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Ohio OVI Laws

Ohio OVI Charges

Ohio law no longer uses the terms "DUI" and "DWI." Ohio's drinking and driving laws are collectively known as "Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence" (OVI). Drivers who violate the OVI statute face severe penalties.

Here's how the law works. If you are driving a motor vehicle (or street car/trackless trolley) and you are visibly intoxicated by alcohol or have a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent of higher, or have any amount of a controlled substance such as marijuana, cocaine, heroin, or methamphetamine present in your system, you are violating the law.

Typically, a police officer will put you through a series of field sobriety tests (FSTs) to determine if you are actually impaired. You don't need a BAC of 0.08 percent or above to be arrested for a OVI. Bad driving and/or poor performance on FSTs can be enough.

Legal Limit

A measurement of your BAC is the most common way a police officer can determine whether you're legally impaired.

  • 21 or Older: 0.08 percent
  • Commercial drivers: 0.04 percent
  • Under 21: 0.02 percent

Refusing the Chemical Test

If you have refused any chemical testing for an OVI in Ohio, your license will automatically be suspended, also known as an administrative license suspension. An ALS will occur if a driver refuses chemical testing of the blood, breath or urine. A person whose license has been suspended has 30 days to request a hearing to review the suspension. This suspension is different from a license suspension after an OVI conviction. An ALS is civil in nature and used only for chemical testing refusals, whereas a suspension upon an OVI conviction is a criminal penalty.

If you are convicted of an OVI, your license will be suspended for at least 90 days.

Remember, the higher your BAC, the more severe your penalties may be. Multiple convictions will also result in harsher sentences.

Here is a brief overview of Ohio's OVI law. For more information, see After a DUI, DUI Expungement, and DUI and Insurance.

Code Sections Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.19
BAC Limit

Over 21: 0.08 percent or higher, Under 21: 0.02 percent Commercial drivers : 0.04 percent or higher

What is Prohibited?

OVI: Operating a motor vehicle while visibly impaired by alcohol or drugs or have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or more.

Typical OVI Penalties

  • Fines ranging from $375 to $20,000,
  • Jail or prison time from 3 days to 15 years,
  • Placement of an interlock device on the offender’s vehicle,
  • Drivers’ intervention program,
  • Yellow OVI Plates,
  • Alcohol monitoring system,
  • Alcohol and drug treatment programs,
  • Vehicle Immobilization or Forfeiture,
  • Driver’s license suspension or revocation, and/
  • Court costs and fees.

It's best to never drink or use drugs and drive. Select a designated driver ahead of time, who will stay sober. If you're impaired and don't have a designated driver, use a taxi, call a sober friend or family member, or use public transportation. If you do find yourself facing an OVI, you may wish to contact an Ohio criminal defense attorney for assistance.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

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Can I Solve This on My Own or Do I Need an Attorney?

  • Complex DUI situations usually require a lawyer
  • DUI defense attorneys can challenge Breathalyzer/Intoxilyzer or blood test results
  • A lawyer can seek to reduce or eliminate DUI penalties
  • A lawyer can help get your license back

Get tailored advice and ask your legal questions. Many attorneys offer free consultations.


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