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Felony DUI

A drunk driving charge is always a serious affair. You face the possibility of fines, jail time, suspended driving privileges, and legal costs. In some scenarios, you might even face a felony charge for driving drunk, which will involve more serious criminal penalties and severe consequences for your personal and professional life. In addition to reduced employment and professional opportunities, for example, felons face restricted voting and gun ownership rights.

When Can I Be Charged With Felony DUI?

You may be charged with operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) / DUI if there is evidence that you were driving while:

  • Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was .08 or higher
  • You had drugs in your system such as cocaine, methamphetamine, or marijuana
  • You showed visible signs of either drug or alcohol impairment, such as failing a field sobriety test

Usually a misdemeanor charge, you will face felony charges for OVI when any of the following apply to your case:

  • You have previously been charged with a felony
  • You’ve been convicted of OVI three times within last six years (the fourth conviction is a felony)
  • You’ve received five or more OVI convictions in the last 20 years (the sixth conviction is a felony)

According to the Columbus City Code, however, there are no time restraints on considering prior OVI convictions. This means that if you get arrested for drunk driving within the city of Columbus, a judge may take into account OVI convictions that occurred decades in the past. Thus, you may face felony charges in Columbus upon your fourth OVI, regardless of when the previous convictions took place.

What’s the Difference Between a Felony and a Misdemeanor?

Felonies and misdemeanors are different categories of crimes. Misdemeanors are the less serious category of offense, with sentences being carried out in the county jail as opposed to a state prison. Felonies also involve harsher fines, and are almost impossible to have removed from your criminal record.

Convicted felons face restricted voting rights. They cannot own firearms and will receive serious criminal penalties if they get caught. Felons have severely diminished employment prospects and cannot qualify for most professional licenses. As a felon, your reputation within your community will likely suffer too.

The penalties for a felony DUI conviction are as follows:

  • First conviction—two to 30 months in prison, fines of up to $10,500, three-year to lifelong license suspension, no limited driving privileges for three years, vehicle forfeiture, yellow license plates, ignition interlock, and possible drug or alcohol treatment
  • Second conviction—four months to five years in prison, possible fines reaching $10,500, three year to lifelong license suspension, no possibility of limited driving privileges for three years, interlock ignition device, yellow plates, vehicle forfeiture, and drug or alcohol treatment.

How Can a Columbus DUI Attorney Help?

Owing to the staggering penalties that result from a felony OVI conviction, you should spare no expense in hiring the most experienced legal representation possible for the defense of your case. With your freedom, finances, and reputation on the line, you need to work with a Columbus criminal defense attorney who will take a detailed look at your case and develop an aggressive defense strategy.

Every case is different, but in general, the most effective OVI defense strategy is to file a motion to suppress. When the police obtain evidence by violating your rights, your defense lawyer can ask the judge to remove that evidence from the prosecutor’s case. If the motion to suppress is successful, the prosecutor may not have enough evidence to prove your guilt. Below are examples where filing a motion to suppress might be an option:

  • The police made an illegal traffic stop—It’s illegal for the police to pull you over without reason, or with the hunch that you may be doing something illegal. If the arresting officer cannot articulate why he or she pulled you over, any incriminating evidence obtained from the traffic stop must be excluded from the case.
  • The police searched your vehicle or arrested you without probable cause—Assuming you have been legally pulled over, the police need probable cause that you have committed a crime in order to arrest you, search your vehicle, or compel you to take a chemical test. The police must be able to enumerate the facts that gave rise to that probable cause. Absent this, evidence obtained during your search, arrest, or testing must be excluded from the case.
  • Law enforcement improperly collected your blood or urine sample—The collection of blood and urine samples must be conducted by an authorized person obeying strict procedures. Even a small deviation from regulations will render your chemical test results unusable at trial.

When suppressing the prosecution’s evidence is not an option, the prosecutor will be able to use all the available evidence to prove your guilt at trial. In such cases, it may be best to avoid the expense of a trial and to negotiate a plea deal. If you are facing felony OVI charges, it may be possible to plead guilty to a misdemeanor OVI charge. Obtaining a beneficial plea agreement depends on the skill and perseverance of your Columbus criminal defense attorney.

At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we have a proven track record of achieving positive case outcomes for our clients facing OVI charges. We will ensure that your rights are respected during the criminal justice process and formulate the best defense strategy available under your circumstances. If you need to defend against a felony OVI charge, call us today at for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

Facing Felony DUI Charages in Ohio? Contact us.

If you’ve been charged with a OVI / DUI, it’s important to know what you’re up against. If you have any questions left unanswered by this page, or if you need a competent, experienced Columbus DUI lawyer to fight for you in court, please contact us at or via email at advice@columbuscriminalattorney.com.



Click for our OVI Penalty ChartClick Here to see penalties in chart form (PDF).

