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OVI Reduced to Reckless in Ohio


In Ohio, operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or a controlled substance (OVI) is a serious criminal offense. Depending on your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) at the time of arrest and whether you have prior convictions for OVI, you may be sentenced to anywhere from 3 days to over a year in jail, plus substantial fines and a lengthy license suspension. 

If you are charged with OVI, you may be able to have the charge reduced to a lesser offense. In some cases, an OVI may be reduced to Reckless Operation of a Motor Vehicle Vehicle, a misdemeanor traffic offense, or even to Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle While Under the Influence. This reduction may be achieved through skilled advocacy by a Mason OVI/DUI defense attorney.

After an OVI arrest, you may be panicked and worried about what a conviction will mean for your future. While an OVI is a criminal offense, your lawyer may be able to negotiate a reduction or dismissal of the charges against you — which may include having the charge reduced to reckless operation.

OVI vs Reckless Operation 

In Ohio, you can be charged with OVI if you operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) or .08% or greater (or urine alcohol concentration of .11% or higher); operate a vehicle while your driving ability is impaired by alcohol and/or a controlled substance; or if you operate a vehicle with a specific concentration of a controlled substance in your body. In most cases, an OVI will be charged as a misdemeanor in Ohio. However, under certain circumstances, such as someone getting hurt, an OVI will be charged as a felony offense.

Reckless operation is a violation of Ohio’s traffic laws. It may be charged when a person operates a vehicle on any street or highway “in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.” You can also be charged with reckless operation for driving in a similar way off-road or on a watercraft.

Reckless operation is considered a minor misdemeanor as a first offense. If a person has a prior conviction of a traffic offense within the past year, it will be charged as a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If a person has two or more convictions for a traffic offense within the past year, it will be charged as a misdemeanor of the third degree.

While the penalties for OVI are often substantial, a conviction for reckless operation carries much lighter consequences. It may result in up to four “points” on your Ohio driver’s license, as well as a fine of up to $150. A second or greater conviction for reckless operation may lead to a fine of $250 to $500 and 30 to 60 days in jail. 

In addition, a conviction for reckless operation will add 4 points to your license, as opposed to the 6 points associated with an OVI. While your license may be suspended for reckless operation, this suspension is discretionary, not mandatory (unlike with OVI). If a suspension is imposed, it will be for a period of 180 days; you will then have to pay a reinstatement fee of $40.00 to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles to have your license reinstated. 

How Can You Get an OVI Reduced to Reckless Operation Or Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle?

If you are charged with OVI in Ohio, having the charge reduced to reckless operation or physical control of a motor vehicle can be incredibly beneficial. Not only are the immediate consequences less severe, if you are charged with OVI in the future, neither of these charges will be considered a prior offense.

As discussed above a reckless operation charge will be considered a moving violation, rather than a criminal offense. The penalties for reckless are also much lighter than those for an OVI. It also does not count as a prior conviction for purposes of future OVI charges.

Physical control of a vehicle while under the influence may be charged when a person is in the driver’s seat of a vehicle and in possession of the vehicle’s keys while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. It is a misdemeanor of the first degree. For example, you may be charged with physical control if you are drinking at your house and decide to go out to your car to listen to music. Even though you didn’t operate the vehicle, if you are sitting in the driver’s seat and have the keys while under the influence, you could be charged with this offense.

Although physical control is similar to an OVI conviction in that both are misdemeanors of the first degree, this charge does not carry the same minimum penalties as an OVI. If you are convicted of or plead guilty to physical control, you may be sentenced to 0 to 180 days in jail, fines of up to $1,000, court-ordered drug or alcohol treatment, and a potential driver’s license suspension of up to 1 year. There are no driver’s license points associated with physical control, and it does not qualify as a prior offense for purposes of future OVI charges. If your license is suspended, the reinstatement fee will be $475 for a physical control charge.

So how can you get an OVI reduced to reckless operation or physical control? The key to doing so often lies in the skill and experience of your attorney. 

Generally, an OVI may be reduced in cases where it is a first-time OVI offense, and no accident or property damage occurred. A prosecutor may also be more inclined to reduce the charge if the driver has no prior convictions (including for OVI/DUI).

In addition, if there are problems with the case itself, a prosecutor may decide to offer a plea deal for reckless operation or physical control rather than risk having the charge dismissed or a not guilty verdict at trial. This may occur when:

  • Law enforcement lacked reasonable suspicion to stop your vehicle;
  • Law enforcement lacked sufficient evidence to even place you under arrest for operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs of abuse.
  • Your BAC was barely over the legal limit;
  • Law enforcement failed to substantially comply in the administration of standardized field sobriety testing prior to placing you under arrest
  • The prosecution lacks the evidence to convict you;
  • There were problems with your breath, blood, or urine test; or
  • You were not actually impaired.

A seasoned OVI defense attorney will thoroughly investigate the facts of your case to find any weakness in the state’s case against you — and to develop defenses to the OVI charge itself. In this way, your lawyer may be able to persuade the prosecutor to reduce your OVI to reckless operation or physical control.

Some courts and prosecutors take a zero-tolerance approach to OVI/DUI charges. That is why it is so important to work with an attorney who is familiar with the prosecutor and the judge assigned to your case. At Engel & Martin, our team includes experienced former prosecutors Joshua Engel, Jim Hardin, Mary K. Martin, and Anne Tamashasky, who have personally handled hundreds of OVI cases here in Warren County. We now put our knowledge of the law to work for Ohioans who have been charged with OVI/DUI.

When Can an OVI Not Be Reduced to Reckless?

There are situations where a prosecutor will generally not agree to reduce your OVI charge to reckless operation. This typically occurs when the facts of your case are not favorable to you, or when you have prior OVI convictions. Because the prosecutor must agree to a reduction and the court must approve it as well, these factors will probably lead to the state moving forward with the original OVI charge.

If your BAC was well over the legal limit — known as a high test or aggravated OVI — then it is unlikely that your charge will be reduced. While a prosecutor may be able to justify reducing your charge if your BAC was on the line, driving while heavily intoxicated is incredibly dangerous…and not something that the State of Ohio will typically be willing to let slide.

Similarly, if you have one or more prior OVI convictions within the past 10 years, your charge will not likely be reduced. Having multiple convictions may be a sign of an alcohol abuse problem, which is more apt to result in more significant OVI penalties, and possibly court-ordered treatment.

Finally, if you drove under the influence and got into an accident, hurt someone, and/or caused property damage, then neither the prosecutor nor the court will agree to a reduction in your OVI charge. In this type of case, your driving under the influence probably had a victim (or more than one victim). For this reason, your charge will probably not be reduced to reckless operation.

If getting the charge reduced to reckless is not an option, you may still be able to have it reduced to physical control. A skilled lawyer can help you understand the likelihood of this happening, and can advocate on your behalf with the prosecutor handling your case.

Charged with OVI? We Can Help.

If you have been charged with OVI, you may be feeling overwhelmed with the possible consequences of this charge, such as jail time, a license suspension, and hefty fines. A skilled Mason, OH OVI defense attorney can help by putting together strong legal and factual defenses to your charges — and potentially getting your OVI reduced to the reckless operation or physical control.

Engel & Martin is dedicated to fighting for the rights of our clients who have been charged with a range of Ohio crimes, including OVI. We are fierce advocates who will work hard to help our clients achieve the best possible outcome for their case. To learn more or to schedule a consultation, call our office at 513-445-9600 or email us anytime.

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