The DUI Problem:

Driving under the influence is a major problem in Ohio. Don’t believe us? Take a look at the updated statistics yourself:

Given the scope of this problem — and the high rate of fatal and serious car accidents that are caused by OVI each year —  the Ohio Legislature has set forth substantial penalties for anyone convicted of OVI. In addition, anyone arrested for certain types of OVI offenses or who refuses to submit to a chemical test after being arrested will have their license suspended.

3 Basic Types of OVI:

In Ohio, there are three ways in basic ways in which a motorist can be charged with an OVI:

  1. Drivers are under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of alcohol and drugs while operating any vehicle, streetcar or trackless trolley
  2. Drivers have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or higher
  3. Drivers have above the allowable amount of amphetamine, cocaine, heroin, LSD or marijuana in their blood, blood serum, plasma, or urine

The first type is OVI ‘Impaired’. Ohio Revised Code section 4511.19(A)(1)(a) makes it illegal to operate a vehicle while ‘under the influence’ of alcohol and/or a drug of abuse.  ‘Operate’ means to move or cause movement of a vehicle.  ‘Under the influence’ means the alcohol and/or drug adversely affects and noticeably impairs a person’s actions, reactions, or mental processes so as to impair the person’s ability to operate the vehicle.

The second and third types are OVI ‘Per Se’. Ohio Revised Code section 4511.19(A)(1)(d)-(j) make it illegal to operate a vehicle with a prohibited concentration of alcohol and/or a drug of abuse. The prohibited concentrations for alcohol and specific drugs are listed in sub-paragraphs (d)-(j). For example, it is ‘per se’ illegal to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration of .080% or more.

If a driver tests ‘over the limit’, the driver may be charged with both OVI ‘Per Se’ and OVI ‘Impaired’.


Take a look at the penalties reference chart below.  For the purpose of sentencing in Ohio, the term ‘first offense’ means a first OVI within ten years. For a first-offense OVI in Ohio, there are mandatory minimum penalties and possible maximum penalties.  There are three categories of mandatory penalties.  First, there is a driver license suspension, which is a minimum of one year and a maximum of three years.  Second, there is minimum jail term of three days and a maximum jail term of six months.  Third, there is a mandatory fine which can range from a minimum of $375 to a maximum of $1,075.

In addition to the mandatory penalties, judges can impose optional sanctions.  Those sanctions include a term of probation (aka ‘community control’), yellow license plates, an ignition interlock device, substance abuse counseling, and community service.  When the license suspension is completed, the driver will be required to a pay a separate fee to the Ohio B.M.V. to have the driver license reinstated.

The OVI sentencing law is complex.  There are many, many nuances and exceptions.

If you are charged with any type of OVI in Ohio, you may face two types of penalties: administrative, through the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), and criminal as a result of court proceedings.

Administrative Penalties (Ohio BMV)

The Ohio BMV can suspend your driver’s license privileges if you are charged with an OVI, or if you refuse to take a chemical blood, breath, or urine test after being arrested on suspicion of OVI. These penalties are separate from any consequences that you may face from the court if you are convicted of or plead guilty to an OVI.

Ohio has an implied consent law, which means that you are deemed to have consented to a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine if you are arrested for OVI. If you refuse to take the test, then you will face penalties. Under a recent case law, law enforcement may even be able to take a blood sample without a warrant or consent if a person is unconscious.

The length of your driver’s license suspension will depend on the number of OVI suspensions that you have had within the past 10 years. This is known as the “lookback” period.

If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, then your Ohio driver’s license will be suspended for the following length of time:

  • 1st Refusal: 1-year suspension, with a 30 day waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
  • 2nd Refusal: 2-year suspension, with a 90 day waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
  • 3rd Refusal: 3-year suspension, with a 1-year waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
  • 4th or Greater Refusal: 5-year suspension, with a 3-year waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges

If you are arrested on suspicion of OVI and have a positive test for drugs or alcohol in your system that meets or exceeds the limits discussed above, then your license will be suspended for:

  • 1st Failed Chemical Test: 90-day suspension, with a 15 day waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
  • 2nd Failed Chemical Test: 1-year suspension, with a 15 day waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
  • 3rd Failed Chemical Test: 2-year suspension, with a 180 day waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges
  • 4th or Greater Failed Chemical Test: 3-year suspension, with a 3 year waiting period to apply for limited driving privileges

A person who has been convicted of 3 or more OVI charges within the past 7 years will not be eligible for limited driving privileges.


