Why Can I Be Pulled Over for OWI in Indiana?

Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol can have serious consequences. It endangers both the driver and other people on the road, puts your future at risk, and can lead to heavy legal and financial penalties. In Indiana, OWI (Operating While Intoxicated) law states that any substance that impairs a driver's cognitive ability to control the vehicle and drive safely, such as alcohol or mind-altering drugs, is considered OWI.

But what constitutes “reasonable suspicion” for drunk driving? Any human judgment calls are subjective, but law enforcement officers have the right to pull you over if they observe evidence that constitutes a "reasonable suspicion” of impairment. Trial Lawyer Matthew W. Chapel reviews why you could be pulled over for OWI in Indiana.

What is Reasonable Suspicion?

The concept of reasonable suspicion is not mere guessing. One legal authority, a judge writing an opinion for the Indiana Court Times, said it like this:

“Vehicle stops may be based on reasonable suspicion of unlawful conduct. Reasonable suspicion is more than a mere hunch but less than probable cause. Reasonable suspicion and probable cause for vehicle stops are occasionally addressed and sometimes confused in caselaw. Analyzing the sufficiency of evidence that supports a stop is made even more difficult by that confusion as well as the variety of circumstances surrounding traffic stops.

Reasonable suspicion is based on the totality of the circumstances and requires an officer to have a particularized and objective basis for suspecting the person stopped of criminal activity. It rests on probabilities and not certainties.”

Behaviors that Create Reasonable Suspicion of OWI

Certain behaviors and circumstances may give a law enforcement officer reasonable suspicion to initiate a traffic stop for suspected drunk driving.

·        Erratic Driving: Swerving, making wide turns, rubbing the median or curb, wandering across lanes, or straddling the centerline are all odd behaviors that could get you pulled over.

·        Violating Traffic Laws: Running red lights or stop signs, speeding, reckless driving, sudden turns without signals, and other moving violations can be viewed as evidence of impairment.

·        Driving with Lights Off: Since many newer vehicles have automatic headlights, driving at night with your lights off is a sure sign something is wrong.

·        Slow or Inconsistent Speed: Speeding up or slowing down at odd intervals and driving very slowly are often signs of impairment and can warrant an OWI suspicion.

·        Near-Misses or Collisions: Almost colliding with or hitting objects like road signs or other vehicles can lead to a traffic stop and field sobriety test.

Even if your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is below the legal limit of 0.08%, a police officer can still arrest you on suspicion of OWI if they suspect you are driving while impaired. The officer needs evidence that you are too intoxicated to drive, which may come from their observations of your driving, your behavior during the traffic stop, and your performance during field sobriety testing.

What Happens After I’m Pulled Over for Drunk Driving?

Under Indiana’s implied consent law, you have already consented to chemical testing by driving on Indiana roads. If police suspect you of driving under the influence, they will ask you to take field sobriety tests and chemical tests, which include a preliminary alcohol screening to gauge the amount of alcohol in your system.

Refusing to submit to chemical testing has consequences, including losing your driving privileges for up to two years and being ineligible for a restricted license. The officer will immediately take your license, and the court will notify the BMV of your refusal. This license suspension is independent of any you may receive if convicted of OWI.

If you refuse chemical testing, police can still arrest you based on other evidence that you were driving while intoxicated.

Indiana OWI Defense Attorney

All this means that the attorney you choose for Indiana OWI defense can be your most crucial decision. Trial Lawyer Matthew W. Chapel has the knowledge andexperience to aggressively defend your rights and freedoms if you are pulled over for drunk driving. Contact him right away for a free consultation to review your case.


If you have questions about a matter that is pending before a court in Northeast Indiana or Northwest Ohio, contact Matt Chapel immediately. Call Matt at 260-387-6236 or email him at matt@mattchapellaw.com.

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