The Ohio DUI and OVI Guide
State of Ohio
DUI | OVI
Administrative License Suspension (ALS) Process
Ohio Implied Consent
ORC § 4511.19
Operating a Vehicle under the Influence
Court of Common Pleas
OVI Penalty Chart
Driver Intervention Program
Alcohol / Drug Reinstatement Form
View your driving record
How to Reinstate Your Ohio Drivers License
What is the difference between a OVI, OMVI, OMWI, DUI, DWI, OVUI, DWAI etc.?
These terms are all acronyms that refer to the offense commonly known as "drunk driving." Different states have different names for the crime. For example, in New York the charge is known as driving while intoxicated or DWI. Oregon uses the phrase driving under the influence of an intoxicant or DUII. In Michigan, the phrase operating while intoxicated or OWI is used. Indiana law uses the terminology "operating a vehicle while intoxicated" so the terms OVWI or OWI or OVI are used there.
Ohio law prohibits operating a vehicle under the influence―OVI. However, the phrase driving under the influence (DUI) is commonly used throughout the United States and it is often used in the State of Ohio. [West Virginia, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Florida and most other states use the term DUI as well.]
This website uses the terms OVI and DUI interchangeably. The terms refer to the same offense. DUI = OVI.
I just got arrested for an Ohio OVI. What happens now?
ISSUE ONE: The Ohio Implied Consent / Administrative License Suspension Proceeding: Under Ohio law, any person who operates a vehicle upon a highway or any public or private property used by the public for vehicular travel or parking within this state or who is in physical control of a vehicle is deemed to have given consent to a chemical test or tests of the person’s whole blood, blood serum or plasma, breath, or urine to determine the alcohol, drug of abuse, controlled substance, metabolite of a controlled substance, or combination content of the person’s whole blood, blood serum or plasma, breath, or urine if arrested for a OVI / DUI offense. This is known as Ohio's implied consent law. See ORC 4511.191.
Pursuant to Ohio's implied consent law, your Ohio license (or your right to drive in Ohio if you're not a Ohio licensed driver) was most likely suspended for anywhere from 90 days to five years for failing or refusing a chemical (breath) test. This suspension is known as an administrative license suspension or ALS. Refer to the table below for suspension lengths for your situation.
Read your paperwork carefully. You have a right to contest / appeal this administrative license suspension if you act quickly. See ORC 4511.197. Your appeal / challenge of this suspension is commonly referred to as a BMV Hearing.
ISSUE TWO: The Criminal Charge: You were probably arrested for one of the following offenses under ORC 4511.19.
OVI / DUI: In Ohio, it is unlawful for any person who is under the influence (a) of alcohol; or (b) of a drug of abuse; or (c) of a combination of alcohol and a drug of abuse, to operate any vehicle (whether motorized or not).
It is also unlawful for any person who has a blood / breath concentration of alcohol (BAC) of 0.08 percent or more to operate a vehicle. This offense applies whether or not the person is under the influence or affected by the alcohol consumed. This is sometimes referred to as a "per se" OVI or a "per se" DUI offense.
Physical Control: It is also unlawful to be in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence or with a BAC of 0.08 percent or more. The term “physical control” means being in the driver’s position of the front seat of a vehicle and having possession of the vehicle’s ignition key or other ignition device. The penalties for being in physical control of a vehicle while under the influence / or with a BAC of 0.08% are generally less than those for an OVI. See below.
OVUAC: Operating a vehicle after underage alcohol consumption. Ohio law also forbids any person under 21 years of age from operating any vehicle within the State of Ohio if, at the time of the operation, the person has a concentration of at least 0.02% but less than 0.08% BAC.
Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test. If you have a prior OVI conviction in the past 20 years it is a misdemeanor crime to refuse to submit to a chemical test following an OVI arrest.
Important: The implied consent / administrative license suspension proceeding and the criminal OVI / DUI case are completely separate from one another. Picture two separate boxes that do not overlap:
Will my Ohio driver license be suspended?
RELATED TO ISSUE ONE ABOVE: Your Ohio driver license (or your right to drive in Ohio if you do not have a valid Ohio license) will likely be suspended for failing or for refusing a chemical test for alcohol and / or drugs. Again, you may challenge / appeal this administrative license suspension. Filing an appeal will not necessarily overturn the suspension; rather, it provides you with a chance to overturn the suspension.
