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Vehicular substance offense

By Jeff Terrill

Fort Wayne Reader


People with a history of drunk driving convictions beware. Effective January 1, 2015, there’s a new law that can require a judge to sentence someone to jail or prison for an additional one to eight years.

The statute defines a “vehicular substance offense” as any crime (misdemeanor or felony) that involves (1) operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated; (2) operating a motor vehicle while over the legal alcohol limit; or (3) operating a motor vehicle with a controlled substance or its metabolite within a person’s body. A motor vehicle can include snowmobiles, four-wheelers, motorcycles, mopeds and even golf carts.

A person who has three unrelated vehicular substance offense convictions within a ten year period can end up with an extra eight years being added to his prison sentence. A person also qualifies for the added penalty when he accumulates four drunk driving or drugged driving convictions over the person’s lifetime.

The new law replaces the habitual controlled substance enhancement. Under the former law, a person with three unrelated drug convictions or drinking and driving convictions that were at least Class A misdemeanors qualified for the additional sentence.

Under the old law, a guy convicted in 1983 for possessing a joint at a Van Halen concert, a drunk driving conviction in 1998, and a conviction for possessing a controlled substance in early 2014 could have been charged with the habitual controlled substance enhancement. Indiana lawmakers changed the law in 2015 so that it only applies to alcohol and drug offenses that involve the operation of a motor vehicle.

The penalties only get stiffer for people with a history of driving under the influence of a drug or alcohol. You don’t want to be a habitual vehicular substance offender.

Be safe. Call a friend or a cab if there’s even the slightest chance that you would be breaking the law.

Jeff Terrill is a partner/shareholder with the law firm of Arnold Terrill Anzini, P.C. Mr. Terrill represents clients accused of crimes throughout northeast Indiana. You can contact Mr. Terrill with any questions or comments at his office at 260.420.7777 or via email at jterrill@fortwaynedefense.com. Learn more about his firm at www.fortwaynedefense.com. This article expressed opinions and observations of the author, is not intended as legal advice and does not create an attorney-client relationship between the author and the reader. Please consult a qualified attorney with any legal questions or issues you might have. Thank you

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