This is a felony of the fourth degree and carries the following penalties:

  • You will be required to spend a minimum of 60 days in jail or prison
  • The maximum penalty your judge may impose is one year in jail or 30 months in prison
  • You’ll be fined between $1,350 and $10,500 ($800 – $10,000 in Columbus)
  • If the car you were driving is registered to you, you will be ordered to turn it over to the state
  • Your license will be suspended for three years to life

    • You may regain limited driving privileges after three years
  • You will be required to use restricted license plates, otherwise known as “Party Plates”
  • The judge will require that an ignition interlock system be installed in your vehicle
  • You’ll have to participate in an alcohol and drug addiction program
This is a felony of the fourth degree and carries the following penalties:

  • You will be required to spend a minimum of 120 days in jail or six months in prison
  • The maximum penalty your judge may impose is one year in jail or 30 months in prison
  • You’ll be fined between $1,350 and $10,500 ($800 – $10,000 in Columbus)
  • If the car you were driving is registered to you, you will be ordered to turn it over to the state
  • Your license will be suspended for three years to life

    • You may regain limited driving privileges after three years
  • You will be required to use restricted license plates, otherwise known as “Party Plates”
  • The judge will require that an ignition interlock system be installed in your vehicle
  • You’ll have to participate in an alcohol and drug addiction program
This is a felony of the fourth degree and carries the following penalties:

  • You will be required to spend a minimum of 60 days in prison
  • The maximum penalty your judge may impose is one year in prison
  • You’ll be fined between $1,350 and $10,500 ($800 – $10,000 in Columbus)
  • If the car you were driving is registered to you, you will be ordered to turn it over to the state
  • Your license will be suspended for three years to life

    • You may regain limited driving privileges after three years
  • You will be required to use restricted license plates, otherwise known as “Party Plates”
  • The judge will require that an ignition interlock system be installed in your vehicle
  • You’ll have to participate in an alcohol and drug addiction program
This is a felony of the fourth degree and carries the following penalties:

  • You will be required to spend a minimum of 120 days in prison
  • The maximum penalty your judge may impose is one year in prison
  • You’ll be fined between $1,350 and $10,500 ($800 – $10,000 in Columbus)
  • If the car you were driving is registered to you, you will be ordered to turn it over to the state
  • Your license will be suspended for three years to life

    • You may regain limited driving privileges after three years
  • You will be required to use restricted license plates, otherwise known as “Party Plates”
  • The judge will require that an ignition interlock system be installed in your vehicle
  • You’ll have to participate in an alcohol and drug addiction program
This is a felony of the fourth degree and carries the following penalties:

  • You will be required to spend a minimum of one year in prison
  • The maximum penalty your judge may impose is five years in prison
  • You’ll be fined between $1,350 and $10,500 ($800 – $10,000 in Columbus)
  • If the car you were driving is registered to you, you will be ordered to turn it over to the state
  • Your license will be suspended for three years to life

    • You may regain limited driving privileges after three years
  • You will be required to use restricted license plates, otherwise known as “Party Plates”
  • The judge will require that an ignition interlock system be installed in your vehicle
  • You’ll have to participate in an alcohol and drug addiction program

* If the offense was committed in Columbus, then there is no six- or 20-year look back period. Any prior OVI / DUI offense is considered, no matter how long ago it was committed.


Have a question we didn’t answer below? Feel free to email us or call us and we’ll help you out.

“Low” or “high” test refers to testing at a blood alcohol content of 0.08 to 0.17 or greater than 0.17, respectively.

A simple OVI is when in the officer’s subjective opinion the way the person is driving, the way they pull over, how they look, how they smell, what they say to the officer and how they perform on the roadside standardized field sobriety tests indicate that they are too impaired to operate a vehicle.

“Drugs” refers to driving under the influence of a controlled substance.

Finally, “refusal with prior in 20 years” refers to when a person refuses the breath test and has had a prior OVI / DUI conviction in the last 20 years (or, if they’re in Columbus and sentenced under the Columbus City Code, a prior OVI / DUI conviction, period).

This is something that would have to be negotiated with a prosecutor and accepted by a judge. It also depends on the facts and circumstances. The ultimate question is whether the prosecutor has enough evidence to get a conviction. If the prosecutor ultimately feels the evidence is insufficient to get one, a misdemeanor plea reduction may be negotiated.

It is of utmost importance that you seek an attorney immediately, so he or she can meet with the prosecutor to negotiate your charge. Otherwise, the prosecutor may take the police report at face value.

A felony will cancel your voting registration, and you cannot vote while still incarcerated. You can, however, re-register and vote upon release.

Barring appeal at the court of common pleas, you will also not be able to possess firearms or explosives.

Other rights not granted to felons include holding public office; serving in a jury; witnessing documents; enlisting in the military; participating in many contracts; working in certain federal jobs, such as the police; and traveling to other countries (though this is temporary).

If a prosecutor includes this specification in your indictment, it means you could face an additional prison term of two to five years before the rest of your normal term plays out. As you can probably guess from the title, it’s reserved for people who have had at least five prior OVI / DUI convictions in the last 20 years. In Columbus, though, it’s simply five prior OVI / DUI convictions–there is no time limit.

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Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP
580 E Rich St Fl 2
Columbus, OH 43215-5335
advice@columbuscriminalattorney.com

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FAX: (614) 413-2886