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OVI in Ohio

What is an OVI in Ohio?

Operating a Vehicle while Impaired (OVI) is a criminal offense that constitutes controlling a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is a significant problem in Ohio.

According to OVI statistics published by the Ohio State Highway Patrol (OSHP), thousands of people are arrested annually for intoxicated driving, and several car crashes that occur in the state can be attributed to impaired drivers. For instance, in 2020, there were 16,525 persons arrested for OVIs, and 13,141 OVI crashes in the state.

Because of the number of accidents caused by OVI offenses in Ohio each year, the state legislature imposes harsh penalties on anyone who commits an OVI. These penalties typically constitute the criminal penalties imposed by the Ohio court system and the administrative license actions taken by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). Consequently, Ohio DUI offenses constitute Ohio criminal records.

These penalties have far-reaching ramifications for people found guilty, and can stay with an offender for years. Fines, high insurance premiums, court-ordered community service, and even incarceration are all immediate and short-term repercussions of drunk or drugged driving. However, an OVI can also affect an offender's work, career, housing, and immigration prospects and agonize them for years.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and an OVI in Ohio?

DUI (Driving Under the Influence) and DWI (Driving While Impaired) are acronyms commonly used to refer to impaired driving offenses. According to the Ohio State Bar, the terms DUI, DWI, OMVI, and OVI all mean the same thing: operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

However, any individual caught drunk or drugged driving in the state will be charged with an OVI. Also, it does not matter the sort of vehicle used to commit the OVI act. As long as someone controls a vehicle (e.g., an automobile, bicycle, horse-drawn carriage, streetcar, trackless trolley, etc.) while drug or alcohol-impaired, OVI charges can be brought against that person.

Ohio OVI Laws

Drunk driving is a criminal offense in Ohio under the law. In the state, drunk driving offenses are referred to as OVIs (Operating a Vehicle While Impaired). This offense was previously called an OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle Impaired), as the state required a person to drive before being charged. Today, all that is needed for an OVI conviction in Ohio is the vehicle's operation, not only necessarily the vehicle's movement. Therefore, if law enforcement can prove that a driver drove a vehicle while under the influence of intoxicants, the court will sentence the driver as provided by the law.

Physical Control charges

In cases where law enforcement cannot prove an individual drove the vehicle, the individual may be charged with Physical Control. This is similar to an Ohio OVI charge, as it involves being in a vehicle while being impaired by intoxicants. However, the vehicle does not need to have been driven or even started for a person to be convicted.

For instance, if a person is spotted sleeping it off in their car at a bar parking lot, a Physical Control violation can be filed. A vehicle does not have to be operated, nor do the keys have to be in the ignition for a person to be charged with Physical Control. Having the keys within reach satisfies the definition of "physical control" under the law.

As a result, under Ohio law, an individual can be charged with an OVI in three different ways:

  • Operating a vehicle while having a BAC of .08 percent or higher or a urine alcohol concentration of .11 percent or higher. (The BAC limit is lower for minors and commercial drivers.)
  • Operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol, any controlled substance, or a combination of both.
  • Operating a vehicle with a specific concentration of controlled substances in the individual's body.

Additionally, even if a motorist exhibits no signs of intoxication but the alcohol level in their system exceeds the legal limit, they can be charged with an OVI.

Being charged with an OVI based on the amount of alcohol/drugs in one's system is called "per se OVI". In court, it will not be necessary to establish that a driver's competency was impaired. Instead, being caught with a certain level of drugs/alcohol in one's system is enough to get anyone arrested. Any individual with the following levels of intoxicants in their system can be charged with a per se OVI in Ohio:

  • Alcohol: BAC of .08 percent or higher. (BAC from .02 to .08 percent for drivers under the age of 21.)
  • Amphetamine: Greater than 500 ng (nanograms)
  • Cocaine: Greater than 150 ng
  • Cocaine Metabolite: 150 ng
  • Heroin: Greater than 2000 ng
  • Marijuana: Greater than 10 ng, etc.

Note that the BAC limit might vary depending on a driver's status. Non-commercial drivers aged 21 and above are deemed legally intoxicated if their blood alcohol level is .08 or higher. Meanwhile, commercial drivers (such as school bus drivers) are considered legally drunk if their blood alcohol level is .04 percent or higher. Furthermore, drivers below the age of 21 are considered legally intoxicated if their blood alcohol level is .02 or above.

