Ohios Drunk Driving Laws
Ohio Department of Public Safety figures indicate 7,840 people
were killed and 345,441 were injured in 413,830 alcohol-related
crashes in Ohio from 1986 to 2000an average of 523 deaths,
22,507 injuries and 27,589 crashes annually. Nationally, alcohol-related
deaths increased for the first time in five years16,653 lives
were lost in 2000 from drunken-driving, up from the 15,976 deaths
in 1999. Major reforms were enacted in 1993 making Ohios
drunk driving laws some of the toughest in the country. Additional
laws passed in 1996 and 2000 aimed at repeat drunk driving offenders.
A key provision of Ohios DUI law is administrative license
suspension (ALS). Under the law (effective September 1, 1993),
any motorist stopped for drunk driving who refuses to take the
sobriety test or whose test results exceed the legal limit of .10%
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) will have his/her license taken
administratively on the spot, with suspension effective immediately.
Depending on previous offenses, the ALS period can range from 90
days to five years.
On criminal citations, a court of law may also impose additional
penalties or license suspension at the judges discretion.
How ALS works
If a person is stopped and arrested for driving under the influence
of alcohol and either fails or refuses a blood alcohol or chemical
test, the officer seizes the offenders drivers license on
the spot, serves notice of suspension and sends the offenders
drivers license to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).
The time period that the BMV administratively suspends the offenders
driving privileges is shown in the chart on this page. The offender
can appeal the suspension orally at the initial court appearance
(held within five days of arrest). At the requested appeal hearing,
the court addresses the following issues (burden of proof is on
- Was the arrest based on reasonable grounds?
- Did the officer request the violator to take a test?
- Was the violator made aware of the consequences if he/she refused
or failed the test?
- Did the violator refuse or fail the test?
If the court replies yes to all of these questions,
then the court affirms the suspension. If the court replies no to
any of the questions, then the court terminates the suspension
and reinstates driving privileges to the alleged offender. If the
court determines the offender is a threat to public safety, even
if the above questions are answered no, the offender
may receive a judicial suspension.
Fines, jail time and penalties
Based on previous DUI offenses, fines range from $200 to $10,000.
Jail time ranges from three days to one year. Fines and jail sentences
are as follows:
- First offense: Fine$200 to $1,000; ALS for 90
days for .10% BAC or above; ALS for test refusal is one year
license suspension; Jailminimum of three consecutive days
or three-day driver intervention program; Court license suspension
is six months to three years
- Second offense: Fine$300 to $1,500; ALS for one
year for .10% BAC or above; ALS for test refusal is a two-year
license suspension; Jailminimum of 10 consecutive days
or five days plus minimum of 18 consecutive days of electronically
monitored house arrest (EMHA), up to a maximum of six months;
Discretionary drivers intervention program; Vehicle immobilization
and plates impounded for 90 days; Court license suspension is
one to five years
- Third offense: Fine$500 to $2,500; ALS for two
years for .10% BAC or above; ALS for test refusal is a three-year
license suspension; Jailminimum of 30 consecutive days
to one yearAlternative sentence is 15 days of jail plus
a minimum of 55 consecutive days of EMHA combined, up to a maximum
of one year; Mandatory attendance in an alcohol treatment program
paid for by offender; Vehicle forfeiture for a third OMVI conviction
within six years; Court license suspension is one to ten years
- Fourth offense or more or motor vehicle-related felony: Fine$750
to $10,000; ALS for three years for .10% BAC or above; ALS for
test refusal is a five-year license suspension; Jailminimum
of 60 consecutive days to one year; Mandatory drug/alcohol treatment
program paid for by offender; Vehicle forfeituremandatory
criminal forfeiture of vehicle operated by offender, imposed
by the court; Court license suspension is three years to permanent
Driving under DUI suspension
When driving under a DUI suspension or driving under suspension
without insurance/proof of financial responsibility, the court
is authorized to order vehicle immobilization and impoundment of
the license plates at the time of sentencing.
