Law expert explains OWI conviction laws after fatal drunk driving crash

Stanton Bowie Jr.

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — A man charged in a fatal crash over the weekend has multiple operating a vehicle while intoxicated convictions prior to the accident that claimed the life of his 14-year-old passenger.

Stanton Bowie Jr. was convicted of three OWI charges in Hamilton and Marion Counties since 2008. His license was previously suspended, but reinstated before each conviction.

According to state law, after a third major traffic conviction, the BMV has up to two years to label someone as a habitual traffic offender. Only then would their license be suspended for up to ten years. In order for a license to be suspended, the BMV has to send a letter to the driver and the driver must return a receipt of receiving the letter. That process can take a few months.

In Bowie Jr.’s case, he would have likely been labeled a habitual traffic offender, but according to Indiana State Police, his license was still valid.

Chris Daniels is the Traffic Safety Resource Officer for the Indiana Prosecuting Attorney’s Council. He’s not involved in this case, but is an expert in traffic related cases. Daniels said last year, the state had 23,000 OWI charges. He also said driving while suspended is the number one charged crime, meaning even if Bowie Jr.’s license was suspended, he might still get behind the wheel.

“You can suspend somebody’s license, but it doesn’t stop their car from starting unfortunately,” Daniels said.

The only way a person can have their license permanently suspended is if they kill someone while drunk driving two different times. The general sentence for OWI causing death is one to six years.

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