Ohio's DUI/OVI Implied Consent Laws: Penalties for Refusing Alcohol Testing

The law in Ohio generally requires all drivers stopped for driving under the influence to take a BAC test.

If you're stopped for operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) in Ohio and the officer asks you to take a blood, breath, or urine test, you'll generally face some consequences if you refuse. The rules and consequences related to OVI alcohol and drug testing come from the state's implied consent law. This article covers the implied consent law requirements and the penalties you'll face for refusing an OVI blood, breath, or urine test.

Ohio's OVI Implied Consent Law: Requirements for Drivers and Officers

Ohio's "implied consent" law requires all drivers lawfully arrested for an OVI to submit to chemical testing to determine blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or the amount of drugs in the person's system. For an arrest to be lawful, the officer who stops you must have reasonable grounds to believe you've been driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The arresting officer chooses what type of test—blood, breath, or urine—you will be required to take. For your first and second OVI, the officer must explain:

  • you're under arrest
  • your license will be suspended for refusing a test, and
  • the consequences of failing a chemical test.

In some circumstances, the officer must also tell you he or she can use "reasonable force" to compel testing (see below).

Implied Consent and Pre-Arrest Testing in Ohio

The implied consent law doesn't require drivers to submit to chemical testing prior to a lawful arrest. However, to establish probable cause to make an arrest, some officers might ask you to take a voluntary "preliminary alcohol screening" (PAS) test. A PAS test is typically administered with a handheld breath test device (often called a "breathalyzer"). The PAS is just a screening test and if you are not under arrest, you can legally refuse to take it without penalty.

Consequences of Refusing Post-Arrest OVI Testing in Ohio

Once you are under arrest, the penalties for refusing to take a blood, breath, or urine test start with a one-year Administrative License Suspension (ALS) from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV)—this is in addition to any suspension a court may later impose for an OVI conviction.

You could receive a two-year ALS for your test refusal if you have a prior refusal, OVI plea, or conviction on your record within the last ten years. The penalty jumps to a three-year ALS if you have two prior OVI pleas, convictions, refusals, or any combination thereof on your record within the last ten years. A test refusal with three or more prior OVI pleas, convictions, refusals, or any combination thereof on your record within the last ten years increases the ALS to five years.

You have 30 days from when you refuse a test to request a hearing with the BMV to contest a suspension.

In addition to ALS/DMV penalties, if you have pled guilty or been convicted of OVI within the last 20 years, you may be charged with the separate offense of "Test Refusal with Prior Conviction" and be subject to enhanced criminal law penalties. Essentially, the minimum jail sentence of a regular OVI is doubled. Similarly, your refusal will remain on your record for 20 years rather than the ten-year OVI "look-back period."

Ohio Officer Can Opt to Get a Warrant if You Refusing OVI Testing

Even if you refuse testing, an officer with probable cause can get a search warrant from a judge authorizing an involuntary blood test. In rare "exigent circumstances," you can be forced to test when a judge is unavailable to issue a warrant. An officer can also administer a test if the driver is unconscious or otherwise unable to refuse.

Should You Refuse to Take a Mandatory DUI Test?

The wisdom of refusing a post-arrest blood, breath, or urine test depends on the circumstances. Refusal carries serious consequences. And refusal may not help you avoid an OVI conviction—you can be found guilty even without BAC test results. In fact, the prosecution can argue to a jury that your refusal shows consciousness of guilt—that you refused to test because you knew you were intoxicated.

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