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Ohio DUI Defense Attorney

An Ohio DUI or DWI is called an OVI.  OVI is short for Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs of Abuse. There are two basic types of Ohio DWI / DUI offenses:  OVI Per Se and OVI Impaired.  If you have been charged with Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence of Alcohol or Drugs, contact a Columbus Criminal Defense Attorney to discuss how to protect your driving privileges and fight the charges against you.  Attorney Adam Burke is experienced in Ohio DUI Defense. Call (614) 280-9122 for a free consultation.

Ohio DUI DWI One Leg Stand

Ohio DUI One Leg Stand

Ohio DUI Quick Facts

The legal limit for alcohol in Ohio is:

  • Breath Test: .08+ adults | .02 Under 21 | .04 Commercial Drivers
  • Blood Test: .08%+
  • Urine Test: .096%+

Testing over means at least a 90 day automatic license suspension.

Refusing a test means at least a 1 year automatic suspension.

A Minimum Sentence is 3 days in Jail or Driver Intervention Program.

How many drinks is too many?  Check the blood alcohol calculator below.

Overview: Ohio Drunk Driving

An OVI Per Se involves a blood, breath, or urine test which is over the legal limit. [1]

An OVI Impaired, a second type of Ohio DWI / DUI offense, does not depend on a test.  It depends on whether there is evidence you were impaired by alcohol or drugs. [2]

OVI Per Se

An Ohio DUI charge based on testing over the legal limit is commonly called an OVI Per Se.  On your ticket this may be marked ORC 4511.19(A)(1)(b)-(x) (or a municipal ordinance).

It’s called “per se,” because the government can prove its case based only on an over-the-limit test result near the time you were driving.

The prosecutor does not need to prove that you performed poorly on field sobriety tests or even that your driving was impaired.

Under Ohio law, you can be convicted of an OVI if you were operating a vehicle and you tested over the legal limit.

Low Test

If you take a breath test you will be charged with OVI Per Se if you tested with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC Test) of .08 or Higher.

High Test

If your breath test is over .017 you will be charged with a “high-tier” violation. This means that if you are convicted, the minimum penalties are higher (6 days instead of 3 days) and special license plates are mandatory.

OVI Impaired

Another type of Ohio DUI offense is called OVI Impaired.

This charge means you are charged with driving under the influence. On your ticket this may be marked ORC 4511.19(A)(1)(a) (or a municipal ordinance).

It is not unusual for someone to be charged with both this offense and an OVI Per Se in the same case or arrest. A person who does not submit to a breath test or other chemical test can still be charged or convicted under the OVI impaired offense.

Ohio DUI Penalties

2 Offenses — 1 Penalty. Although you may be charged with both an OVI Per Se and OVI Impaired, you cannot be punished for both. Each charge is a way for the government to convict you of drunk driving.

Unless, you have a “high test” (a point .017 or higher breath test) or past refusals, the penalties you face for either offense are the same.

Below is a Chart of Ohio DUI Penalties. These penalties are based on blood alcohol levels, past refusals, and the number of prior convictions in the past 6 years.

Ohio DUI Penalties Chart [3]

(within 6 years)
Jail or Driver Intervention Program
Jail/Program: High Test or Past Refusal
License Suspension
3 Day Program –
6 Months Jail (Max)
6 Days Jail
(3 Days
& Program) –
6 Months Jail
6 Months – 3 Years
10 Days Jail – 6 Months
20 Days Jail-
6 Months
1 – 5 Years
30 Days –
6 Months
60 Days –
6 Months; & Treatment.
2 – 10 Years
4th or 5th [Felonies]
60 Days –
32 Months
120 Days –
32 Months; Treatment.
3 Years – Life

ref: ORC §4511.19

To Test or Not to Test?

If you have any doubt about whether you will pass a test of your breath, blood, or urine, an experienced Ohio DUI Attorney, will suggest that you refuse the test.

There are two reasons for this:

First, if you fail a breath or alcohol test, you make the prosecutor’s job much easier.  If the test comes in at trial, you will usually lose. Your lawyer can still try to get the test thrown out, but most people are better off just not taking it.

Second, a higher test result increases your minimum penalties from 3 days to a minimum of 6 days (for a first offense).

But won’t I lose my license if I refuse?

You will lose your license, at least temporarily, for refusing to take a test.  However, you will also lose your license for failing the test.

The suspension is longer for a refusal than for testing over the limit (1 year versus 90 days). If you are convicted because of the test, you face at least another three month suspension and it is easier to fight a license suspension than a failed test.

By refusing the test you give yourself a much better chance at avoiding a drunk driving conviction. This gives your lawyer more options for a better resolution, including negotiating a shorter license suspension.

Most people charged with first offense drunk driving serve a 6 month license suspension, whether or not they take the test.

Physical Control

A person who is not operating a vehicle may still be charged with having physical control of the vehicle while under the influence.  On your ticket this may be marked ORC 4511.194(B)(1)-(3) (or a municipal ordinance). [4]

This is a non moving violation.  In many cases, someone who is charged with an OVI may have there case reduced to a Physical Control or a Reckless Operation as part of a plea bargain.

Underage OVI

A person under 21 with a breath test between .02 and .08, may be charged with operating a vehicle after underage consumption. On your ticket this may be marked ORC 4511.19(B)(1)-(4) (or a municipal ordinance). [5]

The penalties for an underage OVI include: up to 30 days in jail & $250 Fine, a license suspension of 1 to 5 years, 4 points, and Driving Privileges after 60 days.

The penalties for a second underage OVI include: up to 60 days in jail & $500 Fine, a license suspension of 90 days to 2 years, 4 points, and Driving Privileges after 60 days

Burke, Meis & Associates — Columbus Ohio DUI Lawyer

If you have been arrested for an OVI in Franklin County or any of the surrounding areas in Ohio, contact Attorney Adam Burke to help you with the serious consequences surrounding an OVI. Contact Burke, Meis & Associates today at (614) 280-9122 for your free consultation.

See Also


[1]  Ohio Revised Code (R.C.) § 4511.19(A)(1)(b)-(x)

[2]  R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a)

[3]  R.C. 4511.19

[4] R.C. 4511.194(B)(1)-(3)

[5] R.C. 4511.19(B)(1)-(4)

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Adam G. Burke is a top Columbus criminal defense attorney. He represents clients in federal and state courts in Columbus, Ohio and surrounding areas. He has successfully defended men and women facing serious felony and misdemeanor charges.