Ohio uses the term "operating a vehicle under the influence" (OVI) instead of "DUI." This article explains Ohio's OVI laws and the penalties you'll face for a first, second, third, and felony conviction.
A driver can be convicted of an OVI in Ohio based on alcohol or drug use.
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.
A person can also be convicted of a controlled substance per se offense for driving with a concentration of at least:
As with alcohol per se offenses, the prosecution doesn't need to prove actual impairment to get a controlled substance per se OVI conviction.
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.
OVI penalties depend on the number of OVI convictions the offender has had within the past 10 years. A first DUI is a misdemeanor and generally carries:
These penalties are even more severe if the driver had a BAC of .17% or more.
A second DUI within 10 years is a misdemeanor and generally carries:
As with a first offense, these penalties are even more severe if the driver had a BAC of .17% or more.
A third DUI within 10 years is a misdemeanor and generally carries:
As with a first and second offense, the penalties for a third offense are even more severe if the driver had a BAC of .17% or more.
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 10 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.
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:
For many offenders, the community control sanction program is a good option.
A number of circumstances can elevate an OVI to a felony in Ohio. Some of the more common reasons an OVI would be charged as a felony include having three or more priors and causing injuries or deaths.
If an offender has three or more prior convictions within the past ten years, the current offense will be a fourth-degree felony. Depending on the circumstances, a conviction carries 60 days to five years in jail and $1,350 to $10,500 in fines.
Once you're convicted of a felony OVI, all subsequent OVI convictions will also be felonies. Typically, this type of felony OVI is a third-degree felony. Generally, a conviction carries 60 days to five years in jail and $1,350 to $10,500 in fines.
DUIs involving serious injuries to another person are considered "aggravated vehicular assault." A conviction is generally a third-degree felony and carries 12 to 60 months in jail and up to $10,000 in fines.
Causing the death of another person while driving under the influence is "aggravated vehicular homicide." A conviction is a second-degree felony and carries at least two years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.
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.
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.
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:
During these minimums, the driver will have no driving privileges whatsoever.
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.
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.
Don't try to represent yourself in an OVI case. Ohio's OVI laws are complicated and impose severe consequences for convictions. If you've been arrested for driving under the influence, get in contact with a qualified OVI lawyer who can help you navigate the legal process.