RELATED TO ISSUE TWO ABOVE: If you are convicted of the OVI / DUI charge, you will also lose your license (or your right to drive in Ohio if you don't have a valid Ohio license) for six months or more. This suspension is separate from the administrative license suspension. Talk to your Ohio DUI lawyer for possible suspension lengths for your situation.
Also keep in mind that your license can be suspended for a variety of reasons unrelated to an OVI / DUI arrest e.g. 12 points within two years, etc.
I have a commercial drivers license (CDL). Will my CDL be suspended if I get arrested for an Ohio DUI?
If you are convicted of an Ohio DUI / OVI offense, your CDL will be suspended for one year. This is so even if you were not driving a commercial vehicle at the time of your offense. For a second DUI / OVI conviction, your CDL will be revoked for life. You CANNOT obtain limited driving privileges to operate a commercial vehicle.
What happens if I get caught driving while my license is suspended?
Driving under an OVI suspension (DUS) should be avoided as it is a new crime. ORC 4510.14. Penalties include a fine of at least $250, at least three days jail time, a possible additional license suspension of up to one year, and possible 30 day vehicle immobilization if you own the vehicle you were driving.
Penalties increase if you have prior DUS convictions. If you have a prior driving under suspension in the past six years, you face at least 10 days jail, at least a $500 fine, a possible additional license suspension of up to one year and possible 60 day vehicle immobilization.
If you have two or more prior DUS offenses in the past six years, you face the above penalties with at least 30 days jail time.
A Driving Under an OVI Suspension conviction is a six point offense as is an OVI conviction.
I really need to drive. Will I be able to get a restricted / occupational / conditional / probationary permit?
Limited driving privileges may be available to you if your license is suspended and you had a valid Ohio Driver License at the time of your suspension. See ORC 4510.021. Typically, there is some amount of waiting period before your eligibility.
Speak to your Ohio DUI lawyer about how to apply for limited driving privileges. Unfortunately limited driving privileges will not allow you to operate commercial motor vehicles.
Is an Ohio OVI / DUI a criminal offense (a crime)?
Yes. A operating a vehicle under the influence charge is either a misdemeanor or a felony crime. See below for more information.
Is a DUI / OVI in Ohio a misdemeanor or felony charge?
In Ohio, a DUI / OVI is usually a misdemeanor crime. However, if you have three or more convictions within the past six years, you face a felony DUI / OVI charge. Also, if you have five or more prior convictions within the past 20 years, you face a felony offense.
What goes on at my first Ohio court appearance?
Your first court appearance is commonly called an arraignment or an initial appearance. At this appearance you receive formal notice of charge or charges against you. This document is commonly called a complaint; a citation; or an indictment. At the arraignment, you may apply for a court appointed counsel if you cannot afford to retain your own OVI attorney.
What type of penalties might I face if I am convicted of an Ohio OVI / DUI charge?
Upon conviction of an Ohio DUI / OVI offense, a defendant can receive a variety of penalties including alcohol screening / treatment / education. A range of minimum penalties is set forth below. Note: Penalties are substantially increased for prior conviction(s) within the past six years.
Will my Ohio defense lawyer be able to plea bargain / reduce / negotiate my Ohio OVI / DUI charge down to another (lesser) offense?
Possibly. Plea bargaining and charge reduction are two areas that any experienced Ohio lawyer would discuss with the prosecutor on the client's behalf. An OVI may, at times, be "reduced" to a charge of Physical Control or Reckless Operation (ORC. 4511.20 provides, "No person shall operate a vehicle . . . on any street or highway in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.").
While Physical Control (no points) and Reckless Operation (four points) are also misdemeanors crimes, these offenses typically result in lesser penalties than an OVI conviction.
Many times a person facing an Ohio OVI simply will not be allowed to plead to a lesser charge. If that is the case, your only option will be to plead guilty to the OVI or take your case to trial.
Will an out of state DUI / DWI / OWI / OUI conviction count against me as a prior offense?
