With 2018 coming to an end, and so many around central Ohio about to drive to their New Year’s Eve parties, we wanted to review the state’s DUI laws, so 2019 isn’t ruined before it begins. In Ohio, drunk driving is called Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated, or OVI. The offense is also known as DUI or Driving Under the Influence. No matter what you call it, it’s a serious offense that comes with serious penalties such as jail time, fines, and a suspended driver’s license. But with the help of an experienced criminal defense lawyer, you may be able to avoid some or all of the DUI penalties depending on the circumstances of your case.
If you or a loved one is charged with an OVI in Columbus, a conviction is not necessarily guaranteed. With immediate attention from an experienced DUI lawyer, you can deal with the matter and move on with your life. Call Luftman, Heck & Associates at 614-500-3836 or submit the details online to schedule a free, no-risk consultation to discuss your options and next steps.
You Can Take Steps to Avoid DUI Penalties at the Roadside
Although a capable lawyer is a significant factor in avoiding DUI penalties, many people are surprised to learn that their own actions often make the biggest difference in their case outcome. One of the most important things you can do to reduce the odds of getting slapped with the toughest drunk driving penalties is to remain silent during the traffic stop or subsequent arrest.
The United States Constitution gives all criminal suspects the right to remain silent when confronted with the authorities. Exercising this right to its full extent is one of the best ways to improve your case outcome. You may think you can talk your way out of a DUI, but what you are really doing is providing the arresting officer with evidence to use against you. Everything you say can and will be turned against you to prove that you were drunk behind the wheel. Resist the temptation to argue and instead remain calm and quiet throughout the process.
If you don’t talk to the officer, the only evidence the prosecutor will have is your blood alcohol content (BAC) test results, and the officer’s observations of your appearance, scent, and how you were driving. By limiting the amount of evidence to work with, the prosecutor may not be able to convict you. For example, if the officer’s observations do not give rise to a reasonable inference of probable cause, your lawyer may be able to have the charges dropped without going to trial.
Pleading Guilty to a Lesser Offense Such as Reckless Driving
When a dismissal of the charges is not an option, you and your lawyer can always take your case to trial and fight for an acquittal. But if the prosecutor has strong evidence against you, the time and expense of going to trial will probably not pay off. Under these circumstances, the next best option is to plead your OVI charge down to reckless driving, which in this scenario is sometimes called a “wet reckless” charge.
The penalties for reckless driving depend on how many prior traffic violations you have on your record within the last year, but in any case, they are much more lenient than for OVI:
- No prior violations–No jail time and a maximum fine of $100
- One prior violation–Up to 30 days in jail and/or a maximum fine of $250
- Two or more prior violations–Up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500
In comparison, a first OVI offense with no aggravating factors is punishable by a three day to a six-month jail sentence, a fine ranging between $375 and $1075, and a six month to one-year driver’s license suspension.
A prosecutor may be willing to allow you to plead down to a wet reckless charge if you have no prior drunk driving arrests or convictions. The wet reckless charge is a way for the prosecutor to be satisfied that you will be punished, all while allowing you to avoid the extremely damaging consequences of an OVI conviction. Alternatively, you may be able to plead your case down to reckless driving if the evidence available to the prosecutor is not particularly strong, and does not suggest an easy victory at trial.
Advocating for Alternatives to Incarceration
Sometimes, an OVI conviction cannot be avoided. But even in this worst-case scenario, there is room for your lawyer to advocate for a better case outcome for you. At your sentencing hearing, your lawyer can make the case that you are deserving of leniency by highlighting mitigating factors such as a low BAC, a clean record, your efforts at tackling your substance abuse issues, and even your positive contributions to the community.
As a result of successful advocacy at the sentencing stage, you may receive reduced fines, and a suspended sentence if you complete a probation program. Depending on the jurisdiction in which your case is being processed, you may also have the option of enrolling in a Driver Intervention Program specifically designed to educate and rehabilitate convicted drunk drivers.
Another option available in some Ohio jurisdictions such as Licking and Clermont Counties is OVI Court. Specifically designed to rehabilitate repeat drunk driving offenders, the OVI court offers reduced sentences and fines if you successfully complete a program involving:
- Weekly probation officer meetings
- Substance abuse treatment
- Stable employment
- Ankle and/or blood alcohol monitoring
- Drug testing
Contact a DUI Lawyer with LHA
From the moment you get pulled over until you reach your sentencing hearing, there are many opportunities for you and your defense team can do to reduce your OVI penalties. Each case is different and requires an in-depth and personalized approach. At Luftman, Heck & Associates we achieve positive case outcomes for our clients through aggressive advocacy and close attention to the particulars of each client’s case.