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Updates to Specialized Driving Privileges in Indiana

On Behalf of | Apr 10, 2020 | Firm News

Last year, Indiana legislators amended the law to the benefit of those recently charged with Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated (“OWI”). Under the new law, Hoosiers have the ability to avoid an immediate license suspension. This post will lay out the general procedure for staying that initial suspension and obtaining Specialized Driving Privileges (“SDP”) when charged with OWI.

First, one must be eligible for SDP. You are ineligible for SDP in Indiana if (1) you have never been an Indiana resident, (2) you refused a certified chemical test offered to you by a police officer, or (3) the BMV determined that you are incompetent or unfit to operate a vehicle.

Generally, if, at an initial hearing, a Judge finds probable cause that a defendant operated a vehicle while intoxicated, the Judge is required to suspend your driving privileges and notify the BMV of that suspension. This is commonly referred to as a “probable cause suspension.” Prior to the recent amendment to the SDP law and procedure, an OWI defendant would be stuck with the probable cause suspension unless and until the defendant was awarded SDP. Previously, that meant that defendants could not drive until (1) they obtained the required SR-22/insurance coverage, (2) they drafted and filed their Petition for SDP, and (3) they attended a subsequent hearing at which the Judge would hopefully grant SDP.

Indiana Code 9-30-16-1(g) now changes that procedure and offers an avenue to stay the probable cause suspension. More specifically, if a defendant indicates to the Court at an initial hearing that (1) the defendant is eligible for SDP and (2) the Defendant intends to file a Petition for SDP, the Court must stay the probable cause suspension for a period of 30 days. From there, time is of the essence, as the defendant has only 10 days from the date of the initial hearing to obtain the required SR-22 coverage and file the Petition for SDP. The suspension will go into effect if the defendant does not properly file for SDP within that 10-day window. However, so long as a defendant properly files for SDP within 10 days, the suspension will remain stayed until the Court holds a subsequent hearing and either grants (and thus continues) the SDP or denies the SDP.

While the possibility of staying a suspension of driving privileges is a positive for Hoosiers charged with OWI, it must be noted that Courts can, and frequently do, impose certain conditions or limitations on the privileges they grant. For example, Courts can limit your driving privileges to certain days of the week, certain hours of the day, or even limit where you are allowed to drive to and from. Courts may also require that the defendant only operate a vehicle with an ignition interlock device installed.

Choosing an attorney with knowledge and experience in OWI and SDP laws can make a drastic impact in your case, which can in turn make a drastic impact on your future. If you or a loved one have been charged with OWI, or need help applying for specialized driving privileges, please contact us at any time via email at [email protected] or by phone at (812) 539-2111. Thank you.


Disclaimer: this post is made for informational purposes only, and should not be construed as legal advice. Please consult an attorney with questions regarding a specific case.