Ohio Implied Consent Statute

Because Ohio is an implied consent state, drivers are presumed to have consented to chemical testing when arrested for an OVI. If they refuse, they can face penalties such as the suspension of their driver's license. Usually, the driver will be informed of the consequences of refusing a chemical test by the arresting officer.

A one-year driver's license suspension is imposed for a first refusal, and another refusal will result in license suspension for five years or less.

Operation of a Vehicle after Underage Consumption (OVUAC)

In Ohio, the legal drinking age is 21. When a person under 21 is charged with an OVI, it is called "operating a vehicle after underage alcohol consumption" (OVUAC). This charge may be filed when an underage person is found with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.02 percent or higher. This means that even a small quantity of alcohol can push an underage driver beyond the legal limit.

OVI Penalties in Ohio

If an individual is charged with an OVI in Ohio, they may face two sorts of penalties: administrative penalties from the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) and criminal penalties from the courts. Generally, an offender does not face any criminal penalty unless they are found guilty. However, whether an individual is convicted of OVI or not, they may face administrative repercussions like license suspension and fines if they are arrested for an OVI.

Administrative Penalties

  • For OVI arrests:
    Suppose an individual is lawfully arrested for an OVI, and chemical testing reveals that their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or urine alcohol concentration (UAC) exceeds the permissible limit. In that case, the arresting officer will seize their license, and the BMV will issue an administrative license suspension. Nonetheless, according to state law, every offender has 30 days from the date of their arraignment to appeal the suspension.
  • For BAC tests over the legal limit:
    The BMV will suspend an individual's license for one to three years if a blood test indicates a BAC of .08 percent or higher or if a urine test shows an alcohol content of .110 or more. However, they may qualify for a restricted license after a 15-day hard suspension.
  • For chemical test refusals:
    If the person declines a chemical test, their license will be automatically suspended for one year under Ohio's "implied consent" legislation. Under this law, if a driver refuses a chemical test, their driver's license will be revoked for the following periods, as given by Ohio Rev. Code § 4510.02:
  • First refusal: a one-year suspension with a 30-day waiting period before applying for restricted driving privileges.
  • Second refusal: a two-year suspension with a 90-day waiting period before applying for restricted driving privileges.
  • Third refusal: three-year suspension with a one-year waiting period before applying for restricted driving privileges.
  • 4th or subsequent refusal: 5-year suspension with a 3-year waiting period before applying for restricted driving privileges. An offender may still be eligible for limited driving privileges, but their driver's license will be suspended for 30 days.

After the suspension period has ended, or at least an acceptable portion of it has been served, an OVI offender can apply to the court for a restricted license with limited driving privileges for specific purposes, such as going to work, school, or court-ordered treatment. The judge may provide limited driving privileges with conditions such as limited hours, special offender license plates, and any other terms that the judge deems acceptable.

In most cases, providing limited driving privileges requires the offender to utilize an ignition interlock device. The judge may grant unlimited driving privileges if the defendant agrees to install an ignition interlock device (IID). Note that anyone who received three or more OVI convictions in the past seven years does not qualify for restricted driving privileges.

Criminal Penalties

The severity of a criminal penalty is usually determined by the number of OVI convictions an offender has had in the past ten years (otherwise called the "look-back" period). As a result, committing a second or subsequent offense within the look-back period will heighten the penalty for a current offense. The penalties for a second or subsequent OVI conviction will rise in terms of fines, license suspension periods, mandatory incarceration periods, and hours required in an alcohol/drug treatment program. For example, a felony conviction can lead to a lengthy jail sentence, forced alcohol or drug treatment, permanent driver's license suspension, vehicle confiscation, and high fines.

The level of intoxication may also determine the criminal penalties. If an offender has a "low level" OVI (BAC of less than .17 percent), they can be sentenced to:

  • At least three days in jail or mandatory attendance at a three-day "Drivers Intervention Program".
  • Up to five years of probation.
  • A fine ranging from $375 to $1,075, plus other related fees.
  • License suspension for one to three years.

