What Qualifies as a DUI in Ohio?

This article reviews the basic laws in Ohio that govern the use of drugs and alcohol behind the wheel.

ARTICLE OVERVIEW: If you’re planning on drinking and operating a motor vehicle in the same day, it’s important to be aware of what qualifies as a DUI in Ohio.


Definitions of DUI, DWI, and OVI in Ohio

DUI stands for driving under the influence. DWI stands for driving while intoxication. Both are serious and ongoing problems across the country. Also known as operating a vehicle while intoxicated or under the influence of drugs, this risky activity has the potential to be life changing for both the driver and the other cars on the road.

In the state of Ohio, a DUI or a DWI is commonly referenced as Operating a Vehicle under the Influence of Alcohol and/or Drugs. The acronym for this criminal charge is OVI.

While driving after a glass or two of wine with dinner may seem harmless, sometimes the effects of alcohol can severely alter your reaction time or judgement – both of which are essential when it comes to driving. In fact, your blood alcohol content, or BAC, can actually go up as soon as 15 minutes after drinking.

What is the Legal Limit for Alcohol in Ohio?

To be charged with an OVI in Ohio, your BAC for alcohol would have to be .08% or above. If you’re a commercial driver or underage, the limit is lower. The legal limit of a commercial driver is .04%, while the legal limit of an underage driver is .02%.

When it comes to controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin or meth in the drivers blood, any amount of drugs are illegal.

What Vehicles Can I Get an OVI for Driving?

In the state of Ohio, you can get an OVI for motor operated vehicles, with some exclusions. Vehicles that qualify for operating while under intoxication include:

  • Cars
  • Dirt bikes
  • Farm equipment
  • Four-wheelers
  • Mopeds
  • Motorcycles
  • Snow mobiles
  • Trucks

These are all modes of transportation that qualify for an OVI. Devices moved by human power such as wheelchairs (both motorized and manual), electric personal mobility devices, tricycles, unicycles, wheelbarrows, roller skates and horses are not eligible for an OVI charge. The only human powered vehicle that you can get an OVI for is a bicycle.

According to David Elk, an injury attorney in Ohio, “Unfortunately, there has already been more traffic fatalities in 2019 than all of 2018 combined. Ohio is seeing a major increase in OVIs due to an increase in recreational marijuana use and the opioid crisis. The only way to combat this problem is to promote safer roads and encourage drivers to use rideshare services if they know they will be under the influence.”

What Happens When I’m Pulled Over for a DUI/OVI?

After being pulled over or stopped at a random sobriety checkpoint, the driver is briefly interviewed. If the driver’s behavior indicates that there may have been alcohol consumption recently, they will be subjected to a field sobriety test or a chemical sobriety test.

A field sobriety test can consist of different physical assessments including balancing on one leg with your arms to the side, following an object with your eyes while keeping your head still, or walking in a straight line, turning around and walking back.
What to do if you get pulled over for a DWI:

  • Don’t resist arrest
  • Don’t answer incriminating questions that may be held against you
  • Refuse a field sobriety test
  • Document your case
  • Contact an attorney to represent you

How Am I Tested for an OVI?

An individual’s BAC be found through 3 sources: blood, breath and urine. As your BAC rises, your movements can become unpredictable and your reaction time can be delayed. Usually, law enforcement will test for alcohol during a traffic stop using a breathalyzer test if intoxication is suspected. This test consists of measuring how much alcohol is in the air you breathe out.

Can I Be Convicted of An OVI If I Refuse to Take a Test?

According to Ohio’s “implied consent” law, if you refuse to take a chemical test to determine your BAC, you can have your license suspended for at least one year. If you have refused a test previously or have a prior OVI conviction in the last ten years, your license can be suspended for two years.

In the event that you are unconscious or otherwise unable to refuse a test, an office can legally administer a test. Ultimately, a refusal does not help you avoid a conviction and you can still be found guilty of an OVI.

Can I Still Be Convicted If My BAC Is Under The Legal Limit?

Yes. According to the Ohio Rev. Code 4511.19, you can still be charged with a DUI regardless of the amount if you’re showing signs of being “under the influence of alcohol”. This could include the reason you were pulled over, such as speeding or driving erratically.

What Happens If I Test Over Ohio’s Legal Limit?

If you have tested over .08% and the officer believes they have enough evidence that you’ve violated the drinking and driving laws, you can be arrested. You will then be taken to jail and asked to take an evidentiary blood alcohol test. The police will hold you until you are able to post bail or will be released on a recognizance bond. If you are in custody, it is best to wait until you have an attorney present before answering any questions.

What Are the Consequences of Being Convicted of an OVI in Ohio?

If it is a first offense, the charge carries jail time for up to 6 months, a hefty fine in the range of $250 to $1,000, and a license suspension from 6 months to 3 years. With each offense, the penalties for an OVI increase, with fines up to $10,000 and possibly permanent license suspension.

After 2 offenses, you will be required to have an Interlock Ignition Device. This gadget will prevent the previously convicted driver from starting their car until they blew an alcohol free breath into the device. The Interlock Ignition Device have been successful in limiting impaired driving, especially as statistics show that most fatal alcohol related accidents are caused by individuals who have previously been arrested for an OVI.

In Ohio, operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs and alcohol is a very dangerous and risky for every party involved. If you are planning to have a few drinks on a night out, arrange for a designated driver or use a rideshare service. Taking the proper steps to avoiding a DUI or OVI in Ohio is not only beneficial in the short term, but in the long run as well.

Your Questions

Still have questions?

Please leave your questions in the comments box at the end of this article. We try to respond to all real life questions personally and promptly.

About the author
Alana Redmond is a legal content writer who works with David Breston in Houston. Alana focuses her writing on drinking and driving laws, technology and consumer safety across Texas. She is a graduate from the University of California San Diego. You can learn more about Alana on her Linkedin or reach her by email at aredmond1point21@gmail.com.
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