The Skill To Defend You

Legal Terminology: M To P

Mandatory Minimum License Suspensions

In Indiana, there is typically no minimum suspension for a first offense. For a second offense, the typical mandatory minimum suspension is one year. For a case involving death, the typical mandatory minimum suspension is two years. 

Some mandatory minimum license suspensions allow specialized driving privileges. Check with your attorney to see if you qualify.

If you refused the certified chemical test, then a one-year pre-conviction refusal suspension applies if you have no prior OWI type offenses. If you have a prior OWI offense then the pre-conviction refusal suspension is for two years. The refusal suspension can be vacated or terminated as part of a plea agreement, depending on whether your county judge or prosecutor allows ‘vacating’ the refusal. The difference between vacating and terminating is that if you vacate the refusal, you get credit for any time your license was suspended pre-conviction and you are eligible for a specialized driving privilege. If you terminate the refusal, you may NOT get post-conviction credit for any pre-conviction suspension time that has passed but you may get a shorter suspension, and, depending on the judge, you may get a specialized driving privilege.

Mandatory Minimum Jail Time

*Indiana’s Mandatory Minimum law was revised in July 2014 such that many offenses no longer have mandatory minimums that apply under the old statute. I have listed some exceptions herein.

In Indiana, there is no mandatory jail time by statute for a first-offense OWI/DUI. However, many rural counties such as Greene, Lawrence, Morgan, Owen, etc. provide local standards that require a weekend in jail upon conviction of a first-time OWI/DUI.

Indiana state law does provide for a mandatory minimum jail sentence of five real days if you are convicted of an OWI/DUI and if you have one prior OWI/DUI conviction in your lifetime. (That’s right, it does not matter how old your prior conviction is, if you have a prior conviction you must do five real days in jail as part of your new sentence if you are convicted of the second OWI/DUI. Some counties and judges look the other way and ignore this statute, but it is the law.)

The statute does provide that you may substitute 240 hours of community service in lieu of this jail time if the prosecutor agrees in your plea agreement and if the judge approves this substitution.

Indiana law also provides for mandatory minimum jail time of 10 real days in jail if you have two prior OWI/DUI convictions in your lifetime, no matter how old these convictions may be and if you are convicted of your pending OWI/DUI. You may substitute 480 hours of community service in lieu of this jail time with prosecutor’s and judge’s approval.

Murder and Level 1 felonies typically require a mandatory minimum sentence. A Level 2 or Level 3 felony minimum sentence can be suspended in a controlled substance case, but in other cases IF THE PERSON HAS A PRIOR FELONY, the Level 2 or Level 3 felony is nonsuspendable.

Once again, as with our new driver’s license laws, the legislature has intended to return discretion to our courts to determine a wider range of punishment for offenders based on individual circumstance rather than on mandatory minimum requirements applied across the board.

Marked Police Vehicle

In Indiana, a police officer must either be in a marked police vehicle OR in uniform before he can stop you for a traffic offense. (See Sam Shapiro’s case entitled Miller v. State)


In Indiana, any offense that carries a potential jail time penalty of one year or less.


In Indiana, proof of the element of operating means proof of intent and ability to control/drive your vehicle. It does not require that the vehicle be on a roadway or in motion. Also, the type of vehicle does not matter, it can be a golf cart or a lawn mower.

If the police officer finds you alone on a country road with no one else around, the circumstantial evidence may support the conclusion that you were driving. Jumping out of your vehicle before the police approach you or throwing your keys to show you did not have them do not necessarily mean that you did not operate your vehicle, it becomes a proof issue.

The issue of operating is fact-specific for cases in Indiana with decisions supporting many different positions. E.g., stuck in a snow bank where vehicle cannot move is operating according to one Indiana case, while sleeping in a vehicle with the motor running in a parking lot is not operating. Consult with your attorney if this issue applies to you.

