We’ve all heard of an arrest of the guy who was drunk or high while riding a bicycle. In some instances, the arrest may be classified an OWI and in other instances the arrest is a DUI. Confusing right? So really, what is the difference between an OWI and a DUI? If you’ve been charged with either or both, call a top Indianapolis DUI lawyer at 317-721-9858 or email us at info@jksanchezlaw.com today!


An OWI is also known as an Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated includes a number of items in Indiana. A DUI in Indiana is also called a Driving Under the Influence. Essentially, in Indiana, they are effectively the same crime.

But How is an OWI Different than a DUI?

The major difference between the two is how the state views how a vehicle is being operated. In Indiana, an “operating state”, any operation of any of the control mechanisms of the vehicle can be justification for an officer to make an arrest. An example would be turning on the headlamps while sitting in the driver’s seat and being intoxicated. Or, sitting behind the steering wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and the vehicle is running can also justify an arrest for Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated. The classification of what a vehicle can be something as basic as a bicycle.

How is a DUI Different Than an OWI

In a “driving state”, you must be actually driving the vehicle while intoxicated. Indiana law states:

  • It is illegal to operate a vehicle with a BAC of over .08
  • It is illegal to operate a vehicle with any Schedule II drugs or operate any vehicle with any Schedule III drugs in your system
  • It is illegal to operate a vehicle while actually intoxicated under the influence of
    • Prescription Drugs
    • Illegal Drugs (Schedule II or Schedule III)
    • Alcohol

Penalties for OWI and a DUI

Essentially, in Indiana the terms OWI and DUI are often used interchangeably. Now, irrespective of whatever term is used to arrest a person that has been driving drunk, the penalties for OWI and DUI are the same. Some of the penalties for a DUI or OWI are as follows:

  • Suspended license
  • A misdemeanor or possibly a felony criminal charge
  • Possible jail time

Generally, the sentencing guidelines for an OWI/DUI treat the crime as a misdemeanor. An OWI/DUI becomes a felony if there have been previous intoxicated vehicle operator charges within the past five years. Felony charges can also be filed if:

  • A passenger in the car under the age of 18
  • The offense caused serious injury or death

With your first DUI/OWI first time offenders can face up to:

  • 60 days in jail
  • $5,000 in fines
  • One year of probation
  • 90 day drivers license suspension to up to two years

If the criminal charges are upgraded to a Class D felony, the offender can expect to face:

  • Six months to three years in jail
  • A $10,000 fine
  • Three years probation
  • Suspended license for one to two years.

The Difference Between a DUI and an OWI is Subtle

As you can see both your state or levels of intoxication as well as your status in vehicle operation are what help in making the determination between an OWI and a DUI in Indiana. Have you been arrested for a DUI in Indiana or been arrested for an OWI in Indiana? It’s time to call Indiana DUI lawyer Jesse K. Sanchez at 317-721-9858.