Drunk Driving Defense Law in Ohio

Impaired drivers face being arrested on charges of Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI). Ohio’s OVI laws are strict, and the state takes impaired driving seriously. There are severe penalties for convicted drivers that can negatively affect their freedom and finances.

For Ohio residents or out-of-state drivers arrested in Ohio, it is important to understand the potential penalties to decide how to handle an OVI case. If you have questions about your rights, talk to an experienced Ohio OVI defense attorney to help resolve your case.

Ohio Drunk Driving Laws

Ohio law uses the language operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) to describe drunk driving. This law prohibits operating a vehicle under the influence, where the alcohol has affected the operator’s abilities, or with a certain concentration of alcohol in the driver’s body.

Ohio prohibits operating a vehicle with a BAC of .08% or more, as well as having a urine alcohol concentration of .11% or more. However, commercial drivers have a lower limit of .04%, and underage drivers have an even lower limit of .02%.

Implied Consent: Yes

Enhanced Penalties: BAC of .17% or more; driving under the influence with a child in the car, prior convictions, causing serious bodily injury or death

Ohio typically considers OVI a misdemeanor offense. First-time offenders are not always required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) but may opt to use one for a reduced license suspension. All subsequent offenses require an ignition interlock device. Other penalties depend on the number of previous OVI offenses such as:

  • First offense: Three days to six months imprisonment; $375 to $1,075 fine; one- to three-year license suspension
  • Second offense: 10 days to six months imprisonment; $525 to $1,625 fine; one- to seven-year license suspension
  • Third offense: 30 days to 1-year imprisonment; $850 to $2,750 fine; 2 to 12-year license suspension

Some judges may reduce the offender’s sentence by ordering alternatives like an alcohol treatment program, a driver intervention program, or house arrest with an alcohol monitoring device.

However, an OVI is elevated to a felony charge in circumstances such as:

  • A 3rd or 4th offense within 10 years
  • A 5th or 6th offense within 20 years
  • A second felony OVI offense in a lifetime

Administrative License Suspensions

Ohio drivers stopped by law enforcement for suspicion of impairment behind the wheel must submit to a chemical or blood testing as mandated by state law. Those with blood alcohol levels of .08 percent or above have their licenses immediately taken away and face an automatic administrative driver’s license suspension (ALS) of no fewer than 90 days. Drivers who refuse a BAC test will automatically lose their driving privileges for at least one year.

Driving Record Points System and Violations

The state of Ohio operates on a graduated point accrual system for drivers that can result in the suspension of driving privileges after 12 points. OVI convictions carry a six-point penalty. Two convictions within six years may mean that your vehicle is immobilized. In the event of vehicle immobilizations, family members may petition the court to have that penalty waived if they can demonstrate that the immobilization causes the family undue hardship.

Habitual Offender Registry

Those drivers who have racked up five or more OVI convictions over two decades get listed on Ohio’s Habitual OVI Registry. This list is accessible to the public and includes a list of the offenders’ names, dates of birth, addresses, and OVI convictions. Offenders remain on the list until enough time has lapsed that they no longer have five convictions in 20 years.

Nobody plans on driving drunk, causing a fatal wreck, or getting arrested. Everyone is better served when impaired drivers are off the roads. However, because not everyone processes alcohol in the same way or at the same rate, it is entirely possible for someone to actually consume very little alcohol and still be over the legal limit for driving. Impairment of abilities begins with the first drink.

If you wind up being charged with an OVI offense in Ohio, a criminal defense attorney can assist with mounting a defense against the charges. Your attorney may also be able to negotiate a plea bargain so you can avoid the most serious penalties. Before going into court unprepared, seek out an experienced Ohio criminal defense attorney who has specialized knowledge regarding drunk driving charges.

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