DUI & DWI in Ohio
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- An alcohol-related fatality occurs every 30 minutes.
- An alcohol-related traffic injury occurs every two minutes.
- Almost half of the drivers arrested for drunk driving are repeat offenders.
- Two-thirds of drivers with suspended licenses continue to drive.
- In Ohio, it's estimated that roughly 400 people will die, 15,000 will be injured, and 20,000 will be involved in an alcohol-related crash―every year.
It's true―people process alcohol differently. What causes one person to feel tipsy may have little effect on someone else. What causes one person to register a higher-than-allowed blood alcohol content (BAC) may leave another within the legal limit.
In general, men can drink more than women without being legally drunk. In general, heavier people can drink more than those who are lighter.
But, what most people don't realize is that by the time you actually feel drunk, you are likely way beyond the legal BAC limit. And what most people don't realize is that your driving skills begin to be impaired after your first drink.
Indeed, with a BAC of .04%―half the legal limit―your chances of being involved in an accident elevate. What skills are affected? Your simple reaction time and your emergency response.
By the time your BAC reaches .06%―still well under the legal limit―you are twice as likely to be involved in a fatal crash as a non-drinking driver. Skills affected? Your coordination, comprehension, eye movement, lane tracking, and attention.
By the time you reach the legal limit of .08%, you're three times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash. All of the above skills are affected, and now also your speed control, braking, gear changing, and overall judgment.
And, by the time your BAC reaches .10%, you're 12 times more likely to be involved in a fatal crash than the non-drinking driver.
So, it should be obvious: even if you're not legally "drunk", it doesn't mean it's safe for you to drive.
The BAC is simply the measure of the amount of alcohol in your blood. It can be determined directly through blood testing or indirectly through breath, urine, or saliva testing.
The legal drinking age in Ohio is 21. If you are under this age and found driving with a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08%, you will be guilty of Operating a Vehicle After Underage Consumption (OVAUC).
Your penalties will include having your license suspended from 60 days to two years, and having to take a remedial driving class. You'll also have to complete your license examination again. Plus, four points will be added to your license. And, you'll have to pay a license reinstatement fee.
For every adult in Ohio, a BAC of .08% or more means you are considered to be legally drunk, and not allowed to drive.
In Ohio, Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) are grouped under the umbrella heading of Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (OVI).
If you are stopped by a police officer and suspected of OVI, you will be asked to take a BAC or chemical test, sometimes referred to as a sobriety test.
If you fail the test by having an unacceptable reading, an Administrative License Suspension (ALS) will automatically begin. This means that you will lose your right to drive from anywhere from 90 days to three years, depending on your driving history. Your license will be confiscated from you on the spot. All of this is separate from any other form of punishment you'll face in court, including extra suspension time.
If you refuse to take the BAC test, your license will automatically be suspended from one year up to five years. And they'll still do the test. In fact, if you've had two or more OVI (or equivalent offenses) convictions, law enforcement officials must obtain a chemical alcohol or drug test by any sort of reasonable measure.
You may contest any of the above and request a court hearing, which will be held within five days of the arrest. But, you'll have to prove at least one of the following:
- The officer did not have reasonable grounds of suspecting OVI.
- The officer did not request that you take the blood alcohol test.
- The officer did not tell you the consequences of refusing or failing the test.
- You did not refuse or fail the test.
Even if you prove any of these, the court may still suspend your license if it is deemed that you are a threat to public safety.
You may also request to have a qualified person of your choice give you the test again if it is conducted under the supervision of a police officer within two hours of your arrest.
If you are found guilty of an OVI offense, you will face jail time of anywhere from three days (first offense) to 60 days (fourth offense). You'll face a fine that will range from $250 to $10,000. The specific penalties are determined by the number of OVI convictions over the past six years.
You'll also receive six points on your license. And, quite likely, your insurance premiums will increase dramatically, and you might also be dropped by your carrier.
When it's time for you to regain your license, you will have to pay a $475 fee, plus show proof of financial responsibility.
If you are convicted of two OVI offenses within a six-year period, your vehicle may be immobilized. If it happens again, you may forfeit your vehicle.
If you are convicted of four OVI offenses within that time period, you will be also be charged with a felony.
Also, if you are caught driving while under any sort of suspension, you will face additional penalties.
Even if you have never been convicted of an OVI offense, do not let anyone who you know is under suspension use your vehicle. If you do, you could face suspension as well.
For more information and a complete list of penalties by offense, please refer to the BMV's information page.
As soon as you total five OVI (or equivalent) convictions within the last 20 years, you'll be listed on the Habitual OVI Registry.
Being on this list allows the public to see your name, date of birth, home address, and your OVI convictions. Your information remains on this list until you no longer have five OVI convictions within the past 20 years.
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