By consenting to use an IID, an offender may avoid the jail and license suspension periods.

A "high level" OVI (BAC of .17 percent or more) or refusal of a chemical test carries a doubled prison sentence and the requirement to display restricted license plates.

What Happens When You Get a DUI in Ohio?

Because drunk driving offenses are tried as OVIs in Ohio, not DUIs (driving under the influence), there are no distinct statutes or penalties for DUIs in Ohio. Instead, all drunk driving charges are addressed and penalized according to Ohio's OVI laws.

What Happens When You Get an OVI for the First Time in Ohio?

Under Ohio Rev. Code § 4511.19, a first OVI occurs when someone operates any vehicle while impaired, and their blood alcohol content (BAC) exceeds .08 percent. In addition to incarceration and fines, first OVI offenses come with several months of probation, community service, mandatory ignition interlock device, and driver's license suspension.

In Ohio, a first OVI is a first-degree misdemeanor unless it resulted in another person's death, serious bodily injury, or property damage. The offense carries the following criminal penalties:

  • A maximum of six months in jail, with a mandatory minimum sentence of 72 hours. In addition to the compulsory three days in jail, if the offender has a high BAC, the individual may be required to participate in a three-day driver's intervention program. If the person refuses to participate in the program, the court may sentence them to up to six mandatory days in jail.
  • A fine of $375 to $1,075.
  • Certified Driver's Intervention Program instead of the mandatory jail time.
  • Ignition interlock device

Driver's License Suspension Penalties

Under Ohio Rev. Code § 4510.02, anyone convicted of their first OVI faces a class five driver's license suspension. As such, the individual will need to serve a court-ordered suspension that will last anywhere from six months to three years.

However, the court may provide restricted driving privileges for vocational or educational reasons, to attend court-ordered treatment programs, or take a driver's license exam. Before an individual's full driving rights are restored, the court may order them to undergo a remedial driving course.

What is the Penalty for a Second OVI in Ohio?

In Ohio, a person charged with a second offense OVI faces harsher penalties than someone charged with a first offense. Enhanced penalties are obligatory if the second offense happens within ten years of the first.

The following penalties apply if an offender is guilty of a second low-level OVI offense (BAC of less than.17 percent):

  • A minimum of 10 days in jail, or 5 days in jail plus 18 days of home arrest with electronic monitoring (HAEM) and/or continuous alcohol monitoring
  • A maximum sentence of 6 months
  • Probation for up to 5 years
  • A fine ranging from $525 to $1,625
  • Mandatory alcohol/drug testing and treatment
  • Suspension of the offender's driver's license for one to seven years, with no driving privileges for the first 45 days
  • Mandatory installation of restricted plates (yellow license plates)
  • Ignition interlock device (if the OVI occured because of alcohol consumption)
  • Vehicle immobilization for 90 days (if the car used to commit the offense is registered to the offender)
  • 6 points assessed to the offender's driving record

If the offender is convicted of a high-level OVI offense (BAC of .17 percent or more), the same penalties apply, except that:

  • A jail sentence of at least 20 days or 10 days in jail and 36 days of home arrest with electronic monitoring.

Penalties for Underage Drivers and Commercial Drivers

Suppose an underage offender is charged with OVUAC (Operating a Vehicle after Underage Alcohol Consumption) for the second time in a year. In that case, the prosecution can file third-degree misdemeanor charges against them. The court then has the right to impose a class four court suspension (a one to five-year driver's license suspension) on the underage offender. Other penalties like a 60-day jail sentence and a fine of up to $500 are imposed at the court's discretion.

A first OVI conviction of a commercial driver may result in a one-year license suspension, but a second OVI conviction will result in a lifetime suspension.

What Happens After a Third DUI in Ohio?

If a person has been convicted of two OVIs, refusals of chemical tests, or any combination of both in the last ten years, it is a third OVI offense.

