Driving under the influence is a major problem in Ohio. In the first 3 months of 2020 alone, the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP) arrested 3,992 people for operating a vehicle while impaired (OVI), sometimes also referred to as driving under the influence (DUI). This includes 95 arrests in Hamilton County and 111 arrests in Warren County.
Given the scope of this problem — and the high rate of fatal and serious car accidents that are caused by OVI each year — the Ohio Legislature has set forth substantial penalties for anyone convicted of OVI. In addition, anyone arrested for certain types of OVI offenses or who refuses to submit to a chemical test after being arrested will have their license suspended.
If you have been charged with DUI/OVI in Ohio, you have the right to contest the charges — and to fight back against these harsh consequences. An experienced Cincinnati DUI defense lawyer can thoroughly examine the facts of your case and defend you against the charges.
When Can You Be Charged with DUI/OVI in Ohio?
Driving under the influence (DUI) is a criminal offense in the state of Ohio. In most states, this crime is referred to as either DUI or DWI. In Ohio, if you operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, you will be charged with an OVI (Operating a Vehicle Impaired).
There are three ways that you may be charged with an OVI under Ohio law:
- Operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater (or a urine alcohol concentration of .11% or higher), with lower levels for certain drivers;
- Operating a vehicle while under the influence of any controlled substance, alcohol, or combination of the two, such that it has an adverse effect on your driving ability; or
- Operating a vehicle with a certain concentration of specified controlled substances in your body.
If you are charged with an OVI based on the level of alcohol and/or drugs in your system, this is known as a “per se OVI.” This means that the prosecutor does not have to prove that your ability to drive was impaired. Instead, the fact that you had a certain amount of drugs and/or alcohol in your system is enough to prosecute you.
Under Ohio law, a per se OVI can be charged if you have the following levels of alcohol and/or drugs in your system:
- Alcohol: .08% or higher BAC
- Alcohol, under the age of 21: .02 to .08% BAC
- Amphetamine: ≥ 500 ng (urine test)
- Cocaine: ≥ 150 ng (urine test)
- Cocaine Metabolite: ≥ 150 ng (urine test)
- Heroin: ≥ 2000 ng (urine test)
- Heroin Metabolite: ≥ 10 ng (urine test)
- L.S.D.: ≥ 25 ng (urine test)
- Marijuana: ≥ 10 ng (urine test)
- Marijuana Metabolite and under the influence: ≥ 15 ng (urine test)
- Marijuana Metabolite: ≥ 35 ng (urine test)
- Methamphetamine: ≥ 500 ng (urine test)
- Phencyclidine: ≥ 25 ng (urine test)
If you are charged with any type of OVI in Ohio, you may face two types of penalties: administrative, through the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), and criminal as a result of court proceedings.
Administrative Penalties from the Ohio BMV
The Ohio BMV can suspend your driver’s license privileges if you are charged with an OVI, or if you refuse to take a chemical blood, breath, or urine test after being arrested on suspicion of OVI. These penalties are separate from any consequences that you may face from the court if you are convicted of or plead guilty to an OVI.
Ohio has an implied consent law, which means that you are deemed to have consented to a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine if you are arrested for OVI. If you refuse to take the test, then you will face penalties. Under a recent United States Supreme Court decision, law enforcement may even be able to take a blood sample without a warrant or consent if a person is unconscious.
The length of your driver’s license suspension will depend on the number of OVI suspensions that you have had within the past 10 years. This is known as the “lookback” period.
If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, then your Ohio driver’s license will be suspended for the following length of time:
- 1st Refusal: 1-year suspension, with a 30 day waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
- 2nd Refusal: 2-year suspension, with a 90 day waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
- 3rd Refusal: 3-year suspension, with a 1-year waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
- 4th or Greater Refusal: 5-year suspension, with a 3-year waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
If you are arrested on suspicion of OVI and have a positive test for drugs or alcohol in your system that meets or exceeds the limits discussed above, then your license will be suspended for:
- 1st Failed Chemical Test: 90-day suspension, with a 15 day waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
- 2nd Failed Chemical Test: 1-year suspension, with a 15 day waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
- 3rd Failed Chemical Test: 2-year suspension, with a 180 day waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
- 4th or Greater Failed Chemical Test: 3-year suspension, with a 3 year waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
A person who has been convicted of 3 or more OVI charges within the past 7 years will not be eligible for limited driving privileges.