The penalties for such conduct, based on convictions within a
five-year period, are:
- First offense: 30 days
- Second offense: 60 days
- Third offense: Forfeit vehicle
Note: For multiple DUI offenders under suspension,
the court may also impound the plates of any other vehicle owned
by the offender. Also, if forfeiture occurs, the offender cannot
register or title any vehicle in his or her name for five years.
Ohio Supreme Court activity
In July 1996 the Ohio Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality
of the Administrative License Suspension (ALS) portion of Ohios
drunk driving law, which allows for the immediate suspension of
the license of a person stopped for drunk driving and either refusing
to take a blood alcohol content test or taking the test and failing.
However, the court voided a provision of the drunk driving law
that permitted the state to seize the vehicle without a prior hearing
when the driver was not the owner.
Recent Ohio DUI legislation
- Senate Bill 166 (SB 166)effective October 17, 1996specifies
drunk drivers indicted on a fourth or subsequent offense within
a six-year period to be charged as felons. Aimed at repeat offendersthose
who continue to drink and drive. SB 166 also requires local incarceration
of 60 days and a $10,000 fine for fourth-time offenders. Drivers
convicted of five or more DUIs receive prison terms of six to
18 months. Another provision requires the Department of Rehabilitation
and Correction to establish Intensive Program Prisons, to
provide treatment for alcoholism to certain offenders while serving
their prison terms.
- Senate Bill 22 (SB 22)effective May 17, 2000doubles
the minimum jail time for drunk drivers with a 0.17% BAC level.
A first time offenders minimum jail stay jumps from three
to six dayswith jail time being longer for subsequent offenses.
The bill also places a maximum of 30 months on prison terms for
- House Bill 80 (HB 80)effective June 8, 2000persons
convicted of OMVI three times within six years forfeit their
vehicle to the state (previously, vehicle forfeiture occurred
after a fourth offense).
2001 National DUI standards
The Transportation Appropriations Act of 2001 specifies that all
states are required to adopt a national standard of .08 BAC by
2004. States not adopting this .08 BAC standard face penalties
which include the loss of federal highway trust fund money ranging
from 28% (percent is determined depending on how soon after
2004 the standard is adopted). The fund collects money from a 4.3%
federal gasoline tax and distributes it to states for building
highways, bridges and other infrastructures.
The following states have already established the .08 BAC standard:
Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, DC, Florida, Georgia,
Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maine, Maryland,
Massachusetts, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Mexico, North
Carolina, Oklahoma, Oregon, Rhode Island, Texas, Utah, Vermont,
Virginia and Washington.
Blood Alcohol Concentration
Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) is a measure of the amount of
alcohol in the body. Blood alcohol is measured directly through
testing blood or indirectly through tests that use breath, urine
Note: Alcohol consumption affects individuals
differently. Information provided on these pages should be viewed
as generalizations only.
Numerous factors, including weight, sex, amount of food in the
digestive tract and time spent drinking, affect an individuals
absorption of alcohol. BAC levels and the number of typical drinks
required to reach them have been roughly estimated in Figure 1, Blood
Alcohol Content and Typical Drinks. The chart
suggests that after drinking three drinks in one hour, a male of
160 pounds will reach a BAC of .05%, whereas a female of 120 pounds
will reach a BAC of .06%.
Figure 1: Blood Alcohol Content
and Typical Drinks
(In one hour of drinking)
Most people will be noticeably drunk by the time their BAC reaches
.10%. Even though some drinkers appear to be in control of themselves,
they nevertheless have lost crucial driving abilities, as illustrated
in Figure 2, Blood Alcohol Content and Skills Impairment.
Figure 2: Blood Alcohol
Content and Skills Impairment
The chances for becoming involved in a crash begins to rise at
BAC .04% to .05% and increases rapidly thereafter, as seen in Figure
3, Blood Alcohol Content and Crash Risk. By the time
a driver reaches a BAC of .06%, the motorist is twice as likely
to be involved in a fatal crash as a nondrinking driver. And at
levels of .10%, a driver is 12 times more likely than a nondrinking
driver to be involved in a fatal crash.
Figure 3: Blood Alcohol Content
and Crash Risk
||62% of Americans have been driven home
by a designated driver at least once.
(Kupper Parker Communications survey, USA