The following penalties apply if an offender is guilty of a third low-level OVI offense (BAC of less than.17 percent) in Ohio, also known as an unclassified misdemeanor:

  • Minimum sentence of 30 days in jail, or 15 days in jail with 55 days of house arrest with electronic monitoring (HAEM)
  • Maximum of one year in prison
  • Probation for up to 5 years
  • A fine ranging from $850 to $2,750.
  • Mandatory alcohol or drug addiction treatment
  • Suspension of driver's license for 2 to 12 years, with no driving privileges for the first 180 days
  • Mandatory installation of restricted license plates and ignition interlock devices
  • 6 points assessed on the offender's driving record

The same penalties apply if the offender is convicted of a third high-level OVI offense, except that the offender will spend:

  • A jail term of 60 days or 30 days in jail plus 110 days of house arrest with electronic monitoring (HAEM)

Subsequent OVI offenses will be tried as felonies.

How Long Does an OVI Stay on Your Record in Ohio?

An OVI conviction will appear on an adult offender's Ohio driving record for the rest of their lives. However, the records available to insurance companies from "driver abstracts" only go back three years. If the offender was convicted or adjudicated for an OVI as a minor, their record could be cleared once six months pass from the case's closing.

In addition, Ohio utilizes a demerit point system, which assesses demerit points for OVI violations committed within the state. These 6 points stay on an offender's driving record for two years.

OVI Expungement in Ohio

An expungement in Ohio refers to the removal of an offense or conviction from an offender's criminal record. When a record is expunged, it means it has been erased (both the physical and digital copies) and made inaccessible to the public. As such, it will not appear on criminal background checks.

The Ohio constitution prevents the expungement of OVI convictions obtained by adults. In fact, such offenders cannot have any traffic offense wiped from their criminal records. Hence, an OVI conviction will remain permanently in their public criminal records. In most cases, the only way for an adult to remove an OVI conviction from a criminal record is to have the court overturn the conviction.

Nevertheless, adults may be allowed to have records of OVI arrests or charges sealed if they were found not guilty. When a record is sealed, it is no longer accessible to the general public; only government agencies and law enforcement have access to it.

Juveniles are eligible for OVI expungement in Ohio. A minor can seek to have their record sealed if their case has been closed for at least six months. (In Ohio, a record can be erased after it has been sealed.) Also, when a juvenile reaches the age of 18, they have the right to seal their juvenile OVI record at any time. If the juvenile does not request expungement, the record will be erased after five years or when the person reaches the age of 23, whichever occurs first.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First OVI in Ohio?

In Ohio, a first-time OVI conviction carries a mandatory minimum punishment of three days in jail. The minimum jail sentence will be six days if the first offense is a "high-level" OVI conviction (BAC above .17). However, Ohio allows first-time offenders to avoid jail time by enrolling in an approved 3 to 6-day driver intervention program (DIP) instead of going to jail.

What is the Average Cost of OVI in Ohio?

OVI convictions in Ohio are expensive. Offenders in Ohio can expect to pay up to $10,000 in bail, court costs, attorney fees, fines, and other related charges for a case that does not even go to trial. In some DUI cases, a defendant may have to pay as much as $3,000 or $4,000, even if the charges are dropped before trial.

The costs associated with an OVI conviction include:

  • Attorney fees: A defendant in an OVI case is advised to get an attorney to help with their case, and legal expenses might cost thousands of dollars. While hiring a defense lawyer is sure to be expensive, having a good lawyer can lower the amount a person will have to pay in the long run.
  • Court costs: Convicted OVI offenders should expect to spend hundreds of dollars in court expenses, though the amount may be reduced if they plead guilty or "no contest". Trials, as well as court filings and appearances, cost money.
  • Fines imposed by the court: As a consequence of an OVI conviction, fines are levied by the court on an offender. For example, first-time offenders will face fines ranging from $375 to $1,075. Multiple OVI offenses result in increased fines. A felony OVI charge will cost at least $850, as well as the cost of time away from work while serving the mandatory jail time.
  • Auto insurance increase: Monthly insurance rates for drivers with an OVI conviction might be three to five times higher than the usual rates.
  • Towing fees: If the police arrested an individual for an OVI, their vehicle would most certainly be towed and impounded. Many impound lots charge by the day, but the amount is usually a few hundred dollars.
  • Bail: An offender may need to pay a sum to get out of jail, depending on the circumstances surrounding the arrest. This amount can range from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars.

