An article and editorial at NWI.com notes that penalties for OWI (drunk driving) in Indiana can vary depending on the county you are arrested in. In particular, Lake County prosecutors are more agreeable to charge reductions.
The editorial notes that less than half of the Lake County OWI arrests result in OWI convictions. For drunk driving charges that don’t involve high BAC levels or other more serious circumstances, prosecutors are often willing to reduce first offense OWI charges down to reckless driving offenses.
A former prosecutor, now defense attorney is quoted in this article, stating that Lake County is among the most lenient counties in Indiana in prosecuting OWI charges.
It is also noted that not convicting on a drunk driving charge means if that person were to re-offend, they aren’t facing a 2nd offense OWI, with much more serious consequences, and a required ignition interlock device as a condition of license reinstatement.
Prosecutors in Lake County argue that a charge reduced to a reckless driving is not a slap on the wrist. It is a criminal conviction on your record, and an alcohol related reckless driving plea will almost certainly also require an alcohol education program as part of the probation requirements.
Most people who are pulled over and arrested for drunk driving in Indiana have no idea that they may be legally impaired. And while, rates of 2nd offense charges are too high, they are most likely people with serious alcohol problems. Most people arrested once never re-offend. If they made a one time mistake, many will be extra careful about drinking and driving for the rest of their lives.
And even if that person does end up getting charged with a subsequent OWI charge, a judge will certainly see the previous conviction as an alcohol related reckless driving offense, and will not go lightly in any OWI sentencing, whether or not it is on the books as only a first offense.
Fighting an Indiana OWI Charge
This article also shows the value of going with an experienced local Indiana defense lawyer. A lawyer who has defended many DUI offenses in the past will know the local landscape, and what certain courts and judges will go along with in a plea deal. This may not be obvious to someone who doesn’t fight a lot of these cases, so having a defense lawyer who will push for the best possible result is a huge advantage.
When evaluating a criminal defense lawyer in Indiana, you should always ask how many cases like yours they have handled, and what range of results can you expect.