Ohios Drunk Driving Laws
Ohio Department of Public Safety figures indicate 1,975 people
were killed and 73,536 were injured in 102,271 alcohol-related crashes
in Ohio from 1998 to 2002—an average of 395 deaths, 14,707
injuries and 20,454 crashes annually. Nationally, alcohol-related
deaths have been increasing each year since 1999. In 2002, 41% of
the 42,815 US motor vehicle fatalities were alcohol-related. This
translates to 17,419 deaths, or an average of one alcohol-related
fatality every 30 minutes in the US.
On January 1, 2004 Ohio adopted a new OVI (Operating a Vehicle
under the Influence) violation. It replaces violations for DUI (Driving
Under the Influence) and OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle under the
Administrative License Suspension (ALS)
Ohio’s drunk driving laws are swift and sure with license
surrender occurring on-the-spot and suspension starting immediately.
Under the ALS 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 .08% 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. The administrative
suspension is independent of any jail term, fine or other criminal
penalty imposed in court for an OVI offense.
How ALS works
If a person is stopped and arrested for OVI and either fails or
refuses a blood alcohol or chemical test, the officer seizes the
offender’s drivers license on the spot, serves notice of
suspension and sends the offender’s drivers license to the
Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). The time period that the BMV administratively
suspends the offender’s
driving privileges is shown in the chart
below. The court
must hold the ALS hearing, if requested, within five days of arrest.
At the requested appeal hearing, the court addresses the following
issues (burden of proof is on the defendant):
- 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. If the court determines the offender
is a threat to public safety, even if the questions are answered
“no,” the offender may receive a judicial suspension.
Fines, jail time and penalties
Based on previous OVI offenses, fines range from $250 to $10,000.
Jail time ranges from three days to one year. Click
here for fines
and jail sentences
for repeat offenses within six years of the first violation.
Note: The chart summarizes some
major changes to the laws—it does not detail all provisions
of Ohio’s OVI laws.
Limited driving privileges and restricted license plates
New provisions of Ohio OVI laws provide courts an option to grant
limited driving privileges after a specified “hard time”
suspension has been completed by the offender. If privileges are
granted, restricted plates are required to be used on the offender’s
vehicle if titled in his/her name. Ohio’s restricted plates
are yellow with red letters.
Driving under OVI suspension
When Driving Under Suspension (DUS) for OVI or DUS without proof
of financial responsibility, the court is authorized to order vehicle
immobilization and impoundment of the license plates at the time
of sentencing within a five year period for:
- First offense: 30 days
- Second offense: 60 days
- Third offense: Forfeit vehicle
Note: For multiple OVI offenders under suspension, the court may
also impound the plates of any other vehicle owned by the offender.
Permanent loss of a vehicle shall be ordered by the court for any
of the following which occurs within five years:
- Third offense OVI
- Third offense or more of DUS for OVI or DUS for financial responsibility
- First offense of driving a vehicle that is immobilized and
Wrongful entrustment: A vehicle can no longer be seized, immobilized
or forfeited unless it is registered in the driver’s name.
However, a person who loans a car to someone that person knows or
has reason to believe should not be driving can be held criminally
liable for wrongful entrustment, and can be jailed for up to 180
days and receive a one-year driver license suspension. In addition,
the person’s vehicle can be immobilized or forfeited.
Recent Ohio OVI legislation
A number of sections of SB 123 affected Ohio drunk driving laws.
Some of the major changes include:
- OVI, or Operating a Vehicle under the Influence, replaces DUI
(Driving Under the Influence) and OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle
under the Influence)
- Restricted license plates can be issued for OVI offenders
- Vehicles can’t be seized, immobilized, or forfeited unless
registered in the driver’s name, which repeals the “innocent
- A new “physical control” offense was created to
cover being intoxicated in the driver’s position with the
vehicle’s ignition key, but not driving
- Provides consistency between OVI laws for watercraft and motor
- Clarifies no driving privileges allowed if offender has three
or more OVI convictions in six years
At press time, additional legislation was pending that could impact
Ohio OVI laws.
The 2001 US Transportation Appropriations Act mandates that a portion
of a state’s highway construction fund be withheld if it didn’t
adopt a .08% BAC level by October 2003. Ohio adopted .08% BAC effective
July 1, 2003.
Click here for
"Summary of Major OVI Penalties"
||Delaware was the first to ratify the US Constitution
but last in the nation to cling to a .10 blood-alcohol threshold
for determing intoxication. In May 2004 the governors of the
other holdout states of Colorado and Minnesota signed .08 legislation
into law. West Virginia and New Jersey adopted .08 in January.
(Excerpted from Stateline.org,
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 should be viewed
as generalizations only.
Most people will be noticeably drunk at .08% BAC. Even though some
drinkers appear to be in control of themselves, they nevertheless
have lost crucial driving abilities, as illustrated in Figure 1,
“Blood Alcohol Content and Skills Impairment.”
The chances for becoming involved in a crash begins to rise at
.04%–.05% BAC and increases rapidly thereafter, as seen in
Figure 2, “Blood Alcohol Content and Crash Risk.” By
the time a driver reaches .06% BAC, the motorist is twice as likely
to be involved in a fatal crash as a nondrinking driver. And at
levels of .08%, a driver is three times more likely than a nondrinking
driver to be involved in a fatal crash.