Thousands of people wind up arrested for operating while intoxicated (OWI) in Indiana every year. Quite a few of these people will make the questionable decision to plead guilty to their charges instead of trying to defend themselves.

People often mistakenly presume that they can’t defend against OWI charges. Other people might think that the consequences of a conviction or guilty plea for a first-time offense are minimal enough to justify pleading guilty just to avoid the embarrassment and missed work often involved in court.

However, Indiana actually has relatively strict OWI penalties that more than justify making the effort to defend yourself against pending OWI charges.

How does Indiana penalize a first-time OWI?

Penalties for most kinds of crimes increase with subsequent arrests, but that doesn’t mean that first-time offenders don’t face real consequences. Although people sometimes assume that a judge will be more lenient if they plead guilty, that isn’t always the case.

Even if this was your first OWI offense, you’ll face serious penalties that a judge may not reduce. Some people do receive the maximum penalties possible.  You might have fines of up to $5,000, a jail sentence of as long as a year, a license suspension that lasts two years and an obligation to complete substance abuse counseling, probate or a victim impact panel.

Obviously, penalties like jail time and the loss of your license could affect everything from your ability to take care of your family to your career. Reviewing the evidence against you on the circumstances of your arrest can give you an idea about what defense options might be available to you.