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The key difference between OWI and DUI

by | May 30, 2021 | OWI |

In Indiana, the law calls the crime of drinking and driving “Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated,” commonly called OWI. Other states use terms like “Driving While Intoxicated” (DWI) or “Driving Under the Influence” (DUI).

For the most part, these are the same crimes — but with one important difference.


While OWI, DUI and DWI all refer to driving a motor vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol, OWI is a broader crime. As their names imply, DWI and DUI apply only when the impaired person is driving the vehicle. Usually, this means the vehicle must be in motion, or the engine must at least be turned on, for the police to be able to make an arrest.

On the other hand, OWI makes it a crime to operate a vehicle in any capacity — even if it is parked and off the street. This can be as simple as sitting in your car in a parking lot with the heater on. Even though there is no way you could cause a car accident in this scenario, Indianapolis police could still arrest you, though they may be more likely to do so if your engine is running.

Dealing with an OWI charge

An OWI charge can be serious, with a penalty of up to 60 days in jail and a maximum fine of $500 for a first offense. You will also lose your driver’s license for at least 90 days and up to two years. Being found guilty of OWI when you were not even driving can be frustrating, but you may have options for getting the charges reduced or dropped entirely. Kammen & Moudy, LLC, may be able to help.

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