Yes. Under Ohio law, any DUI-type conviction from another state that is substantially equivalent to an Ohio OVI will count as a prior offense. ORC 4511.181(A)(8).
Will an Ohio DUI go on "my driving record?"
Yes. An OVI / DUI conviction will go on your Ohio driving record and stay on your record essentially forever. However, Driver Abstracts (the record available to your insurance company) generally only go back three years. You cannot expunge an Ohio OVI conviction.
Just how much jail time will I have to do if I am convicted of a DUI offense in Ohio?
The amount of incarceration (jail or prison) received will depend on a number of factors, including the following:
Will I be placed on probation if I'm convicted of an Ohio DUI charge?
Yes. Probation in Ohio is known as Community Control. When you're sentenced following a DUI conviction, you will be ordered to comply with a number of community control sanctions (probation conditions). These typically include:
I am licensed to drive in a state other than Ohio and I was arrested for a OVI / DUI in Ohio. Will my driver license be suspended?
Ohio only has the authority to suspend your right to drive in the State of Ohio. However, the State of Ohio and 44 other states and the District of Columbia have adopted an agreement known as the "Driver License Compact." Ohio will report a OVI conviction to the home state of the driver (assuming the home state has also adopted the Compact). Your home state will then generally take action to suspend your license.
This also works in reverse. If you are convicted of DUI charge in another state and the BMV Registrar receives notice of the conviction from the other state, the BMV Registrar must impose a suspension (generally six months) of your driver’s license or right to drive in Ohio. This suspension may be appealed, and limited driving privileges may be granted by the court in some circumstances.
Will I have to install an Ignition Interlock Device on my car?
An ignition interlock device (IID) also known as an "immobilizing or disabling device" is a breath alcohol measurement device that is connected to a vehicle ignition system. In order to start the motor vehicle, a driver must blow a breath sample into the device which then measures alcohol concentration. If the alcohol concentration exceeds the startup set point on the interlock device, the motor vehicle will not start.
You may have to install an IID for a first DUI conviction. You will have to install a second or greater conviction in the past six years. Talk to your lawyer about whether this requirement applies to your situation.
What will an Ohio OVI do to my insurability?
If your Ohio insurance company finds out about your OVI / DUI one of two things are likely to happen. Either your insurer will raise your rates or you may be cancelled or non-renewed. It is extremely important that you maintain liability insurance. Remember that your Driver Abstract only reflects the prior three years of your driving record, so eventually your rates will decline.
I was involved in an accident / crash with my DUI arrest. Must I file an accident report with the Ohio BMV?
Under Ohio law, the driver of any motor vehicle which is involved in a motor vehicle accident within six months of the accident may forward a written report of the accident to the Ohio BMV on a prescribed form alleging that a driver or owner of any other vehicle involved in the accident was uninsured at the time of the accident. The BMV will then determine if the other party involved in the crash has insurance. If the other driver does not have insurance, a suspension for 90 days or longer will be imposed.
Keep in mind that this report is different than the crash report that law enforcement prepare after investigating an accident.
How do I reinstate my Ohio driver's license?
Once you've served your OVI / DUI suspension, you must pay a reinstatement fee and show proof of insurance to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. ORC 4510.038.
How many points do I receive for an Ohio OVI conviction?
A conviction for an Ohio OVI results in six points against your license. An OVUAC conviction results in four points against your license. Reckless operation results in four points. A conviction for driving under an OVI suspension results in six points as well. A physical control conviction results in no points on your license.
I was also charged with leaving the scene of an accident along with my DUI / OVI. Is this a serious charge?
Leaving the scene of an accident without fulfilling your obligations under ORC 4549.02 is a criminal offense. This crime (commonly known as Hit-Skip or Hit and Run) is a misdemeanor unless someone is seriously harmed or killed. If so, the offense is a felony.
Your license will be suspended for at least six months for a conviction. A conviction for a Hit-Skip will result in six points on your license.
I was charged with reckless operation as well as my DUI / OVI. What does this charge involve?
The exact charge is referred to as "operation in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property." ORC 4511.20. This offense is either a minor misdemeanor or a fourth or third degree misdemeanor depending on your driving history. A conviction results in four points on your license. Also upon conviction, the court may impose a suspension of your license for a period ranging from six months to three years.
