Ohio's Drugged Driving Laws

How drug use can result in an OVI charge in Ohio and the penalties that result from a conviction.

By , Attorney

In Ohio, driving under the influence is officially called "operating a vehicle under the influence" or "OVI." As in other states, Ohio's OVI laws apply not only to alcohol but also to operating under the influence of drugs. But whereas in some states drug DUIs require proof of actual driver impairment, Ohio also has "per se" DUI drug OVI laws. With per se laws, the driver can be convicted of an OVI solely for having a certain concentration of drugs in his or her system.

Specifically, Ohio law defines a DUI OVI as operating a vehicle while "under the influence" of a controlled substance or with a blood 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.

When a drug OVI is based on the concentration of any of these controlled substances, the driver can be convicted without proof of actual impairment—blood test results showing a prohibited controlled substance concentration is sufficient.

Defense to a Drug OVI Based on a Prescription

Drivers who were using a controlled substance that was prescribed by a physician might have a defense to an OVI charge. To establish the defense, the driver must have a valid prescription for the controlled substance and have taken the controlled substance in accordance with a health professional's directions.

In practice, this defense doesn't often apply because a prescription for a controlled substance normally contains a warning against driving while taking the substance.

Ohio's Drugged Driving Penalties

The consequences of an Ohio drugged driving conviction depend on the circumstances. But generally, an OVI carries the following possible penalties, which depend on how many prior convictions the driver has that occurred within the past ten years:

  • First offense. A first OVI carries a minimum three days in jail (or three days in a "Drivers Intervention Program"), fines of $375 to $1,075, and a one- to three-year license suspension.
  • Second offense. For a second OVI, the driver faces ten to 180 days in jail (or five days in jail and 18 days of house arrest with electronic monitoring), fines of $525 to $1,625, and a one- to seven-year license suspension.
  • Third offense. Drivers convicted of a third OVI are looking at 30 days to one year in jail, fines of $850 to $2,750, and a two- to 12-year license suspension.

These are the normal ranges of penalties for drug OVI convictions. However, certain factors increase or decrease the penalties that the driver faces.

Getting Legal Help

Ohio OVII law is complex, and the facts of every case are different. If you've been arrested for driving under the influence, talk to an experienced OVI attorney in your area. A qualified OVI lawyer can tell you how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best course of action.

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