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Ohio OVI Laws

It's a crime that has many names. More commonly known as driving under the influence (DUI), some states call it driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs (DWI). In Ohio, drugged and drunk driving falls into two categories: operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) and Operating a Vehicle After Underage Consumption (OVAUC).

Driving while intoxicated is a dangerous choice that costs thousands of people's lives every year. DUI accounts for over 1 million arrests each year.

If you are facing an OVI charge, you likely have questions about what to expect. The law can be confusing. FindLaw walks you through Ohio OVI laws and potential penalties.

Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) Limits and Implied Consent
"Per Se" BAC Limit 0.08%
Zero Tolerance (Underage) BAC Limit 0.02%
Enhanced Penalty (Aggravated) BAC Limit 0.17%
Implied Consent to Submit to BAC Test? Yes
Select Penalties
Minimum License Suspension or Revocation (1st, 2nd, 3rd offense) 1 year, 1 year, 2 years,
Mandatory Alcohol Education, Assessment and Treatment Assessment & Treatment
Vehicle Confiscation Possible? Yes (3rd offense)
Ignition Interlock Device Possible? Yes

Note: State laws are always subject to change through the passage of new legislation, by rulings in the higher courts, including federal decisions, ballot initiatives, and other means. While we strive to provide the most current information available, please consult an attorney or conduct your own legal research to verify the state laws you are researching.

Ohio OVI Laws

Ohio law forbids anyone from operating a "vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley" if they are under the influence of alcohol, a "drug of abuse," or a combination of either. Under this language, you don't need to be at or about the legal limit to face arrest. A police officer only needs to show that you were too intoxicated to operate a vehicle safely.

The law also prohibits specific blood alcohol contents (BAC) and controlled substances.

Alcohol Level


Whole Blood

Blood serum/Plasma







Under 21





Commercial Driver





Per Se OVI

Ohio drugged and drunk driving laws recognize per se OVI offenses. A per se offense is an OVI established by chemical test results. If found to have at or above the legal limit for alcohol or controlled substances, you can face an OVI charge without showing actual impairment. You may not feel intoxicated or have been driving badly. Test results showing the following limits are enough for a charge and OVI conviction.


Urine Test

Any Blood Analysis


500 nanogram (ng)

100 ng

Cocaine or Cocaine Metabolite

150 ng

50 ng


10 ng

2 ng

Cannabis Metabolite

35 ng

50 ng


2000 ng

50 ng

Heroin Metabolite/6-mono acetyl morphine

10 ng

10 ng


25 ng

10 ng


500 ng

100 ng

Phencyclidine/ PCP

25 ng


Salvia divinorum/Salvinorin A

Not yet determined by the State Board of Pharmacy

Not yet determined by the State Board of Pharmacy

Implied Consent

When a law enforcement officer suspects you are operating a vehicle while impaired, they will ask you to participate in a series of tests. Typically, the officer will ask you to take a Breathalyzer or breath test. The police officer will also have you perform field sobriety tests.

You may refuse to cooperate with these tests. However, if the police officer asks you to submit to chemical tests, you should cooperate under Ohio's implied consent law. When you drive, you agree to abide by the law. Part of these laws include consenting to chemical testing when an officer reasonably suspected you are under the influence.

You may refuse chemical tests, but the officer will immediately confiscate your driver's license. Your driver's license suspension can be up to 12 months if this is your first refusal. A second refusal within six years will suspend your license for two years.

If you cooperate with chemical tests and those tests are positive for prohibited substances or BAC level, you face a 90-day license suspension.

These are administrative license suspensions. You must serve this suspension regardless of the outcome of your OVI case. You have 30 days to contest this suspension with the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV).

OVI Penalties

When facing an OVI charge, the state has put mandatory minimum penalties. This includes a minimum of three days in jail or an alternative program, a six-month license suspension, and a large fine. Moreover, these penalties do not just apply to drinking alcohol and driving. You face prosecution for taking illegal or prescription drugs and driving if it impairs your ability to operate a motor vehicle safely. This includes driving under the influence of cannabis/marijuana or its derivatives.

A first OVI is a misdemeanor charge. For a first-offense conviction, if you're over 21 and your BAC is under 0.17%, your sentence can include:

  • Three to 180 days in jail or Driver Intervention Program
  • $375 to $1,075 fine
  • One to three-year license suspension
  • Up to five years probation

Driver Intervention Program (DIP) is an intensive three-day substance abuse education program that is an alternative to the mandatory three-day jail sentence.

The judge can order you to undergo a substance abuse assessment and treatment.

A second offense is also a misdemeanor if no aggravating factors exist and your BAC level is under 0.17%. Aggravating factors include having high BAC, transporting a minor under 18, or causing bodily injury to another. Your penalties increase as follows:

  • Substance abuse assessment and treatment program
  • $525 to $1,625 fine
  • 10 to 180 days in jail or
  • Five days in jail with 18 days of house arrest
  • Up to five years probation
  • Vehicle immobilized for 90 days
  • One to seven years license suspension
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device

A third offense will earn you severe penalties. Your sentence will include:

  • 30 days to one year in jail
  • $850 to $2,750 fine
  • Substance abuse assessment and treatment program
  • Vehicle immobilized for 90 days
  • Two to 12 years license suspension
  • DUI offender plates
  • Mandatory ignition interlock device

Fourth and subsequent offenses are felonies.

Ignition Interlock Device and Limited Driving Privileges

After a second OVI conviction, you must install an ignition interlock device (IID), though a judge can also order a first-time offender to install the device. The IID is a requirement when you apply for limited driving privileges.

An IID connects to your vehicle's ignition. You provide a breath sample before you can drive. If the IID detects alcohol, your car won't start. The IID will prompt you for random retests throughout your drive to ensure your sobriety.

You must serve a part of your suspension before being eligible for limited driving privileges. A limited license allows you to drive for essential reasons, such as going to work or school or attending drug or alcohol treatment. You must have an IID installed and maintain car insurance.

Ohio Zero Tolerance Laws

Operating a vehicle after underage consumption (OVAUC) is Ohio's zero-tolerance law for underage impaired driving. You'll face serious penalties if you are under 21 and charged with an OVAUC offense. The blood alcohol (BAC) limit for those under 21 years old is 0.02%.

You must serve six months before applying for limited driving privileges if convicted. You must retake the driver's license test and periodically provide proof of insurance. You will need to complete a remedial driving course, as well.

You may face adult penalties if your BAC level is 0.08% or more.

Ohio OVI Resources

Questions About Ohio OVI Laws? Ask an Attorney

Conviction under Ohio OVI laws can negatively impact your life. Penalties include large fines, substance abuse education and treatment, and jail time. If arrested for an OVI in Ohio, contact an Ohio criminal defense attorney who can review your case. A DUI attorney can provide valuable legal advice and help you navigate the process.

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