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Yea, it sucks…I hear ya

No one likes getting pulled over. No one likes getting brought into the station. No one plans to blow a .08 or higher into the little machine. But chances are, if you’re here at this site, that’s exactly what has happened to you. And you don’t like it.

But it’s not the end of the world

Getting a DUI in the state of Ohio, or any state really, is not something anyone looks forward to or plans for. That being said, it’s not the end of the world either. So stop freaking out (yes, we know you’re freaking out), and start doing your research. The only way you’re going to calm down is if you arm yourself with the facts. So keep on reading. Stop imagining the worst-case scenario and take a deep breath. You can get through this.

.08% BAC (blood alcohol concentration)

Alright. Let’s start with the very basics. Just like in every other state in America, if you got a DUI in Ohio that means that you were driving with a BAC of .08 or over. Whether or not you feel tipsy, buzzed, drunk or completely sober… If your BAC is over .08, they’re gonna hit you with that DUI.

In Ohio, it’s called an OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence)

Next, let’s get the terminology right. If you’re in Ohio, you’ve probably heard plenty of talk about DUIs and DWIs, but that’s not the official term. That’s right. Here in Ohio, both of those charges are referred to as an OVI (Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence). So if you see “OVI” think DUI/DWI and you’ll be exactly right.

OVUAC (operating a vehicle after underage consumption)

Another term used in Ohio is OVUAC. This is just like an OVI, but it means that you when you were caught driving with a BAC above the legal limit you were 18 years old or younger. Technically OVUAC means, “Operating a Vehicle After Underage Consumption.” If you’re under 18, you can get an OVUAC if your BAC is over .02%. That’s very low, so you should obey the law and not drink at all until you’re of legal age.

You can legally refuse to take a breathalyzer

Now before we move onto what punishments you can expect, let’s discuss one huge difference between Ohio and a lot of other states. In Ohio, you can legally refuse to take a breathalyzer when you get pulled over. Most states, that’s not the case. Now, there are certain exceptions where you can’t refuse, but by and large, you don’t have to take the breathalyzer at the site. So in case you’re here and you haven’t yet gotten an OVI, keep that in mind!


Now we’re ready to get into punishments. Penalties for OVI and OVUAC are severe and they’re two-pronged. You’re gonna get criminal charges, as you might expect. But you’re also gonna face penalties doled out by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). Let’s start with the criminal charges…

OVI offenses can result in heavy fines, license suspension, court-ordered “substance assessment” and even jail time. If you get more than one OVI within 6 years, the penalties increase exponentially. However, if this is your first OVI, and your BAC is between .08% and .17%, you’re looking at:

  • Mandatory 72 hours in jail, or a driver intervention program.
  • You’ll also be facing financial repercussions, including a fine ranging from $375 to $1075.
  • Additionally, your license will be suspended for between 6 months up to 3 years, with the possibility of exceptions for work or to attend your court-ordered alcohol program.

For your second offense within 6 years, as mentioned, those punishments sky rocket, including a minimum 10 days in prison with a combination of house arrest and alcohol monitoring for up to 6 months and vehicle impoundment for 90 days.

And administrative penalties…

All of that feels like a lot, for sure. But you’ll want to be prepared for the administrative penalties as well. Law enforcement can suspend your license de facto if you refuse or fail your chemical test. Depending on what the charge is, and whether or not you have failed or simply not taken the test, you’ll have a variety of annoyances to deal with. If you’re charged with the standard OVI, then you’ll have a minimum of 6 points added to your license, plus a suspension of 90 days (that number, like the criminal punishments, increases a lot if you get a second offense — to 1 whole year!). An OVAC (the underage charge) will result in fewer license points but the same minimum suspension, with the possibility of a full 5 years without a license.

You can appeal a license suspension

If you straight up refuse the test, which again, is your right, you’ll still face the 6 points on your license, and this time a year of suspension, even if it’s only your first offense. So obviously the system wants to incentivize people to cooperate. But, the good news is, you can appeal your suspension. You have to do this either at or within 30 days of your first court appearance. The jurisdiction in which you appeal will have a prosecuting attorney who works on behalf of the BMV’s case, and it will be on you to prove your “innocence.” That might sound tricky, but here’s what it really means…

  1. You did not, factually, refuse or fail the test.
  2. The officer who pulled you over did not have reason to suspect an OVI.
  3. The officer didn’t actually request that you take a BAC test.
  4. The officer didn’t inform you, on the scene, that there were consequences of refusing to take or failing the BAC test.

Now, even if you succeed in proving one of the four things listed above, that’s not a guaranteed you’re-off-the-hook relief. The thing is, you can still have your license suspended by the court if they think, for instance, the officer messed up but you still might have been under the influence.

You have options

The bad news is, you’re dealing with an OVI charge in the state of Ohio, and that’s never a good thing. But the good news is, you have options. You can hire an attorney to help you fight or deal with the charges, or you can use resources like this to be informed and ready to stand up for your rights in the court and beyond. Maybe this is all a big misunderstanding, or maybe you made an honest mistake, but either way, you’ll be able to deal with the consequences and move on with your life. You’re not the only person in Ohio who’s dealt with this, so don’t feel alone. There is help when you need it.

Need a lawyer to help you with your Ohio OVI? Tap or click the button/link below to get started.  BernieSez is a free service where you upload details about your case including a picture of your ticket, and lawyers that practice in that State/County contact you with information and their bid to take your case.  It’s easy to use, and free.

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