Your brother and his kids were visiting and staying at the Fort Rapids Waterpark Hotel. You headed over and logged a few hours with your nephews on the slides and activity pool, and then sat back with your brother to catch up over a few beers. A few turned into several, and although you assured everyone you were fine to drive back to your apartment, you were a bit wobbly as you walked to the car. You had only gotten as far as Hamilton Drive when there was a patrol car behind you, signaling you to pull over. The next thing you knew you were being charged with Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI). What happens now? What do you do? Here is some basic, general information about OVI cases in Columbus.
For a general overview, you may wish to check out the FindLaw section on DUI Law, as this article contains information specific to Franklin County.
The first folks you will likely encounter in your OVI case in Columbus will be officers from the Columbus Police Department, the Franklin County Sheriff, or the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
The case may be prosecuted by the Columbus City Attorney (for misdemeanors) or the Franklin County Prosecuting Attorney (for felonies) at the Franklin County Municipal Court or the Franklin County Court of Common Pleas. The administrative aspects of your case will be addressed through the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
The Legal Limit in Ohio
Operating a vehicle while:
- "Under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or a combination of them"; or
- With a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or more is prohibited in Ohio.
Penalties vary depending on the circumstances, but can include jail time, fines, fees, license suspension and more.
The Traffic Stop and Arrest
Perhaps you were driving erratically or extremely slowly. If the officer has reasonable suspicion that you were driving while impaired, he will likely pull you over and begin by asking you a few questions about where you have been and whether you have been drinking. He will then generally ask you to step out of the car and participate in field sobriety tests. The officer's questions and tests are designed to allow him an opportunity to observe you for signs of intoxication.
You are not required to take these tests and you can politely decline to do so. However, that does not mean that the officer will send you on your merry way. Instead, he may arrest you if he has probable cause to do so.
After an arrest, you will probably be asked to take a chemical test of your breath, blood, or urine. By driving in Ohio, you are deemed to have consented to this testing. You may refuse, but there are consequences for doing so.
Before you can be released to go, you must go through the booking and bail process. This is the process by which information about you and the charges against you are officially entered into the system, and you make a promise (either with money or your signature) that you will return for your court appearances.
Your first court appearance is usually the arraignment. This is when the charges against you are read and you are asked how you plead. If you plead guilty you would then proceed to sentencing. If you plead not guilty, your case would proceed toward trial.
Prior to trial, there may be a number of pre-trial hearings during which the parties might argue that certain evidence or witness testimony should be excluded. At these times, negotiations may also be conducted which may lead to resolution of the case by way of a plea bargain.
Administrative License Suspension
If you refuse or fail the chemical test, the officer can take your license and suspend it immediately.
You do have the opportunity to appeal this suspension at your initial court appearance or within 30 days thereafter. The scope of the appeal is essentially limited to the following issues:
- Did the officer have reasonable grounds to believe you were driving while impaired?
- Did the officer ask you to take the chemical test?
- Did the officer inform you of the consequences of not taking the test? and
- Did you refuse or fail the test? If the judge determines that all of the above conditions were met, the license suspension will be upheld.
Limited Driving Privileges
If your license is suspended you may also have the opportunity to apply for limited driving privileges to attend activities such as work, school, medical appointments, and court ordered treatment. As a condition of granting such privileges, the court may impose additional restrictions, such as an ignition interlock device or restricted license plates (yellow plates that identify you as a OVI offender).
Getting an Attorney
Being charged with an OVI can be stressful and embarrassing, and a conviction can have consequences on your personal and professional life. Consulting with a skilled attorney may be a good idea. Check out this FindLaw section on Using a DUI Lawyer for more information.