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DUI & DWI in Ohio

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Introduction

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.

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).

Ohio OVI and OVAUC Defined

Whether you are charged with an OVI or a OVAUC is dependent upon on your age. If you are under 21 years old and found driving with a BAC above the legal limit you will be charged with Operating a Vehicle After Underage Consumption (OVAUC). Those over the legal drinking age of 21 years old, and CDL drivers, who drive with a BAC over the legal limit are charged with Operating the Vehicle Impaired (OVI).

You can be charged with an OVI or OVAUC if your minimum BAC is:
  • 21 years old or older - 0.08%.
  • Driving a commercial motor vehicle - 0.04%.
  • Younger than 21 years old - 0.02%.

Chemical Testing

Unlike many other states Ohio has additional rules for chemical testing. This not only covers blood and urine testing but also portable breath testing devices known as PBTs. In Ohio you can legally refuse a chemical test and/or opt to pay for one of your own. There are also some circumstances in which you cannot refuse a chemical test.

In order to understand the different laws we encourage you to read the Ohio Department of Public Safety OVI Interdiction Handbook.

OVI and OVAUC Penalties

Penalties for OVI or OVAUC are steep. Not only will you have to face criminal charges but you will also have to deal with penalties given by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). These penalties are known as Administrative License Suspensions or ALS. These penalties are separate from any charges.

Administrative Penalties

Under ALS laws your license can be suspended by law enforcement on behalf of the BMV if you fail or refuse a chemical test. The suspension periods are different depending on whether you refused a test or failed a test and were charged with a OVI or OVAUC:

OVI
In addition to the suspension you will have a minimum of 6 points applied to your license.

  • 1st offense driver's license suspension: 90 days.
  • 2nd offense (within 6 years) driver's license suspension: 1 year.
  • 3rd offense (within 6 years) driver's license suspension: 2 years.
  • 4th offense (within 6 years) driver's license suspension: 3 years.

OVAC
In addition to the suspension you will have a minimum of 4 points applied to your license.

  • 1st offense driver's license suspension: mandatory minimum 90 days up to 2 years.

Refuse Test
In addition to the suspension you will have a minimum of 6 points applied to your license.

  • 1st offense driver's license suspension: 1 year.
  • 2nd offense (within 6 years) driver's license suspension: 2 years.
  • 3rd offense (within 6 years) driver's license suspension: 3 years.
  • 4th offense (within 6 years) driver's license suspension: 5 years.

Number of offenses for refusal can have any previous charges within 6 years be for either previous refusals, OVI charges or a combination of both.

If you choose, you can appeal your ALS suspension. You must do so at your first appearance in court or within 30 days of your first appearance. If you appeal the prosecuting attorney in this jurisdiction will act on behalf of the BMV. 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.

Keep in mind that 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.

Criminal Penalties

If you are found guilty of an OVI offense you can face jail time, heavy fines, court ordered substance assessment and extended license suspension. For each OVI offense within a period of 6 years the penalties increase dramatically.

1st Offense with a BAC between 0.08% and 0.17%:

  • Mandatory imprisonment: 72 hours OR court ordered driver intervention program.
  • Fine: $375 to $1,075.
  • License suspension: 6 months to 3 years (Possibility of restricted driving privileges).

2nd offense within 6 years with a BAC between 0.08% and 0.17%:

  • Imprisonment: Mandatory minimum 10 days to maximum of under 6 months or combination house arrest with alcohol monitoring and imprisonment.
  • Fine: $500 to $1,625.
  • License suspension: 1 to 5 years.
  • Vehicle impounded: 90 days.
  • Court ordered Drug/alcohol assessment.

3rd offense within 6 years with a BAC between 0.08% and 0.17%:

  • Imprisonment: Mandatory minimum 30 days to maximum of under 1 year or combination house arrest with alcohol monitoring and imprisonment.
  • Fine: $850 to $2,750.
  • License suspension: 2 to 10 years.
  • Required Drug/alcohol treatment.

Any charge with a BAC over 0.17% will carry longer imprisonment and possible additional charges. If you have more than 3 offenses in a period of 6 years you are looking at a felony charge of OVI. Not only does the imprisonment time increase but the fines can reach upwards of $10,500 and you can be hit with additional charges based on your number of past offenses.

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 on OVI criminal penalties check out the Swift & Sure Ohio's OVI Laws brochure by the Department of Public Safety.

Habitual Offender Registry

As soon as you total 5 convictions or more for OVI (or equivalent) within 20 years, you'll be listed on the Habitual OVI Registry. At least 1 conviction must be after the law went into effect on September 30th 2008.

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 5 convictions for OVI within the past 20 years.

Reinstating Your License

It will be up to the court whether you will be allowed to have restricted driving privileges at any time during your suspension. This applies to both ALS or court driver's license suspensions.

After your suspension period is over you will be required to fulfill all of your penalties both from the courts and any from the BMV.

You will have to pay a license reinstatement fee. This fee is based on your date of conviction and the number of convictions you've incurred. The reinstatement fee has a range of $100 to $600 with extra fees for everything from not surrendering your license in a certain period of time and Random Selection fees.

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