In the state of Ohio, operating a vehicle impaired (OVI) is usually a misdemeanor. However, it can become a felony if a driver has prior convictions within a certain number of years. The state describes OVI as driving, or being in physical control of, a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of both. Other states use the terms driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) for the same offense.
Under Ohio law, an OVI offender faces penalties of mandatory jail time, fines and license suspension, with the possibility of substance abuse education and counseling, vehicle forfeiture and driving with an ignition interlock device (IID) installed. The penalties noted below are standard for adult drivers in Ohio who are OVI offenders.
OVI and BAC Level
Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.19 considers a vehicle operator impaired if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.08 percent or greater. The state measures the concentration of drugs in a driver's system by testing blood or urine; the limits vary based on the substance. Drivers with a BAC of 0.08 to 0.17 percent face a charge of low level or low tier OVI. Those with a concentration of 0.17 percent or higher face high level or high tier OVI charge.
Ohio also has implied consent laws requiring drivers suspected of impairment to undergo chemical testing to determine their BAC level or the amount of drugs in their system. When an officer stops a driver, they will usually require them to take a blood, breath or urine test. The driver has up to two hours to comply with the request before law enforcement considers it a refusal, which can lead to penalties in addition to those from the OVI charge.
Penalties for First-Time OVI
According to NOLO, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV) suspends the driver's license for one to three years if their BAC is 0.08 percent or higher for a first offense OVI. After a "hard suspension" of 15 days, the driver can apply for a restricted license and receive limited driving privileges with conditions such as restricted driving hours, displaying OVI plates or having an IID installed. Drivers face license suspension for up to a year and those who refuse a chemical test will see their hard suspension increase to 30 days.
The criminal penalties for an OVI vary by BAC. A driver with a low tier OVI faces the following penalties: at least three days of jail time or mandatory attendance at a driver intervention program, five years of probation and a $375 to $1,075 fine, plus fees. High tier OVI offenders should expect double the jail time and must display restricted license plates.
Penalties for Second OVI Offense
For a second offense OVI, law enforcement immediately confiscates the driver's license and will also impound their car for at least 90 days. The driver faces an administrative license suspension for one to three years and, after a 45-day hard suspension, may apply for a restricted license. Drivers who refuse testing will see their license suspended for two years, even with no conviction. Their hard suspension will also increase to 90 days.
Low tier criminal penalties include 10 to 180 days in jail or five days of jail and 18 days of electronic home monitoring. Drivers with a high tier BAC or those with an OVI in the past 20 years face 20 days in jail or 10 days of incarceration with 36 days of electronic home monitoring. A second OVI offender faces fines from $525.00 to $1,625.00 and mandatory substance abuse screening and treatment in both tiers. The court may also require a 90-day immobilization or seizure of the vehicle, IID installation and a criminal license suspension of one to seven years.
Penalties for Third OVI Offense
A driver with a third offense OVI whose BAC exceeds the legal limits or who refuses chemical testing faces immediate seizure of their license and administrative license suspension of one to three years. After a 180-day hard suspension, the driver can apply for a restricted license, unless they refused a chemical test during the stop – these drivers face an additional three-year suspension after a hard suspension of a year.
Low tier criminal penalties include 20 days to a year in jail, or 15 days of jail time and 55 days of electronic home monitoring. High tier offenders with a prior OVI in the last 20 years face 60 days in jail, or 30 days of incarceration with 110 days of electronic home monitoring, and a license suspension of two to 12 years. Both levels require the payment of an $850 to $2,750 fine and substance abuse screening and treatment. The court may also require installation of an IID, OVI license plate installation and vehicle forfeiture.
Penalties for Felony OVI
According to Gounaris Abboud, LPA, an OVI can become a felony as a result of prior impairment offenses. If a driver has more than three OVI convictions in the past 10 years, more than five convictions in the past 20 years, or a felony OVI at any time, their current charge can also become a felony. If the offender has one prior felony OVI, their current offense is a third-degree felony; it is a fourth-degree felony if they have several prior OVIs.
Penalties for a fourth-degree felony OVI are a minimum fine of $1,350 and 60 days in prison, a possible lifetime license suspension, vehicle forfeiture and mandated attendance at substance abuse counseling. The court can order an additional one to five years of incarceration in the case of a conviction or if the driver had pled guilty to five or more OVIs in the past 20 years. Third-degree felony charges result in a minimum fine of $1,350 and 60 days in prison, a possible lifetime suspension, vehicle forfeiture and mandated attendance in substance abuse counseling.
In lieu of a prison sentence, a judge can order 30 days of incarceration with a minimum of 110 days of electronic home monitoring. A driver can also serve up to five years in prison if they have five or more OVIs in the past 20 years.
OVI and Physical Control of the Vehicle
A vehicle does not have to be in motion for a driver to receive an OVI charge. Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.194 states that a person can also face OVI for "actual physical control" of a vehicle while impaired by drugs, alcohol or a combination of the two. An impaired person in the driver's seat holding car keys or an ignition fob is enough for law enforcement to charge someone with physical control OVI.
The penalties for physical control OVI are not as severe as those for a standard DUI charge; an offender faces a maximum of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. There is no mandatory license suspension for physical control OVI, but the courts may recommend it, as well as substance abuse counseling, depending on the circumstances.
- Ohio Laws and Rules: ORC Section 4511.194 Having Physical Control of Vehicle While Under the Influence
- Ohio Laws and Rules: ORC Section 4511.19 Operating Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs - OVI
- NOLO: First-Offense OVI/DUI in Ohio
- NOLO: Second Offense OVI/DUI in Ohio
- NOLO: Third Offense OVI/DUI in Ohio
- Gounaris Abboud, LPA: Is an OVI a Felony in Ohio?
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.