Are there any concerns for licensed pilots who get an Ohio OVI?
Yes. The FAA has special reporting requirements for certain Motor Vehicle Actions including Ohio DUI / OVI convictions and certain administrative license suspensions. Learn more here.
I was arrested at a OVI / DUI checkpoint. Is that legal?
Until the courts say otherwise, OVI / DUI checkpoints are authorized in Ohio so long as the police give advance notice of the checkpoint. One way to determine if a checkpoint is imminent is to do a Google news search.
What happens if I was on probation when I got arrested for my Ohio OVI / DUI offense?
Committing a new offense while you're on probation for a previous crime creates two problems. First, you face the new Ohio OVI charge. Second, you face a probation violation hearing for failing to obey all laws (a standard condition of probation). The most serious scenario is when you receive a new Ohio OVI offense when you're already on probation for a previous DUI / OVI. When this happens, its in your best interest to speak to an Ohio lawyer as soon as possible.
I'm not a United States citizen. Will an Ohio OVI / DUI conviction result in my removal from this country?
Probably not. Typical, first offense Ohio OVI's (no injuries) are not considered crimes of moral turpitude or aggravated felonies resulting in removal. It is important to consult an experienced immigration lawyer about your situation just as you should consult with an experienced Ohio criminal defense lawyer about your pending Ohio OVI / DUI charge.
Keep two points in mind. First, it is very important to answer honestly all questions about prior arrests / convictions on immigration and Visa applications and forms. Lying on these forms is often considered more serious than any Ohio OVI conviction. Second, non-citizens must take extra care not to drive on a suspended or revoked license.
What is the Ohio Habitual OVI Offender Registry?
If you have at least one OVI / OMWI conviction after September 30, 2008 and you have four or more prior OVI / OMWI (or equivalent) convictions in the past 20 years, you will be placed on the Ohio Habitual Offender Registry. The Registry includes the name, address, and date of birth of offenders as well as their date of convictions. The Registry is accessible to the public. Offenders remain on the Registry until they no longer have five or more offenses within the past 20 years.
In addition to OVI and OMWI convictions, the following "equivalent offenses" count as part of the five in 20 years:
Vehicular homicide (including aggravated vehicular homicide);
DUI - Drugs
DUI convictions in Municipal Courts;
Vehicular Assaults (including aggravated vehicular assaults);
Involuntary manslaughter with alcohol;
Physical control offenses;
OVI with a CDL.
I missed my court appearance. What do I do now?
Failing to appear (FTA) for court is to be avoided. When you miss a court appearance, bad things follow. At a minimum, the Ohio court typically issues a warrant for your arrest (sometimes known as a bench warrant). Talk to an Ohio criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Often, your only option is to turn yourself in on the outstanding warrant. A new court date will then be scheduled for you.
My suspension is nearly up. How do I get my Ohio drivers license back?
Before getting your license reinstated, you generally must pay a reinstatement fee ($475) and provide proof of insurance to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Additional requirements may also apply. Contact the BMV to determine your exact requirements.
Can I represent myself in court on my Ohio OVI and / or other criminal charge(s)?
Yes. You have a constitutional right to represent yourself on any criminal charge no matter how serious including an Ohio OVI / DUI charge. Keep in mind that Ohio OVI defense is a complex area of the law as shown by the information in this website. If you cannot afford to hire your own lawyer, you definitely should apply for court appointed counsel to represent you. You have no right to court appointed counsel at the implied consent / administrative suspension license proceeding.
Copyright 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009 by David N Lesh
Websites, including this one, provide general Ohio DUI / OVI information but do not provide legal advice or create a lawyer / client relationship. General information cannot replace legal advice specific to your case, problem, or situation. Consult qualified Ohio Drunk Driving lawyers for advice about any specific problem or criminal charge that you have. Ohio attorneys are governed by the Ohio Rules of Professional Conduct. This website may be considered an advertisement for services under these Rules. Information contained in this website is believed to be accurate but is not warranted or guaranteed in any way. No lawyer associated with this website is specialized or certified in any way. This site is not a solicitation; rather, it is purely informational.
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