Other costs that may apply:

  • The cost of keeping an ankle band that monitors the offender's blood alcohol content (for probationers).
  • Ignition interlock device expenses (installation and maintenance)
  • Expenses associated with license reinstatement.

How Much is Bail for an OVI in Ohio?

The bail amount payable for an OVI in Ohio is usually predetermined by a bond schedule, which differs by county. If a bond schedule does not specify a bail amount, it will be determined by a judge during a defendant's arraignment hearing.

Typically, the bail amount set by the judge is determined by an offender's past arrests or convictions and the severity of the current offense. The higher the bond amount, the more arrests and convictions a person has.

The judge can impose a variety of bonds, including:

  • Recognizance bond: This bond requires the defendant to sign a document that guarantees their appearance in court. A failure to appear is punishable by six months in jail or a $1,000 fine, despite the disposition of the underlying criminal case.
  • Ten percent cash bond: This type of bond only requires a deposit of 10% of the total bond value. If all mandatory court appearances are made, the money will be reimbursed at the end of the case. If the individual fails to appear, they will be held responsible for the entire bail amount, and the court may issue a judgment against them.
  • Cash bond: If the court does not grant a 10% bond, the accused will have to post the entire bond amount before being released. If the accused attends all scheduled court appearances, the court will reimburse the whole amount.

How to Get My License Back After an OVI in Ohio?

A person's driver's license can usually be reinstated after a suspension period has ended. Because reinstatement is not automatic, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) has precise requirements:

  • Payment of a $475 reinstatement fee
  • Provision of proof of insurance that indicates current coverage
  • Completion of any other suspension conditions imposed by the BMV or the state court.

Applicants may be allowed to pay the $475 reinstatement fee in installments by paying $50 or more every 30 days until the total fee is paid.

How Does an OVI Affect Your Life in Ohio?

Besides the immediate consequences of an OVI conviction, such as license suspension, steep fines, and jail time, OVI arrests and convictions can have long-term effects. One consequence that is often overlooked and makes the possibility of conviction even more troubling is the appearance of the OVI on a person's criminal record.

An OVI conviction on a criminal record can significantly limit an individual's employment opportunities, especially if they hold a commercial driver's license (CDL) or drive as part of their job. Apart from significant income constraints, it can also lead to housing limitations, to mention a few.

Furthermore, an OVI conviction can hurt family connections. For instance, an ex-spouse might use an offender's incarceration time to change a child custody agreement in their favor. Also, family and other close relationships could become strained because of the stigma associated with such convictions.

Can You Get Fired for an OVI in Ohio?

Yes. Some employers have immediate dismissal rules in place for employees who obtain an OVI conviction. As a result, an employee may be fired from their job for an OVI in Ohio. Although such policies are not universal, they are prevalent in industries that interact with children or require driving, such as teaching, medical professions, pilots, etc.

Generally, the employer-employee working agreement and policies determine the likelihood of being fired for an OVI conviction. Some companies require their staff to report any convictions that occurred before and during employment. On the other hand, some may not terminate the offender's employment, but the conviction may impact the employer's decisions about the employee and their career path in the company.

How Do I Find OVI Checkpoints in Ohio?

OVI checkpoints are a legitimate way of preventing drunk driving in Ohio. The United States Supreme Court determined in 1990 that DUI checkpoints are permitted as long as they follow specific standards, such as:

  • The chosen location must have a long history of drunk driving or alcohol-related incidents.
  • The checkpoint's logistics must be laid out. This entails putting together a personnel plan and setting up the checkpoint.
  • Residents must be notified at least a week before the checkpoint is set up. The notice must include the checkpoint's date, time, and location. A checkpoint administrator should also issue an update a few hours before the checkpoint officially launches, detailing the location of the checkpoint as well as the starting and ending times.

Because state and federal laws require that the public be informed about these checkpoints, the Ohio State Highway Patrol publishes a list of all future OVI checkpoints across the state. The information is also disseminated across many platforms, including local blogs, news, and private websites.

Which is Worse, DUI vs. OVI?

In Ohio, drunk driving charges are referred to as OVIs rather than DUIs (driving under the influence). Typically, the state evaluates the seriousness of an OVI charge by an individual's history of repeat violations, the severity of the offense, and the level of drunkenness and prosecutes offenders accordingly.