Getting charged with an Operating While Intoxicated (OWI) offense in Indiana can take on many forms. The OWI charge can be a misdemeanor (in most cases) or a felony (in a few more than most people would believe) in some situations. The most common scenario is that an OWI is usually the result of having too much to drink; however, it can also come about because you have an illegal substance in your system. Finally, the State does not necessarily need to show that you have a certain level of alcohol or substance in your system in order to secure a conviction.
So what happens when I am charged with an OWI?
An OWI is like any criminal case in that it starts by the State filing what is known as an “Information”. This is Indiana’s way of saying you have been charged with a crime. Upon the filing of an Information, a Prosecutor’s Office will typically submit some type of probable cause affidavit to show the trial court that there is a basis in you being charged with a crime. Again, this is the same whether it is an OWI, a murder, a misdemeanor theft, etc.
In St. Joseph County, there is usually some time that has passed from the date of your original arrest to when you actually receive your court paperwork. It seems recently that the delay is anywhere between three (3) to six (6) months. This is perfectly legal, as the State generally has up to two (2) years from the date of the incident to file charges in a misdemeanor case. You will usually get a summons in the mail telling you when to appear to address your charges.
On an OWI case, it is important to consult a lawyer before this date. With most OWI cases in St. Joseph County (and every other county I have ever appeared in), the initial hearing is typically when the Court will make a determination as to an initial license suspension in your case. I have helped many clients maintain some type of driving privileges at this point.