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Ohio OVI / DUI Laws & Penalties

In an effort to tackle the problem of drunk and drugged driving, Ohio has strict penalties for people caught driving under the influence. A conviction for Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (OVI) can cost you thousands of dollars in fines and court and attorney’s fees. Your license will get suspended, and you may even have to spend time in jail.

In addition to these penalties, your OVI will have collateral consequences. For example, your drunk driving conviction will be visible to people performing background checks so your ability to get a job or to qualify for certain professional licenses may be affected. Finally, if you’re a college student, you may face disciplinary action from your school.

For these reasons, it’s essential that you arm yourself with the best legal representation possible if you’re facing an OVI charge. Your Columbus OVI defense lawyer will review the prosecutor’s evidence against you and determine whether the authorities made any mistakes during your arrest, detention, or testing that might result in the dismissal of your charges.

It may also be possible to refute the prosecutor’s case at trial and obtain a verdict of not guilty.

What Is Operating under the Influence According to Ohio Law?

The bulk of Ohio’s drunk and drugged driving laws are contained within section 4511.19 of the Ohio Code. This statute lays out in detail the amounts of alcohol and other mind-altering substances that can legally be present in a person’s blood while he or she is in control of a vehicle. For drivers over the age of 21, the legal limits are as follows:

  • Alcohol — 0.08% in blood; 0.08g in breath; 0.11g in urine
  • Amphetamine — 100ng in blood, 500ng in urine
  • Cocaine — 50ng in blood; 150ng in urine
  • Heroin — 50ng in blood; 2000ng in urine
  • LSD — 10ng in blood; 25ng in urine
  • Marijuana — 2ng in blood; 10ng in urine
  • Methamphetamine — 100ng in blood; 500ng in urine

For drivers under the age of 21, the legal limits for drugs remain the same. But for alcohol, the legal limit is reduced to .02% in blood, 0.02g in breath, and 0.028g in urine samples respectively.

Ohio OVI law contains different penalties for “low” and “high” test results for alcohol. You will receive a “high test” sentence for your OVI if your test results equal or exceed 0.17% in blood, 0.17g in breath, or .238 grams in urine samples.

What Testing Methods Are Used to Prove OVI in Ohio?

There are four types of tests used in Ohio OVI cases: breath, blood, urine, and field sobriety tests. The prosecutor will use the results of these tests to prove that you were under the influence while driving. Your Columbus DUI defense lawyer will attempt to have these test results excluded from the prosecution’s case by requesting a suppression hearing. The motion to suppress the evidence may succeed when the police or the medical personnel administering the test did not follow proper procedures, or when there was no legal basis for asking you to submit to a test.

A police officer will have a legal basis to ask you to submit to a test if he or she has reason to believe you are driving under the influence. Upon pulling you over, if the officer notices the smell of alcohol or that you have glassy eyes, slurred speech, erratic behavior, or slow responses, he or she may request that you submit to any of the following tests:

  • Field Sobriety Tests — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has developed three field sobriety tests: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk and Turn, and One Leg Stand. Studies indicate a strong correlation between failing these tests and being under the influence of alcohol or drugs. There is no legal obligation to submit to a field sobriety test, so it’s advisable to politely decline these tests to avoid giving the authorities more evidence against you.
  • Portable Breathalyzer Tests (PBT) — Just like a field sobriety test, you may refuse to submit to a PBT without having your license suspended. A PBT gives a loose estimate of your blood alcohol content based on the amount of alcohol in your breath. The purpose of the roadside Breathalyzer test is to give the police the probable cause necessary to arrest you, at which point they can give you a more accurate test.

If you fail the field sobriety or portable Breathalyzer test—or if your behavior, appearance, and smell are strongly indicative of being under the influence of alcohol or drugs—the police may arrest you for OVI. The arresting officer can then compel you to take a breath, blood, or urine test to provide the prosecutor with the evidence necessary to prosecute your OVI case. If you refuse to submit to a test at this point, you will face the administrative suspension of your license in addition to the license suspension you might receive later on from a judge. The tests you may face after getting arrested may include:

  • Breathalyzer Test — At the police station, there will be breath test machines that are far more accurate than the portable ones used at the roadside. To be admissible at trial, the test must have been administered within two hours of your arrest.
  • Urine Test — Another way of collecting proof of your intoxication is through the collection of a urine sample within three hours of your arrest. The sample must be collected in front of a witness, then labeled, stored, and analyzed according to strict procedures. Otherwise, the sample cannot be used against you at trial.
  • Blood Test — When you refuse a Breathalyzer or urine test, the police may request a warrant from a judge to obtain a blood sample against your will. If the police obtain the warrant, they can take you to a medical facility where a licensed medical professional must collect your blood sample. Just like with urine samples, the blood sample must be collected, labeled, stored, and analyzed according to stringent regulations.

What Are the Penalties for an OVI Conviction in Ohio?

If the prosecutor can prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you operated a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs, you will be convicted of OVI. Depending on your age, the number of prior convictions you have, or the amount of alcohol you had in your system at the time of your arrest, you may face different penalties:

  • First offense — 3 days to 6 months in jail, fines between $375 to $1,075, criminal license suspension of 6 months to 3 years, no possibility of obtaining limited driving privileges within 15 days of conviction
  • First offense under 21 — Up to 30 days in jail but no mandatory minimum sentence, up to $250 in fines, license suspension for 90 days to 2 years, no limited driving privileges for 60 days
  • First offense with high test — 6 days to 6 months in jail, fines between $375 to $1,075, license suspension of 6 months to 3 years, no possibility of obtaining limited driving privileges within 15 days of conviction, required to use yellow OVI plates
  • Second offense — 10 days to 6 months in jail, fines between $525 and $1,625, required to attend alcohol/drug treatment, license suspension between 1 and 5 years, no possibility or regaining limited driving privileges for 45 days, vehicle immobilized for 90 days, required to use yellow plates and ignition interlock device
  • Second offense under 21 — Up to 60 days in jail but no mandatory minimum sentence, up to $500 in fines, license suspended for 1 to 5 years, no limited driving privileges for 60 days
  • Second offense with high test — 20 days to 6 months in jail, fines between $525 and $1,625, required to attend alcohol/drug treatment, license suspension between 1 and 5 years, no possibility or regaining limited driving privileges for 45 days, vehicle immobilized for 90 days, required to use yellow plates and ignition interlock device
  • Third offense — 30 days to 1 year in jail, fines between $850 and $2,750, required to receive alcohol or drug treatment, license suspended for 2 to 5 years, no limited driving privileges for 180 days, revoked vehicle registration, obligation to use yellow license plates
  • Third offense with high test — 60 days to 1 year in jail, fines between $850 and $2,750, alcohol or drug treatment, license suspended for 2 to 5 years, no limited driving privileges for 180 days, revoked vehicle registration, obligation to use yellow license plates

Seen the severity of Ohio’s penalties for even a first drunk or drugged driving offense, it’s imperative that you fight your charges. The Columbus OVI defense lawyers of Luftman, Heck, & Associates have the skills, experience, and tenacity to obtain the best case outcome possible under your circumstances. If you’ve been charged with OVI, call us today at for a free and confidential consultation of your case.

Are you in trouble? Contact us.

With the help of an experienced, competent OVI attorney, you can be assured of understanding all of your legal rights and options and know that your rights will be protected. The criminal defense team at Luftman, Heck & Associates protects rights of people charged with an OVI / DUI on a daily basis and would be honored to do so for you. To contact us, either call or email advice@columbuscriminalattorney.com.

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Luftman, Heck & Associates LLP
580 E Rich St Fl 2
Columbus, OH 43215-5335
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