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Your Cincinnati OVI Case: The Basics

Still psyched from the latest concert at Arnold, you run into a sobriety checkpoint. The Cincinnati police officer can tell you're nervous and asks you to pull over. Another officer asks you to step out of the car and perform a few simple tasks, and you think you do OK… until the breathalyzer detects a 0.08% alcohol concentration. Now, your classy night at Cincinnati's oldest bar is over and you are being handcuffed and placed into the back of the police cruiser. It is remarkably easy to get a DUI, even if you feel perfectly alert driving. That's why FindLaw has created this guide for what to expect from your Cincinnati OVI case.

What is a DUI?

In Ohio, courts usually use the term "OVI" (operating a vehicle under the influence) as opposed to the more widely-used term "DUI." Multiple paths may lead to an OVI conviction. The most well-known route is driving with a blood alcohol content, or "BAC," above 0.08%. However, individuals under the age of 21 can be convicted with a BAC of just 0.02%, equal to a single alcoholic beverage, and commercial drivers are limited to 0.04%.

You can also receive an OVI for driving a vehicle under the influence of drugs, such as amphetamines, cocaine, LSD, marijuana and heroin. The state will perform a chemical test for the presence of drugs in your system.

The third OVI offense does not rely on BAC or the presence of drugs at all. This offense punishes someone when their ability to drive a vehicle was "appreciably impaired" by the use of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of the two. This is more common in cases where there is no BAC evidence, or when the BAC is barely legal but the driver was still an obvious hazard.

Can't I just refuse the breathalyzer?

If you refuse a chemical test your license will be suspended automatically for one year. The officer will confiscate your driver's license on the spot. Ohio has what is known as an implied consent law, which means that when you receive your driver's license, you consent to any future BAC testing if a police officer suspects you of driving under the influence.

Upon refusal (or testing over the legal limit) the state will automatically initiate an administrative license suspension for one year for your first refusal, two for any additional refusals. However, you can petition the court for limited driving privileges during the suspension. Limited driving privileges will allow you to drive to and from work, school, or any medical appointments.

After the suspension period has expired you can reinstate your license by paying the reinstatement fee and sending proof of insurance to:

Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles
Attn. RE Fee
P.O. Box 16520
Columbus, OH 43216-6520

Appearing in Court

After being arrested you will receive notice of your first court appearance, likely the arraignment. An arraignment is a formal reading of the charges against you and offers you a chance to enter a plea. It is almost always a bad decision to plea guilty right away, as you have not had a chance to review the state's evidence, challenge the validity of the traffic stop, or consult an attorney.

Your arraignment will most likely take place at the Hamilton County Court House, but check out our page on Cincinnati Courthouses to research the different locations. It is extremely important that you take this court date seriously. You can be charged with a separate crime of "failing to appear" and a warrant will be issued for your arrest if you blow it off.

At the arraignment you can ask a judge to appoint a public defender to represent you. You may not qualify for a public defender under their income guidelines. If that's the case, you should consider speaking with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Many defense attorneys specialize in DUI defense, and can help reduce or dismiss charges, suppress evidence, or mitigate your ultimate punishment. Most defense attorneys work on a "flat fee" basis, which means they won't rack up hourly fees working on your case.

Plea Bargaining

For borderline cases, the prosecutor may accept a guilty plea to the lesser charge of reckless driving involving alcohol, commonly known as a "wet reckless." This is more likely if there was no accident and you have a no prior OVIs. But beware that a wet reckless counts as a prior OVI when the judge considers your sentence for subsequent OVI cases.


You put up the good fight but the evidence was stacked against you. Now, you must pay the price. In Ohio, the penalties for OVI are intentionally steep. You can expect a minimum of three days in jail for your first conviction plus a fine of at least $375. It is fairly typical for judges to calibrate the sentence based on aggravating factors, such as an unusually high BAC or causing an accident. If your BAC is over 0.17%, the judge will double the mandatory minimum jail sentence.

The penalties quickly ramp up for each subsequent OVI conviction. Ohio has a "lookback" period of six years, which means that the judge will not consider a seven-year old OVI conviction when calculating your sentence. If you are convicted of a second OVI within six years, you will serve at least ten days in jail, and a minimum of 30 days for a third.

Your fourth OVI conviction within six years (or your sixth conviction within 20 years) counts as a felony. You will serve at least a 60-day sentence, up to a year. The state can also confiscate your vehicle and permanently revoke your driver's license.

A growing trend is for the judge to require the use of an ignition interlock device, or "IID," as part of your punishment. The judge has discretion to require an IID for the first offense, and will almost always require it after the second. The real hassle with IIDs is the expense, which you must bear.

Craving more knowledge? Find out more by visiting FindLaw's section on DUI law.

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