Post-Conviction Relief

In Indiana, if you have a prior conviction after you have pled guilty, and, if the legal procedure required to place that conviction on your record was not properly done, then you can challenge the prior conviction and ask that it be removed from your record.

Typically, a procedural mistake by a judge, a prosecutor or your attorney is required in order for you to prevail. Most often, but not always, the facts of your previous case are not relevant to this procedural analysis because your prior guilty plea confesses the guilty facts. Post-conviction relief is a procedural challenge most often.

Presumption In An OWI Case

A legal device created as a stopgap to allow prosecutors to rebut the legal defense of absorption. This legal device provides that a person’s alcohol level is presumed to remain constant for a three-hour period prior to contact with the police officer.

The jury, using this legal device and creation, may presume that a person’s breath alcohol level or blood alcohol level remains constant for three hours, without regard to the accepted scientific truths of absorption and dissipation.

When I expose this silly fiction to juries, I often explain by example when I compare this rule to our common knowledge about an electric skillet. When you turn on the electric skillet in your home, it takes a period of time for the electric current to heat the surface of the skillet. We know by touch, that the temperature is not continually constant. When you turn the electric skillet off, it cools over time as well and by touch or by burning your hand you can learn that it takes time for the skillet to dissipate the heat created by the electricity.

If you accepted the silly Indiana presumption created in OWI/DUI cases, then you would say that the temperature of the skillet when first turned on is the same temperature as when it warms up, is fully heated, and is turned off. This example proves the silliness of the presumption.

The presumption is silly and unsupported by science but we are remiss if we do not recognize that for some reason our appellate and supreme court have accepted this presumption. The presumption is a rebuttable presumption and the jury may reject the presumption even if not rebutted.

Presumption Of Innocence

Another important thread in the three golden threads of American Criminal Justice: burden of proof, presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt. A defendant is presumed to be innocent and he or she is not required to say or do anything to prove innocence.

The fact that a charge has been filed and a defendant is brought to trial is not evidence of guilt. Jurors should attempt to reconcile the evidence so as to find the defendant not guilty, giving him the presumption of innocence. A defendant is not guilty from the minute he is arrested up until the time the jury considers the case.

The presumption of innocence protects a defendant unless and until the state has that quantity and quality of evidence necessary to prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Pretrial Conference

In Monroe County, your attendance is required unless your attorney tells you otherwise; ask us about other counties prior to the court date. At the first pretrial, the attorneys discuss:

  1. The state of the discovery and whether each side has made a production of evidence so that the attorneys may evaluate the evidence to determine the strength or weakness of each other’s case
  2. Any potential plea bargains to resolve the case if there is middle ground (sometimes there is no middle ground and a trial is inevitable)
  3. Any future court dates for additional pretrial conferences, motions to suppress or trial, if necessary

Prima Facie Case

A legal device to give prosecutors a leg up in proving an OWI/DUI case. The law allows the jury to combine a certified chemical test score with operating a vehicle and conclude that a person has operated a vehicle while intoxicated.

This is a simplistic formula to allow sufficient evidence to support OWI/DUI convictions and it ignores important evidence such as standardized field sobriety testing, evidence of demeanor such as the lack of slurred speech, the lack of physical or thinking impairment, and the overall appearance of the defendant.

You most often hear this term in jury instructions during trial giving the jury a sense of their power and on appeal in an effort to justify a guilty verdict when the evidence was thin or lacking. I am not a big fan of these legal devices designed to support convictions or make convictions easier.

Probable Cause

A legal quantity of evidence necessary to support an arrest or search or summary administrative license suspension. Probable cause is difficult to define, it is more than suspicion but less than a preponderance of evidence. It is a very low burden of proof.

Public Intoxication

Indiana has amended its previous Public Intoxication criminal law. In 2012, our legislature provided that a person only commits public intoxication if they are intoxicated in a public place, AND, are endangering their own life, endangering the life of another, breaching the peace or in imminent danger of breaching the peace, or harassing, annoying or alarming another person while intoxicated.