Locating An OVI In The State Of Ohio


Ohio has issued so-called “scarlet letter” license plates to OVI offenders since 1967. Though not strictly implemented until a 2004 law made it mandatory, MADD reports a drop in overall OVI arrests, despite an increase in population between 20014 and 2012.

Court House In Ohio

An example of the Ohio “Scarlet Letter” license plate issued to repeat OVI offenders.

A OVI or OVAUC, or a conviction that finds a driver guilty of operating a vehicle under the influence or operating a vehicle after underage consumption, is a misdemeanor, and a serious offense in Ohio. Court records that result in conviction of a person found to have been operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or another inebriant are a matter of public record. Searching for, obtaining, and studying these records is a public right under Ohio’s Open Records Law, and can be easily obtained through a number of record search websites.

OVIs in Ohio cover multiple categories of infractions. An OVI can occur when a driver operates a vehicle while under the influence of either drugs or alcohol, and a test results in a blood alcohol level (BAC ) of .08 or higher. Drivers with a Commercial Drivers License face more stringent laws, and can incur a OVI with a BAC of just .04. Minors can also be charged with an OVAUC of just .02 BAC.

If charged with an OVI, drivers can face severe penalties and fines, starting with a minimum 72 hours in jail. For a first time offender, the punishments are between three days and six months in jail, between $250 and $1,000 in fines, and between six months and three years of license suspension. Second time offenders face between 10 days and one year or jail time, between $350 and $1,500 in fines, and between one and five years of license suspension.

For third and fourth time offenders, the penalties become much more severe. For third time offenders, the penalties are between 30 days and one year of jail time, between $350 and $1,500, between one and ten years of license suspension, and mandatory installation of an interlock ignition device (IID) to prevent the driver from driving their vehicle while intoxicated. Fourth time offenders are culpable for between 60 days and one year in jail, between $800 and $10,000 in fines, either three years of license suspension or a permanent license ban, and mandatory installation of an IID.

When pulled over, drivers have the option of refusing to take the administered chemical test. However, if refused, the driver is immediately culpable to between one and three years of license suspension.

Ohio tends to be less strict on OVIs when compared to other states. While overall drunk driving fatalities have dropped 57% from 1982 to 2014, Ohio ranks 49th out of all 50 states and Washington D.C. for the most lenient punishments for operating a motor vehicle under the influence. They also rank 47th for overall prevention of drunk driving. Ohio’s minimum jail time for a first offense is just three days, while a second offense only raises that time to 10 days. An OVI is not an automatic felony until the fourth offense.

Most states began to enact drunk driving laws in the 1970s, and Ohio is no exception. Ohio’s legislation was making small changes to their OVI laws as far back as 1967 when Ohio introduced the first official DUI law (Ohio later changed DUI to OVI to broaden the culpable act) and started issuing scarlet letter plates to repeat offenders.

The most recent change in Ohio’s OVI law went into effect in April of 2017. Commonly known as Annie’s Law, the legislation introduced drastic changing to Ohio’s existing OVI laws. The law introduced mandatory minimum sentencing, and a number of additional changes.

Candace Lightner and Senetor D- MD Michael Barnes

Candace Lightner and Senetor D- MD Michael Barnes. Candace Lightner worked with Michael Barnes and other legislators to change drunk driving laws countrywide. Lightner lost her daughter, Cari, to a drunk driver that had just been released from his 4th offense, and hit Cari as she was walking to a church event.

Ronald Reagan and Michael Jackson launch a drunk driving campaign in 1984

  • First time offenders may be granted unlimited driving privileges with the installation of an IID.

  • Judges must now suspend all jail in the event the first time offender elects to install an IID.

  • The judge must also reduce license suspension by 50 percent if the first time offender elects to install an IID.

  • In the event that the first time offender elects to install an IID in lieu of standard punishments, a new violation is incurred; named and IID violation.

  • An IID violation instructs the driver to obtain a new driver’s license that denotes the use of an IID. Failure to obtain this new driver’s license is punishable by receiving the full jail time.

  • Indigent first time offenders can apply for a free interlock device.

  • The “look-back-period,” or the period in which an offender can qualify as a repeat offender, extends from the standard six years to ten years under Annie’s Law.

  • License suspensions for multiple offenders are increased.

  • Annie’s Law eliminates “scarlet letter” license plates for first and second time offenders who submit to a breath test at the time of the offense.

In addition to these general changes, third time offenders face between two and twelve years of license suspension, though that time can be halved if the offender accepts the installation of an IID. If an offender has three or more offenses in the ten year “look-back-period,” no privileges may be granted on suspension.

From 1981 to 1986, under pressure from such advocacy groups as the Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), the United States Federal Government and then-President Ronald Reagan enacted laws to punish those caught drinking and driving. Besides raising the minimum drinking age to 21 from 18 in 1981, the two biggest changes that were enacted were that now OVI offenders would be prosecuted with the intent to convict, and that blood alcohol content (BAC) tests would determine if a driver was intoxicated, rather than the loose definition that had existed up to the point.