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What’s the Difference Between an OVI vs DUI in Ohio?

April 8, 2024 | Sebaly Shillito + Dyer

man drinks beer in his vehicle prior to getting charge with an OVI in Ohio

Driving under the influence (DUI) and operating a vehicle impaired (OVI) are serious offenses that can have significant legal consequences in Ohio.

If you’ve found yourself facing charges related to impaired driving in Ohio, it’s crucial to understand these terms and how they might impact your OVI case.

Contact SS+D Law for a free consultation with a drunk driving defense attorney.

Difference Between an OVI and DUI in Ohio

In Ohio, operating a vehicle impaired (OVI) is the term used to describe the offense commonly known as driving under the influence (DUI) in other states. 

You may have heard other acronyms for impaired or drunk driving, such as:

  • DWI (driving while intoxicated)
  • OMVI (operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated)

These terms may be used interchangeably, as they are essentially referring to the same thing. 

Under Ohio law, you can be charged with OVI if you’re caught operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

The Ohio General Assembly adopted the term OVI in 2005, as it better described the offense. Operating a vehicle doesn’t necessarily mean driving at the time of the charge. Even sitting behind the wheel with the keys in the ignition can lead to an OVI charge if you’re under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Key Elements of OVI Charges in Ohio

To be charged with OVI in Ohio, certain elements must be present:

Impaired Due to Drugs or Alcohol

The prosecution must demonstrate that you were impaired to the extent that you couldn’t operate a vehicle safely. This impairment can be due to alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both.

Operation of a Vehicle

As mentioned earlier, you don’t have to be driving to be charged with OVI. 

Simply being in control of a vehicle while impaired is sufficient for a charge. 

The vehicle doesn’t have to be a car, either—according to Ohio Revised Code, bicycles and even horse-drawn carriages are considered vehicles.

BAC Level

The state of Ohio has established legal limits for blood alcohol concentration (BAC). 

If your BAC level exceeds these limits (typically 0.08% for adult drivers), you can be charged with OVI even if there is no clear evidence of impairment.

Potential Penalties for an OVI in Ohio

The penalties for OVI convictions in Ohio can be severe and vary if you have a prior offense or refuse a chemical test. The penalties may include:

  • Fines: OVI convictions often come with hefty fines, which can range from hundreds to thousands of dollars.
  • License Suspension: A conviction can lead to the suspension of your driver’s license for a specified period.  A first offense is a mandatory minimum of 6 months up to 3 years.  The penalties can be more severe for a high test result or a second offense, potentially making it challenging to get to work or fulfill other responsibilities. In some cases, having multiple prior OVI offenses may result in permanent loss of driving privileges.
  • Jail Time: Depending on the circumstances of your case and any prior convictions, you could face jail time for an OVI conviction. In Ohio, there is a mandatory jail term for an OVI conviction, that may be done in a Driving Intervention Program.
  • Ignition Interlock Device: In some cases, the court may require you to install an ignition interlock device in your vehicle, which prevents it from starting if alcohol is detected on your breath.
  • Restricted License Plates: Courts have the discretion to require you to install restricted license plates on your motor vehicle during any license suspension it imposes.
  • Registration in Ohio’s Habitual Offender Registry: People who have been convicted of OVI at least 5 times may be recorded in Ohio’s Habitual Offender Registry, a public database that discloses prior drunk driving records and other information. This can make it difficult for those found guilty of this offense to find work, housing, and more.

Have You Been Charged with an OVI in Ohio?

If you’re facing an OVI charge in Ohio, it’s crucial to seek legal guidance from an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the nuances of Ohio’s OVI laws.

A skilled drunk driving defense lawyer can assess the specifics of your case, advise you on your legal options, and work to build a strong OVI defense on your behalf.

Contact our law firm today for a free consultation

Published by

Sebaly Shillito + Dyer