In addition to an administrative license suspension, if you are arrested on suspicion of OVI, you will also be facing criminal charges. The penalties for a DUI/OVI in Ohio are based on two factors: the number of previous convictions that you have within the past 10 years, and your BAC level.

In 2017, under what is known as “Annie’s Law,” the look-back period for OVI/DUI offenses in Ohio was extended from 6 years to 10 years.  As a result, if you had one prior OVI/DUI conviction (whether through a plea deal or at trial) in the past 10 years, and are charged with a second OVI/DUI offense, the new charge will be considered your second OVI/DUI. In addition, if you were previously charged with an OVI/DUI offense and refuse to take a chemical breath, blood or urine test, the look-back period is extended from 10 to 20 years.

Having a second or greater offense within the look-back period will increase your penalties for a current offense significantly.  For each consecutive offense, the penalties for an OVI/DUI conviction will increase in terms of fines, length and terms of license suspensions, and length of mandatory confinement and alcohol awareness/treatment programming. A felony charge may result in a long prison term, mandatory alcohol or drug treatment, a permanent driver’s license suspension, forfeiture of your vehicle, and expensive fines.

In Ohio, anyone who operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol, with a BAC of .17% or higher may be charged with an aggravated or high-test DUI. Otherwise, if your BAC tested at .08% to .16%, you will be charged with a standard DUI.

The penalties for a standard (low tier) OVI conviction may include:

  • 1st Offense: 3 days to 6 months of jail time, fines from $375 to $1075, and a license suspension of 1 to 3 years
  • 2nd Offense: 10 days to 6 months of jail time, $525 to $1,625 in fines, and a license suspension of 1 to 7 years
  • 3rd Offense: 30 days to 1 year in jail, $850 to $2,750 in fines, and a license suspension of 2 to 12 years

If you are convicted of a low-tier OVI, the judge may order you to participate in the Community Control Sanction. This sentencing alternative will reduce your jail time, and require you to complete a treatment program and (1) participate in a driver’s intervention program for at least 3 days (first offense); (2) serve 5 days in jail and 18 days under house arrest with alcohol electric monitoring (second offense); or (3) serve 15 days in jail and 55 days under house arrest with alcohol electric monitoring (third offense).

If you are convicted of a high test or aggravated OVI, then you will face the following additional penalties:

  • 1st Offense: 3 days in jail and 3 days of a driver’s intervention program;
  • 2nd Offense: at least 20 days in jail or 10 days in jail and 36 days on house arrest with monitoring under the Community Control Sanction
  • 3rd or Greater Offense: 60 days in jail or 30 days in jail and 110 days on house arrest with monitoring under the Community Control Sanction

For any OVI conviction, a judge may also order substance abuse treatment. This is an option for first-time offenders, but second offenders must complete a substance abuse assessment, and third offenders are required to undergo treatment.

Ohio DUI Penalties Chart

What are Your Options?

Unlike some states, Ohio does not have diversion or deferred prosecution for OVI cases.  Your options at the first court appearance are to plead guilty/no contest or not guilty.  If you plead guilty to OVI, the judge or magistrate will impose the consequences described above, and the case will be finished.  If you plead not guilty, the case will not be finished at the first court appearance.  Instead, you will have additional court appearances and an opportunity to improve the outcome of the case.

Case outcomes can be improved.  Our firm has found that, by pleading not guilty and effectively contesting the case with an experienced DUI attorney, the OVI charge can often be dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense, and the penalties can be decreased.  Whether it is worth the time and money to fight the charges or to improve the outcome of the case is an individual decision.


An OVI is a serious charge. It can result in the loss of your driver’s license for an extended period of time as well as jail time and significant fines. You can fight back against these charges, at both the administrative and criminal levels.

At The Boerst Law Office, Inc., our team has extensive experience handling DUI/OVI cases. We put our knowledge and skill to work for our clients, defending them against license suspensions, jail time, and more.


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