Drunk driving is a worsening problem in Ohio. Alcohol-impaired drivers were involved in 33 percent of all fatal crashes in Ohio in 2015, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety. These crashes claimed over 400 lives in Ohio in 2015. This is up from 375 in 2014. To keep yourself and your family safe, check out these drunk driving facts before you get behind the wheel.
- Ohio has not used the terms DUI or DWI since 1982.
DUI and DWI are the terms most people throughout the United States use to refer to drunk driving. Ohio used these terms until 1982, when the state changed the law to call it OMVI, short for Operating a Motor Vehicle While Impaired.
Eventually the state changed the law to include any vehicle, motorized or not. Now Ohio calls it “OVI,” or Operating a Vehicle Impaired. The OVI laws apply to persons operating motorized vehicles, as well as bicycles, horse-drawn carriages, and other vehicles.
- Ohio has legal limits for the level of alcohol in your whole blood, serum, breath and urine.
Most people know that the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.08. This applies to whole blood. What happens if, due to the circumstances of the case, the sample officers tested was not whole blood, but rather serum, breath, or urine?
The legal limits for alcohol in Ohio for people under the age of 21 and for people age 21 or older, by type of sample, are:
Type of Sample Under 21 21 or older
Whole blood (BAC) 0.02 0.08
Breath (BrAC) 0.02 0.08
Urine 0.028 0.11
Blood serum or plasma 0.03 0.096
- Ohio has different legal limits for alcohol if you are under the age of 21.
As you saw above, the legal limit for a driver under 21 is much lower. Although the legal age in Ohio for drinking beer, wine, or spirits is 18, there are different rules for drinking and driving under the age of 21.
A driver under 21 can face OVI charges if they have a BAC of 0.02 or higher.
- Ohio has “enhanced penalties” for drunk drivers who are significantly over the limit.
When a drunk driver has alcohol levels well over the legal limit, the state calls it “high tier.”
The levels for these in Ohio are:
- Breath or whole blood levels at or above 0.17
- Urine levels at or above 0.238
- Serum or plasma levels at or above 0.204
At these levels, there are enhanced penalties, which involve, among other things, doubling the minimum jail time for conviction.
- If you refuse to take a breathalyzer or other alcohol level test, the state can still convict you of OVI.
Some people refuse to take a breathalyzer test at the scene of a traffic stop. They think that, with the passage of time, law enforcement will not have any evidence with which to prove the OVI charge in court.
In Ohio, this way of thinking is not going to work. If the driver refuses to submit to alcohol level testing at a traffic stop, the officer can testify about other signs of impairment at the criminal trial.
For example, officers can make an arrest if:
- They smell alcohol in the vehicle or on the driver’s breath
- The driver failed any aspect of the field sobriety tests
- The driver’s eyes were red or watery
- The driver had slurred speech
- The driver staggered or had other coordination issues
- It is illegal to refuse testing after officers arrest you for OVI in Ohio.
If officers arrest a driver, that driver must submit to testing to determine their alcohol level. A refusal is against the law.
Such refusal will add to the criminal charges against the drunk driver.
- Drunk drivers can face jail time, fines, and license suspension among other penalties.
Section § 4511.19 of the Ohio Revised Code sets out the law in Ohio for drunk drivers. There is a wide range of punishments, which gives discretion to the sentencing judge to make the punishment fit the specific facts of each case.
There are enhanced penalties for repeat offenders. Fines in repeat offender cases can exceed $10,000. Some OVI convictions are misdemeanors, while others are felonies.
Ohio law provides the following possible criminal penalties for an OVI conviction:
- Jail time of 72 consecutive hours (three days)
- Completion of a drug or alcohol intervention program
- Jail up to six months for certain offenses within the OVI laws
- Suspended execution of the three-day jail time when the court imposes certain community control (i.e., house arrest) sanctions
- In all cases, a fine in an amount between $375 and $1075 (or higher)
- In all cases, suspension of the driver’s license
- Electronic monitoring
- Alcohol monitoring
- House arrest
- Forfeiture of the drunk driver’s vehicle
- Drunk drivers can be civilly liable for any accidents they cause.
Drunk drivers might also be spending some time in civil court.
If an intoxicated driver causes an accident, the victim can hold the driver liable. The drunk driver could be liable for personal injury, death and property damages caused by the drunk driver’s negligence.
- Driving drunk in Ohio can destroy many lives — not just the driver’s.
Drunk driving can ruin the lives of the driver, their family members, and anyone else who came into contact with the driver. Drunk driving accidents often result in death. Even if no one dies in the crash, drunk driving accidents are often serious and lead to catastrophic, debilitating injuries.
If the driver kills someone in the crash, they have taken away someone else’s family member. That family must contend with a senseless loss caused by a momentary bad decision. The spouse or significant other as well as any children of the deceased person may be left financially destitute by the loss of the loved one as a provider for the family.
How can I get help?
Drunk driving accidents require the expertise of a high quality personal injury law firm. The lawyers at Gallon, Takacs, Boissoneault & Schaffer Co., L.P.A. have provided that knowledge and skill for over 60 years. We have over 300 years of combined legal experience helping injured victims get the compensation they need.
Call us today at 419-843-6663 for your free consultation.