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Ohio's DUI Law

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Ohio's DUI Law

Ohio's DUI law is quite complicated. For purposes of this explanation, you should know there are really two laws that apply to DUI. One, "Driving Under the Influence," bases conviction upon the observation of physical indications that historically point to alcohol influence. Another, "Driving with a Prohibited Level of Alcohol in Breath, Blood or Urine," addresses your driving any vehicle with a prohibited level of alcohol in your breath, blood or urine.

Driving Under the Influence

The first law, states it is illegal to drive while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or both. No scientific tests are necessary and, ordinarily, this violation is based upon a police officer's observations of your driving, physical appearance, and responses to what are called "field sobriety tests" - a series of tests prescribed to test your mental and physical abilities. Generally, a conviction of this law is based upon testimony of the arresting officer and other witnesses who had an opportunity to observe you. (Go to Top)

Index to this Page:

Driving under the Influence

Driving with a Prohibited Level of Alcohol

New law effective 9/30/2008

Effect of Conviction

Administrative License Suspension

Impoundment, Immobilization and Forfeiture

Driving with a Prohibited Level of Alcohol in your Breath, Blood or Urine

The second law for which you can be charged is the so-called "per se" violation. In effect this law states, notwithstanding your ability to pass physical dexterity tests, you are not permitted to drive with a prescribed level of alcohol in your breath, blood, or urine. This is the law, in Ohio, that mandates you can not drive a vehicle with a level of .08 or more of alcohol in your breath. Blood and urine have different mandated levels, but these tests are used so infrequently, I will limit my discussion to breath tests.

To be convicted of this violation, the governmental authority offers into evidence scientific tests proving the level of alcohol. In most instances a breath testing device is used , normally referred to as a "breathalyzer." The government need not introduce any other evidence. This law does not require proof that your mental and physical abilities are affected by your intake of alcohol. (Go to Top)

New Law Effective September 30, 2008

Authorities in Ohio now can force drivers who have two or more drunk driving convictions to submit to a blood or urine test without their consent. A new law that took effect on September 30, 2008 allows police offers to demand that a driver take a blood or urine test if they've been convicted two or more times. The law applies to people convicted of driving under the influence twice in six years or five times in the last twenty years. The law also requires an online database to track offenders with drunk-driving or related offenses.

Effect of a Conviction of Either of These Laws

The penalties for being convicted of DUI can be quite sever. The severity of your penalties depends upon the number of DUI convictions within the past five years. The following chart outlines the possible penalties. Note the mandatory jail time required and mandatory license suspension:

No. of Offenses
within 5-Years
Possible Jail Time Mandatory Jail Time Possible Fine Driver's License Suspended for: Possible Occupational
Driving Privileges After:
1st Offense 3-days to 6-months 3-days $200-$1000 6-months to 3-years 15-days
2nd Offense 10-days to 6-months 10-days $300-$1500 1 to 5 years 30-days
3rd Offense 30-days to 1-year 30-days $500-$2500 1-10-years None
4th Offense or more 60-days to 6-months 60-days $750-$10,000 3-years to Life None
Figure 1

Recent legislation has severely enhanced these penalties. If you refuse to submit to a chemical test, the court can "look back" 20 years to determine if you had any prior convictions and enhance your penalties accordingly. In addition if your breathalyzer reading is .17 or greater your penalties will be doubled! For additional information, see my blog.

In addition to the mandatory jail time and fine, other costs , which can be equally devistating, accompany a DUI conviction. These include court costs, increased liability insurance rates, employment problems, and professional counseling fees.

Ohio's new DUI law also dictates other penalties, notwithstanding those related to a DUI conviction. These include the "Administrative License Suspension," and mandatory vehicle confiscation. (Go to Top)

Administrative License Suspension

Ohio law requires that your right to drive be immediately suspended, without trial, under certain circumstances. Your licence will be immediately suspended if you refuse to participate in the taking of a sample of your breath, blood or urine. If you agree to subject yourself to testing, your license will be immediately suspended if the test shows an alcohol level above those permitted for breath, blood, or urine. Therefore, if you take a breathalyzer test and the test shows an alcohol level of .10 or greater, your license will be immediately suspended. Again these mandatory suspensions are enhanced if you have prior DUI convictions in the last 5 years. See Figure 1 for periods of license suspension and enhancements. (Go to Top)

Impoundment, Immobilization and Seizure

In addition to the sever penalties and license suspension, the state mandates the immobilization or seizure of your vehicle after multiple convictions of DUI. The following chart enumerates these:

No. of Offenses in 5-Years Impoundment of Plates Immobilization of Vehicle Vehicle Forfeiture Immediate Vehicle Seizure
1st Offense No No No No
2nd Offense 90-Days 90-Days No Yes
3rd Offense 180-Days 180-Days No Yes
4th Offense or More No No Yes Yes
Figure 2

It is important to note these penalties can be inflicted upon the owner of the vehicle even if the owner was not driving. If it can be proven that the owner knew or had reason to know that the driver was driving under the influence or that the driver was under a suspension for DUI, the owner's plates can be confiscated, their vehicle immobilized for the mandatory period, or the car seized and sold! If you are an owner you should be aware of the "innocent owner's" provisions of the law and protect your rights. (Go to Top)

Read Avery Fromet's Blog
Articles about relevent issues regarding Ohio's DUI Law

The information contained herein is for your general information. While the information was accumulated by a professional, it is far from comprehensive and should not be considered legal advice. It is unethical and inappropriate for any attorney to offer unsolicited legal advice without consulting with their client and having a full understanding of the client's situation. The reader is advised not to take any action based upon the limited information contained herein, but should consult an attorney regarding any legal issue before proceeding.