Ohio Drunk Driving Laws and Penalties

How "OVI" is defined and penalties for a first, second, and third OVI conviction in Ohio.

Ohio uses the term "operating a vehicle under the influence" (OVI) instead of "DUI." A driver can be convicted of an OVI in Ohio based on alcohol or drug use.

Ohio's Blood Alcohol Limit

In Ohio, a driver can be convicted of a "per se" alcohol OVI for operating a vehicle with a with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater (or urine alcohol concentration of .11% or more). A driver can be convicted of a per se alcohol OVI without proof of actual impairment—a BAC that's above the legal limit is enough.

Per Se OVIs Based on Controlled Substance Use in Ohio

A person can also be convicted of a controlled substance per se offense for driving with a concentration of at least:

  • 100 nanograms per milliliter of blood of amphetamines
  • 50 nanograms per milliliter of blood of cocaine
  • 2,000 nanograms per milliliter of blood of heroin
  • 25 nanograms per milliliter of blood of LSD, or
  • 20 nanograms per milliliter of urine of marijuana.

As with alcohol per se offenses, the prosecution doesn't need to prove actual impairment to get a controlled substance per se OVI conviction.

OVIs Based on Alcohol or Drug Impairment

In Ohio, prosecutors can also get an OVI conviction by proving the driver was operating a vehicle while actually "under the influence" of any controlled substance, alcohol, or combination of the two. To prove impairment, the prosecution needs to show the actual adverse effects on driving ability that the substances ingested had on the driver.

Evidence of impairment might include things like swerving on the roadway, bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, and a loss of balance or coordination. Oftentimes, prosecutors will present evidence of poor field sobriety test performance to prove the driver was under the influence.

    Ohio OVI Penalties Chart

    OVI penalties depend on the number of OVI convictions the offender has had within the past ten years.

    1st Offense

    2nd Offense

    3rd Offense

    Jail

    3 days to 6 months

    10 days to 6 months

    30 days to 1 year

    Fines

    $375 to $1,075

    $525 to $1,625

    $850 to $2,750

    License Suspension

    1 to 3 years

    1 to 7 years

    2 to 12 years

    Community Control Sanctions

    The judge can reduce an offender's jail time by ordering participation in the "Community Control Sanction." As a part of this sentencing alternative, the court can require the offender to complete a treatment program. The offender will also have to complete:

    • at least three days of driver's intervention program if convicted of a first OVI
    • five days jail and 18 days house arrest with alcohol electronic monitoring if convicted of a second offense, or
    • 15 days jail and 55 days house arrest with alcohol electronic monitoring for a third offense.

    For many offenders, the community control sanction program is a good option.

    Aggravated or "Super" OVI Charges

    A driver with a BAC of at least .17% will be subject to increased penalties. Sometimes, these types of OVIs are referred to as "aggravate" or "super" OVI charges.

    First aggravated offense. For a first aggravated offense, the driver must serve three days in jail and complete three days of a driver's intervention program.

    Second aggravated offense. A second aggravated offense carries at least 20 days in jail or ten days in jail and 36 days on house arrest with alcohol monitoring under the Community Control Sanction program.

    Third aggravated offense. A driver convicted of a third aggravated offense must serve 60 days in jail or 30 days in jail and 110 days on house arrest with alcohol monitoring under the Community Control Sanction program.

    Drug and Alcohol Treatment

    A judge will often include substance treatment as part of the OVI sentencing to help prevent future violations.

    Treatment is optional for a first-time offender, but second offenders must complete a substance abuse assessment. The judge can then order any treatment the assessment indicates is appropriate. Third offenders are required to attend community addiction services and comply with all recommended treatments.

    Ohio's OVI Driver's License Penalties

    When arrested for OVI, a driver can be suspended administratively (by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles) and criminally (as the result of a conviction in criminal court). The judge can even temporarily suspend the driver's license while the criminal charges are pending.

    Ohio's Implied Consent Law

    All drivers lawfully arrested for operating or being in actual physical control of a vehicle while impaired are deemed to have consented to a test of their blood, breath, or urine to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs. This requirement is part of Ohio's "implied consent" law.

    Drivers who unlawfully refuse testing or test at a BAC or drug concentration that's over the legal limit will receive a notice of suspension. The suspension length depends on the number of prior OVI convictions and test refusals within the last ten years.

    1st Offense

    2nd Offense

    3rd Offense

    Test Failure

    3 months

    1 year

    2 years

    Test Refusal

    1 year

    2 years

    3 years

    An officer has the option of applying to a court for a warrant to obtain a blood draw if the driver refuses testing.

    Limited Licenses in Ohio

    A suspended driver can petition the court for a limited license. If granted, the motorist will be allowed to operate a vehicle during the suspension period, but only under certain time, place, route, and purpose restrictions. The court will also order the use of an ignition interlock device (IID) and possibly continuous alcohol monitoring.

    The driver must complete a number of days of the suspension period prior to the issuance of a limited license. Generally, the minimums are:

    • 15 days for a first offense
    • 45 days for a second offense, and
    • 180 days for a third offense.

    During these minimums, the driver will have no driving privileges whatsoever.

    "Actual Physical Control" Charges in Ohio

    An Ohio OVI conviction requires proof that the motorist was operating a vehicle. But an impaired person can be arrested and convicted of a crime just for being in "actual physical control" of a vehicle.

    For example, an impaired person who's in the driver's seat and has possession of the ignition keys can be convicted of an actual-physical-control offense. A conviction carries up to $1,000 in fines, a maximum of 180 days in jail, and a license suspension of up to one year. The driver is also subject to any administrative implied consent penalties.

    Underage OVI Charges in Ohio

    Drivers who are under 21 years of age can be convicted of an underage OVI for driving with a BAC of at least .02% but less than .08%. A conviction is a fourth-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum of 30 days in jail, up to $250 in fines, and a three-month to two-year license suspension.

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