If you have been arrested on suspicion of OVI, you have 30 days from the date of the suspension notice to request an administrative license suspension hearing with the Ohio BMV. A skilled Cincinnati DUI defense lawyer can represent you at this hearing.
Criminal Penalties for a Conviction of DUI/OVI in Ohio
In addition to an administrative license suspension, if you are arrested on suspicion of OVI, you will also be facing criminal charges. The penalties for a DUI/OVI in Ohio are based on two factors: the number of previous convictions that you have within the past 10 years, and your BAC level.
In 2017, under what is known as “Annie’s Law,” the look-back period for OVI/DUI offenses in Ohio was extended from 6 years to 10 years. As a result, if you had one prior OVI/DUI conviction (whether through a plea deal or at trial) in the past 10 years, and are charged with a second OVI/DUI offense, the new charge will be considered your second OVI/DUI. In addition, if you were previously charged with an OVI/DUI offense and refuse to take a chemical breath, blood or urine test, the look-back period is extended from 10 to 20 years.
Having a second or greater offense within the look-back period will increase your penalties for a current offense significantly. For each consecutive offense, the penalties for an OVI/DUI conviction will increase in terms of fines, length and terms of license suspensions, and length of mandatory confinement and alcohol awareness/treatment programming. A felony charge may result in a long prison term, mandatory alcohol or drug treatment, a permanent driver’s license suspension, forfeiture of your vehicle, and expensive fines.
In Ohio, anyone who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, with a BAC of .17% or higher may be charged with an aggravated or high test DUI. Otherwise, if your BAC tested at .08% to .16%, you will be charged with a standard DUI.
The penalties for a standard (low tier) OVI conviction may include:
- 1st Offense: 3 days to 6 months of jail time, fines from $375 to $1075, and a license suspension of 1 to 3 years
- 2nd Offense: 10 days to 6 months of jail time, $525 to $1,625 in fines, and a license suspension of 1 to 7 years
- 3rd Offense: 30 days to 1 year in jail, $850 to $2,750 in fines, and a license suspension of 2 to 12 years
If you are convicted of a low-tier OVI, the judge may order you to participate in the Community Control Sanction. This sentencing alternative will reduce your jail time, and require you to complete a treatment program and (1) participate in a driver’s intervention program for at least 3 days (first offense); (2) serve 5 days in jail and 18 days under house arrest with alcohol electric monitoring (second offense); or (3) serve 15 days in jail and 55 days under house arrest with alcohol electric monitoring (third offense).
If you are convicted of a high test or aggravated OVI, then you will face the following additional penalties:
- 1st Offense: 3 days in jail and 3 days of a driver’s intervention program;
- 2nd Offense: at least 20 days in jail or 10 days in jail and 36 days on house arrest with monitoring under the Community Control Sanction
- 3rd or Greater Offense: 60 days in jail or 30 days in jail and 110 days on house arrest with monitoring under the Community Control Sanction
For any OVI conviction, a judge may also order substance abuse treatment. This is an option for first-time offenders, but second offenders must complete a substance abuse assessment, and third offenders are required to undergo treatment.
Facing OVI Charges? We Can Help.
An OVI charge may not seem that serious — but it can result in the loss of your driver’s license for an extended period of time as well as jail time and significant fines. You can fight back against these charges, at both the administrative and criminal levels.
At Engel & Martin, LLC, our team has extensive experience handling DUI/OVI cases, both as prosecutors, administrators for the Department of Health, and as defense attorneys. We put our knowledge and skill to work for our clients, defending them against license suspensions, jail time, and more. To learn more or to schedule a consultation,