Ohio DUI / OVI Penalties

Depending on several factors, the penalties for an OVI in Ohio can be pretty steep.

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The Law Offices of Brian J. Smith, ltd

Rocky River, OH

The penalties for DUI's (now called OVI's) in Ohio depend upon whether one refused or submitted to a test, the number of prior convictions, and the level of any tests taken. The penalties are aimed to exponentially increase depending upon the number of prior convictions and to discourage test refusals.

Blood Alcohol Level

The first factor to consider is the test level, as they are graded into two levels:

Low Test

A Low Test for alcohol is a score of .08% up to .17% for a breath test or whole blood test. A score of .11g up to .238g is a Low Test for urine.

High Test

A High Test is a BAC of .17% or greater and .238g for a urine test.

Look-Back Period & Previous Offenses

The "look-back" period determines how far back in your history the prosecutor can review for previous offenses. In Ohio, the look-back period depends upon whether a refusal was involved. Without a refusal, the look-back period is six years. With a refusal, the look-back period can be twenty years.


First and Second DUI's are classified as first degree misdemeanors.

A First Low Test DUI, without a refusal involves a mandatory three days in jail or Driver Intervention Program, up to six-months incarceration, a fine of between $375 and $1,075, possible treatment, a license suspension of six-months to three years, and possibly restricted plates and/or interlock.

These penalties exponentially increase with each other DUI and can lead to forfeiture of the vehicle involved if registered to the defendant at the Third DUI, which is described as an unclassified misdemeanor.

Fourth DUI's and higher become felonies. If one carries a Commercial Driver's License (CDL), the penalties are also enhanced.

Other Issues

It is critical to take even a first DUI seriously, not only because it enters one into this potentially exponentially punitive system, but also by itself carries serious penalties, dramatically increases insurance rates or makes insurance coverage difficult to find, and can cause barriers to pursuing new employment.

While the penalties are complex, the rules that police must follow when pulling someone over, administering field sobriety tests, and administering the breath tests are even more complex. These rules are established to protect fundamental Constitutional rights of anyone accused.

Neither the penalties nor the rules the police must follow are static. The change with new laws, new court decisions, and new equipment. Understanding the penalties, the rules for the police, and the rules of criminal procedure are key to beating your DUI charge, or at the very least obtaining the best possible resolution in your circumstances.

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