First-Offense OVI/DUI in Ohio

Read about the administrative and criminal penalties for a first-offense OVI in Ohio.

In Ohio, DUI (driving under the influence) is generally referred to as “OVI” (operating a vehicle under the influence). You can be convicted of OVI if you operate a vehicle:

  • with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more (or a urine alcohol concentration of .110 or more)
  • with a certain concentration of amphetamine, cocaine, heroin, LSD, marijuana, methamphetamine, or PCP in your body, or
  • while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two.

For purposes of the OVI statute, “under the influence” means the person’s ability to drive is impaired by alcohol or drugs.

(See our BAC chart for an estimate of how many drinks it takes to get to the legal limit.)

When you’re arrested for most crimes, you aren’t subject to penalties unless actually convicted of the offense (either by plea bargaining or conviction at trial). But if you’re lawfully arrested for OVI, there can be administrative consequences—such as license suspension and fees—regardless of whether you’re convicted of an OVI in criminal court. And if you are ultimately convicted of OVI, you’ll face additional criminal penalties.

This article discusses first-offense OVI penalties (also see second and third offense consequences). For most purposes, an OVI is considered a first offense if you haven’t had an OVI in the past ten years.

Administrative Penalties

The process. If you’re lawfully arrested for a first-offense OVI and chemical testing shows your BAC or urine alcohol concentrations exceed the legal limits—or if you refuse testing—the arresting agency will immediately confiscate your license, and you will be subject to an administrative license suspension from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). You have 30 days from your arraignment to challenge the suspension.

Over the legal limit. If your blood test shows a BAC of .08% or more, or your urine test shows an alcohol concentration of .110 or more, the BMV will suspend your license for one to three years. After a 15-day “hard suspension” you may be eligible for a restricted license (see specifics below).

Refusals. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test in violation of Ohio’s “implied consent” law, your license will automatically be suspended for one year. You may still be eligible for a restricted license, but your hard suspension will be for 30 days.

Restricted license. Once you complete the hard suspension period, you can apply to the court for a restricted license. The judge can—but isn’t required to—grant limited driving privileges with requirements that might include restricted hours, special offender license plates, and any other conditions the judge deems appropriate. The judge can also grant unlimited driving privileges if you agree to install an ignition interlock device (IID).

Criminal Penalties

Penalties for a first OVI conviction in Ohio vary by degree of intoxication. For a “low level” OVI (BAC of less than .17%) you can be sentenced to:

  • a minimum three days in jail or mandatory attendance at a three-day Drivers Intervention Program
  • up to 5 years of probation
  • a fine from $375 to $1,075 and related fees (get a better idea of how much a first DUI will cost you), and
  • a court-imposed license suspension of one to three years.

You may be able to avoid some portion of Jail and license suspension by agreeing to use an IID.

For a “high level” OVI—a BAC of .17% or higher or refusal of a chemical test—you can expect doubled jail time and mandated display of restricted license plates.

Getting Legal Help

Ohio’s DUI laws are complicated, and the facts of each case are different. If you’ve been arrested or charged for OVI, you should contact an experienced criminal defense attorney in your area who can help you decide how best to proceed with your case.

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