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Understanding OVI / DUI Laws in Ohio

December 29, 2017

The best way to avoid being charged with an OVI is to plan ahead. Before you begin drinking, consider an alternative to driving: request a Lyft or an Uber; call for a taxi; ask to ride with a friend who is not drinking that night; use public transportation; or, if it is possible and safe to do so, consider walking.

Hiring a criminal defense attorney for your OVI / DUI charge as soon as possible is  imperative to effectively comprehending and combating OVI / DUI criminal charges. A general understanding of Ohio’s OVI laws may also be useful if you find yourself in a situation likely to lead to an OVI charge.

 Terminology Overview

The acronyms DUI, DWI, OMVI and OVI all refer to the same thing: operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. The most commonly used terms are “DUI” (Driving Under the Influence) and “DWI” (Driving While Impaired).

In 1982 the Ohio legislature enacted a law that referred to driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs as “OMVI” (Operating a Motor Vehicle Impaired). The current acronym in Ohio that refers to driving under the influence is “OVI” (Operating a Vehicle Impaired), which reflects the Ohio legislature’s prohibition on operating any vehicle while impaired, including non-motorized vehicles such as bicycles and horse-drawn carriages.

Legal Limits

Under Ohio law, a person who is at least 21 years old is operating a vehicle impaired when their Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) is .08 or greater. If a person is under the age of 21 and is operating a vehicle, the legal limit for BAC or BrAC is .02.

There are also “legal limits” for the concentration of alcohol in a person’s blood serum or plasma and urine. For a urine sample, you will be over the “legal limit” if the alcohol concentration in your urine sample is .11 or greater. While Ohio still considers this a valid way to determine alcohol content, many states have done away with urine testing because handling and testing procedures have produced errors.

What Happens During a Traffic Stop or at an OVI / DUI Checkpoint

Everything that happens between the time a police officer or state trooper stops a driver for suspicion of DUI / OVI and the moment of arrest must be done according to Ohio law. When a law enforcement officer fails to follow the law, a dedicated DUI defense attorney will call attention to each error as potential grounds for having the OVI / DUI charge dismissed or changed to a lesser offense.

Before reading more-detailed discussions of what happens in the time leading up to a drunk or drugged driving arrest in Columbus or Franklin County, understand that drivers always have the right to contact an OVI defense attorney. Police cannot deny a suspect the opportunity to call a lawyer for advice and representation, but they can continue questioning a suspect and conducting assessments of intoxication.

A driver must stop when signaled to do so. The driver must also turn over his or her license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance when asked by a police officer. Disobeying those orders will get a driver arrested on charges that have nothing to do with alcohol or drug use.

A driver and all passengers must also exit a vehicle when asked. Ohio law also permits an officer to pat-down the driver and any passengers of a motor vehicle stopped for a suspected traffic violation for the officer’s safety.

If an officer asks to search the vehicle, a driver can legally say no. Be aware, however, that officers can look through the windows and enter the vehicle if they spot bottles, drug paraphernalia, or weapons.

If a police officer has a reason to believe that you may be intoxicated, he may ask you to submit to breath, blood, or urine test. Although you may refuse to submit to such tests, you may still be convicted of OVI based on evidence of impairment such as poor driving performance, alcohol odor, slurred speech, red and glassy eyes, and/or poor performance on field sobriety tests. Further, Ohio law has made it a criminal offense to refuse to submit to testing once you have been arrested for OVI.

Contacting a Columbus Ohio OVI / DUI attorney during an extended traffic stop or checkpoint session could benefit a suspect who has questions about his or her rights.

What Happens at a Police Station or Hospital

Law enforcement officials only need reasonable suspicion to take a driver into custody under suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. When they do transport a suspect to a police station or hospital, they may place the person in cuffs but still not make an official arrest.

All breath, blood, and urine testing for alcohol and drugs must be conducted at state-licensed facilities. Before each test, an officer must ask the suspect’s permission to take samples, inform the suspect of his rights to refuse, and explain the consequences of refusing. Except in very limited circumstances, officers and clinic staff cannot use force to draw blood.

When a driver declines to participate in breath, blood, or urine testing, the officer will usually make an administrative license suspension (ALS). That takes effect immediately and prevents the suspect from legally driving any private or commercial vehicle. Working with a knowledgeable Ohio OVI attorney to appeal an ALS is essential, especially if a driver wants to get his or her commercial driver’s license reinstated. Appeals are handled as legal proceedings, with the CDL process being conducted according to special rules administered by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.

After OVI / DUI Arrest

The officer who places a DUI / OVI suspect under arrest must clearly inform the person that he or she is being arrested. This is when the officer must remind the accused of his or her rights to remain silent and to retain an OVI attorney. Insist on legal representation, even if the only option is a public defender. People accused of crimes can change lawyers at any time.

Hiring an OVI defense attorney as soon as you have been charged with an OVI / DUI in Ohio can be vital to understanding the nature of your charges. If you have been charged with any OVI offense in Franklin County, or any of the surrounding counties in Ohio, including Delaware County, Union County, Licking County, Pickaway County, Madison County, and Fairfield County, contact The Tyack Law Firm for a consultation at (614) 221-1342 [or get in touch with us online by filling out this contact form] to speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney that is knowledgeable about Ohio’s OVI laws.

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