, the expungement request also requires prosecutor approval.
What Are the Penalties for a DUI in Indiana?
The specifics of each incident and the driver's criminal history determine the DUI penalty in Indiana. Repeat offenses and incidents that result in serious injuries or death will naturally incur heavier penalties compared to first-time DUIs without any casualties. The table below provides a quick summary of the general penalties for an Indiana DUI case.
Type of DUI Offense
Length of Imprisonment
Misdemeanor (Class C or A)
Up to $500; if BAC reaches or exceeds 0.15%, then the maximum fine is raised to $5,000
Up to 60 days; if BAC reaches or exceeds 0.15%, then the maximum duration is raised to one year
Driver’s license may be suspended for a minimum of 90 days up to a maximum of two years. An additional year may be added to the suspension period should the offender refuse to submit to a chemical test.
Felony (Class D)
Up to $10,000
Five days to three years
Driver’s license may be suspended for a minimum of 180 days up to a maximum of two years. Two additional years may be added to the suspension period should the offender refuse to submit to a chemical test.
Installation of an ignition interlock device
Mandatory 180 hours of community service
Felony (Class D)
Up to $10,000
Ten days to three years
One-year minimum license suspension up to a maximum of ten years. Two additional years may be added to the suspension period should the offender refuse to submit to a chemical test.
Installation of an ignition interlock device
Mandatory 360 hours of community service
Mandatory attendance in alcohol/drug abuse treatment programs
Possible declaration as a habitual traffic violator
The classification of a DUI offense may also be enhanced under specific circumstances. If the offender had a passenger under 18 years old or the DUI caused bodily injuries to another person, then the offense would be raised to a Class D felony. If the DUI incident led to someone’s death, it would be considered a Class C felony.
DUI offenders in Indiana may also be required to attend victim impact panels, or VIPs, and the cost of attendance must be shouldered by the offender.
Indiana Dram Shop Law
Indiana is among the 43 states that have their own dram shop law, as defined by the Indiana Dram Shop Act. This law, which has been in place since 1986, helps curb drunk driving accidents by discouraging liquor establishments from overserving their patrons. It also gives the injured party in a DUI accident the right to pursue legal action against the business or individual who provided the alcohol to the drunk driver.
The Dram Shop Act covers bars, liquor stores, restaurants, and social hosts of business and private parties. Anyone who overserves alcohol may be held liable for the damages caused by the drunk individual. In order to file a claim under the Dram Shop Act, the plaintiff must be able to prove the following:
The individual or business still served alcohol to the other person, even if they were already showing visible signs of intoxication. Supporting evidence for this may include CCTV footage from the establishment and eyewitness statements.
The person’s intoxication had been the “proximate cause” of the damages they caused to the victims.
Defendants in a DUI case must keep in mind that only the plaintiff can pursue a dram shop lawsuit. Even if the defendant was also injured in the accident, they cannot file a claim against the entity that overserved them.
Liquor Liability Insurance
Although not required by law, businesses that serve alcohol in Indiana are generally recommended to purchase liquor liability insurance. It provides coverage for any financial losses caused by intoxicated patrons, such as injury-related medical expenses, legal costs, and lawsuit settlements.
How Much Can Someone Sue for a Drunk Driving Injury in Indiana?
DUI victims in Indiana can sue drunk drivers for their economic and non-economic damages, also known as compensatory damages. There is no limit on compensatory damages.
On the other hand, punitive damages are capped at $50,000 or thrice the sum of the compensatory damages, whichever is higher. Plaintiffs must take note, however, that they can only collect 25% of the punitive damages awarded, in compliance with Indiana Code § 34-51-3-6. The remaining 75% goes to the compensation fund for violent crime victims.
If the DUI incident has led to the death of an unmarried adult 23 years of age or older, then the damages the bereaved may recover are limited to $300,000. No caps apply if the deceased is younger than 23 or has left dependents behind.
Damage Caps for Government Defendants
When a DUI incident is caused by public transportation vehicles, such as city buses, then the driver is considered a government defendant. The liability of government agencies is capped at $700,000 per individual, or $5,000,000 for a single accident. This means there is a possibility that plaintiffs may receive less than the $700,000 maximum in the event that there are eight or more plaintiffs.
Indiana’s Modified Comparative Fault Rule
Indiana is among the 33 states that follow the modified comparative fault system when it comes to personal injury claims, and this includes civil lawsuits against DUI defendants. This means that in order to recover damages, your percentage of fault must be lower than 51%. The recoverable amount for any plaintiff will be reduced in proportion to the amount of fault they share for the accident. Parties whose fault exceeds 51% are barred from recovering any compensation.
The Statute of Limitations for DUI in Indiana
DUI cases may come with two different types of lawsuits. The first one is for the criminal charge(s) for the DUI itself, while the second one may come from personal injury victims if the DUI incident has caused damage to them.
If the DUI is a misdemeanor offense, a criminal lawsuit must be filed within two years after the date of the offense. If the DUI counts as a felony, then legal action must be commenced within five years. Any plaintiff seeking to recover damages caused by a DUI accident must file a case within two years.
The statute of limitations for personal injury suits arising from a DUI accident is subject to the following exceptions:
The injured individual has a legal disability. This refers to mentally incapacitated victims, or those below 18. In such cases, the injured party has two years to file their injury lawsuit once they are no longer subject to the legal disability.
The defendant leaves the state. The statute of limitations may be paused until the defendant returns to the state and ends their period of nonresidence.
For dram shop lawsuits, the plaintiff has two years to file their claim.
Resources for DUI Defendants and Folks Injured by an Impaired Driver in Indiana
MADD is a nonprofit organization founded in 1980. Its primary goal is to end drunk driving, prevent underage drinking, and support DUI victims. MADD Victim Services educates the injured party on court proceedings and the criminal justice process. It also informs Hoosiers about their rights, helps them prepare statements for parole or probation hearings, and offers referrals to community resources such as civil attorneys, support groups, and crisis counselors.
Facilitated by the Indiana Criminal Justice Institute, the Indiana Victim Compensation Program has been providing financial compensation to innocent victims of violent crimes since 1978. It provides a maximum aid of $15,000 intended to help cover expenses such as medical bills, lost wages, funeral costs, and loss of support for legal dependents of a victim who lost their life. The program is considered a “payer of last resort,” which means applicants will only be reimbursed for expenses that have not been and will not be compensated from any other source.
The Indiana General Assembly provides citizens easy access to the Indiana Code, giving all parties involved in a DUI lawsuit the opportunity to look into the laws that govern their case.
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