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.” An Ohio OVI is defined as operating a vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or greater
  • while “under the influence” (having an adverse effect on driving ability) of any controlled substance, alcohol, or combination of the two, or
  • with a certain concentration of specified controlled substances in the body.

A violation based on BAC or controlled substance concentration limit is often called a “per se OVI.” Per se convictions don’t require proof of the person’s level of actual impairment. A person can 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.

The amount of alcohol or drugs needed to reach the prohibited levels can differ depending on a number of factors, including the person’s gender and body size.

Ohio OVI Penalties

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.

Aggravated OVI

A driver with a BAC of at least .17% will be subject to increased penalties. For a first aggravated offense, the driver must serve three days in jail and complete three days of driver’s intervention program. 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. 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.

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.

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.

Implied Consent

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 the 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 License

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” Offenses

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 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 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

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 30 days in jail, up to $250 in fines, and a three-month to two-year license suspension.

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