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Criminal Defense, DUI/OVI

Defending Against DUI/OVI Charges in Ohio

Top Rated DUI/OVI Defense Attorney in Cleveland, Ohio


In Ohio, “OVI” stands for Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs. In the 1980s, the more commonly known “DUI” (Driving Under the Influence), and other relevant sections of the Ohio Revised Code, were combined into the OVI offense. This shifted two applications of the law.

  • First, the definition of a “vehicle” no longer required motorization. For OVI purposes, it was broadened to include bicycles, scooters, horses, and any other non-motorized “vehicles” which could be operated while impaired.
  • Second, it provided that alcohol, drugs, or a combination be classified under the same definition of “impaired.” Specific substances such as amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, and LSD were also identified.

With respect to an OVI charge, alcohol or drug content in one’s body can be tested through blood, breath, or urinary analyses. For Ohio operators over the legal drinking age of 21, Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) must not exceed 0.08%, and for those under 21, the limit is 0.02%. Alcohol metabolizes differently for everyone dependent on factors including age, sex, weight, and tolerance.

The Pathway of an OVI Charge

An OVI begins when law enforcement initiates a stop of the vehicle, based on their observation of suspicion of impairment, or committing a traffic offense. If the officer determines there is reasonable suspicion to conduct further investigation, they will generally ask the operator to perform Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFTS) and/or a chemical test. If the officer believes that the operator fails or refuses the test(s), an arrest for OVI will likely occur.

Of note, law enforcement does not have to establish the operator was “driving.” Legally, one is considered “operating” a vehicle if they are in “physical control” of it and in the driving position. Under Ohio OVI law, if one is in the driver’s seat of a motorized vehicle, the engine is not required to be running, and the keys are not required to be in the ignition for the operator to be charged with a criminal offense.

Read More: You’ve Been Pulled Over On Suspicion Of OVI In Ohio – Now What?

Administrative License Suspension

In Ohio, an Administrative License Suspension (ALS) is an immediate penalty that can be issued by law enforcement after a chemical test shows that someone is at or over the legal limit of impairment. Depending on prior offenses, the low-end of an ALS is an automatic ninety-day license suspension, with the opportunity for limited driving privileges prohibited for the first fifteen days, also known as a “hard suspension.” Refusing a chemical test carries a minimum penalty of a one-year license suspension and a thirty-day hard suspension. An ALS must be appealed within thirty days of the initial appearance, and will only be considered void if procedural deficiencies are identified and/or it can be shown that law enforcement did not have probable cause for the traffic stop or the continuance of the investigation.

OVI Penalties in Ohio

In Ohio, the consequences for being convicted of an OVI range significantly based on factors including age, which substances contributed to the impairment, and if prior OVI convictions exist. For first-time OVI offenders of legal age, convictions may carry first-degree misdemeanors and penalties of three days to six months in jail, probation, court-mandated substance treatment programs, one to three years driver’s license suspension, and a $375 – $1,075 fine.

For repeat OVI offenders, penalties climb incrementally with each additional conviction, with severe consequences on the high end. A fourth OVI conviction within a twenty-year period is considered a fourth-degree felony, which includes a mandatory sentence of up to thirty months in jail, possible license suspension for life, fines between $1,350 – $10,500, criminal forfeiture of the vehicle, court-mandated substance treatment programs, and a period of house arrest with electronic monitoring to be served after the mandatory incarceration.

Defenses Against OVI Charges

When developing a strategy to fight and/or mitigate a DUI/OVI charge, there are many points to consider and examine from the initial stop through arrest. It is thus vital to hire a qualified attorney to review for any opportunity that could lead to a finding of not guilty, dismissal, or reduction. Your lawyer should identify whether law enforcement had probable cause to initiate the stop of the vehicle and throughout the entire investigation. Generally, law enforcement must show they observed a reasonable suspicion of impairment by observing behavior such as erratic driving, failing to obey traffic laws, or driving too fast or too slow.

Before field sobriety testing may be administered, officers must establish valid reason to extend the investigation further, by citing the presence of physical evidence, such as the odor of alcohol, slurred speech, or glassy or bloodshot eyes. To be admissible, field sobriety tests and chemical tests need to be properly administered, by properly trained officers. All relevant evidence from an investigation must be preserved through a reputable chain of custody, and various forms must be read correctly to defendants by law enforcement throughout the investigation.

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DUI/OVI cases in Ohio are complex and require diligent representation to ensure the protection of due process rights and fairness. Brad Wolfe is a DUI/OVI Defense Attorney in Cleveland, Ohio, who has successfully completed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s DUI Detection and Standardized Field Sobriety Testing Course. Brad is available 24/7 to discuss your case at (216) 815-6000.
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