Ohios Drunk Driving Laws
In 2004, there were 477 alcohol-related deaths and 10,568 alcohol-related
injuries in the Buckeye state (click
a list by county). According to the Ohio Department of Public
Safety, an average of 429 deaths, 11,634 injuries and 17,908 alcohol-related
crashes occurred annually in Ohio during the period 2000-2004.
Nationally, 17,013 alcohol-related deaths occurred in 2003, a slight
decrease from the 17,524 in 2002.
On January 1, 2004 Ohio adopted
an OVI (Operating a Vehicle under the Influence) violation. It
replaced violations for DUI (Driving
Under the Influence) and OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle under
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 life. Click
here for "Summary
of Major OVI Penalties" including
fines and jail sentences for repeat offenders.
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
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.
Source: Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles
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
- 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
Permanent loss of a vehicle shall be ordered by the court for
any of the following which occurs within five years:
- Third offense
- Third offense or more of DUS for OVI or DUS for financial
- First offense of driving a vehicle that is immobilized
and plates impounded
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
the person’s vehicle can be immobilized or forfeited.
Recent Ohio OVI legislation
HB 52 became law on June 1, 2004. The law increases penalties
for repeat drunk drivers and requires a 6-18 month sentence if
has 3 or more prior OVI convictions within a 6-year period. Offenders
accumulating 5 more convictions within 20 years could be sentenced
up to 30 months.
If a judge grants driving privileges for work,
the offender is required to have restricted plates (yellow and
red) on the vehicle after two
or more convictions.
Other OVI legislation includes:
- Am. Sub. House Bill 87 (HB 87)—effective
July 1, 2003—contained
a provision that set Ohio’s Blood Alcohol Concentration
(BAC) for those 21 and older to .08% (down from .10%).
Bill 123 (SB 123)—effective January 1, 2004—was
an all-encompassing law based on recommendations of the Ohio
Criminal Sentencing Commission to simplify Ohio’s traffic code.
With its enactment, penalties are now placed in the same section
the offense and terminology was created to simplify Ohio statute.
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
can’t be seized, immobilized, or forfeited unless
registered in the driver’s name, which repeals
- 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 vehicles
no driving privileges allowed if offender has three or more
OVI convictions in six years
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.
- All 50 states and the
District of Columbia have adopted a .08% BAC level.
- 45 states
allow some offenders to drive only if their vehicles have been
equipped with an ignition interlock – a device
that analyzes the driver’s breath and will disable the
ignition if it detects the driver has been drinking.
- Repeat offenders
may end up forfeiting their vehicles being driven while impaired
in 30 states.
- It is illegal for drivers and passengers to possess
an open container of alcohol in the passenger compartment of
in 43 states
A list of state OVI/DUI laws is available from the
Insurance Institute for Highway Safety at www.iihs.org/laws/state_laws/dui.htm
||Delaware was the first to ratify the US Constitution
but last in the nation to cling to a .10 blood-alcohol threshold
for determining 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,
Innovations in alcohol detection
The Insurance Institute for Highway
Safety (IIHS) reports that innovative technology is available to
help curb impaired driving,
but doubts it will surface in the US anytime in the near future.
From vehicle manufacturers including miniature breathe sensors
on keyless remote systems, to laser devices to scan your skin,
technology is available to help stop impaired drivers from getting
behind the wheel.
A copy of the IIHS Status Report, “Reflecting
on the alcohol-impaired driving problem worldwide and what to
do about it,” is available
online at www.iihs.org/sr/pdfs/sr4004.pdf.
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.”
Sources: Ohio Department of Public Safety and MADD, Ohio Chapter.
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.
Sources: Ohio Department of Public Safety and MADD,