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What If I Plead Guilty to My Ohio DUI/OVI Charge?

Prison Bars

What Does DUI Mean?  What Is a DUI Charge?
DUI is a well-known acronym for the phrase, driving under the influence. While this acronym is the most common way to refer to this type of crime, some states differ in their legal name of the crime in order to cover a wider range of prohibited activities.

In Ohio, this type of charge is known as an OVI.  This acronym stands for operating a vehicle impaired. Ohio legislators chose to eliminate the term “motor” from the law because it is also a crime to operate vehicles without a motor, such as a bicycle or a carriage.  Ohio law defines this crime as the operation of “any vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley” while under the influence of alcohol or drug of abuse over the legal limit.  Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4511.19.

The Legal Process 

Arraignment

  • Once you have been arrested and charged with a DUI (OVI) violation, you will be arraigned within a few days. Arraignment refers to “the proceeding in which one accused of a crime enters a plea in response to the accusations.”  Arraignment, Bouvier Law Dictionary.  Your arraignment is your time to enter your plea whether it is guilty, not guilty, or no contest.
    • If you decide to enter a guilty plea at this time, the court will schedule your sentencing hearing where a judge will determine what an appropriate sentence is for your crime.
  • It is important to hire a lawyer as soon as possible after you are arrested because prosecutors may want to offer you a deal in order to plead guilty at your arraignment and you should consult a lawyer before making that decision.

 Discovery

  • If you hire a lawyer prior to your arraignment, your lawyer can make discovery requests during the arraignment hearing.
  • These discovery requests allow your lawyer to obtain the evidence against you from the prosecution. Your lawyer can ask the prosecution to turn over the police report, results from any tests conducted, and possibly even video evidence of your traffic stop.

 Pre-Trial

  • The pre-trial period is highly significant in DUI (OVI) cases. If you hire a lawyer, he or she can use this time to find flaws in the prosecution’s case.  Your lawyer can use these flaws as bargaining tools in negotiations with prosecutors.
  • During this time, your case could be settled without the necessity of a trial.

Trial

  • If you do go to trial, then it is up to your lawyer to present a strong defense and create doubt in the mind of the judge or jury.

What Does It Mean to Plead Guilty?

A guilty plea as a “confession of guilt by an accused.  A guilty plea is a formal acknowledgment by an accused of the performance or omission of specified acts required by law.”  Guilty Plea, Bouvier Law Dictionary.  Indeed, pleading guilty is different from being found guilty in that you enter the plea before a trial commences.  Being found guilty results from the judge or jury determining that you violated the Ohio statute prohibiting operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or another drug in excess of the legal limit.  If you plead guilty to a DUI charge, you will be convicted of the crime without the opportunity to present a defense.  Following your conviction, the judge will determine an appropriate sentence.  While prosecutors may make pleading guilty seem preferable because you avoid the hassle of a trial, it is important to consider the consequences of a guilty plea.  A guilty plea involves not only an admittance of guilt to the crime charged but also an acceptance of the corresponding sentence. 

What Is a Plea and a Plea Bargain?

A plea is “an answer to a charge in civil or criminal court or an argument or claim for other relief.”  Plea, Bouvier Law Dictionary.  In other words, your plea is your response to the charge against you.  You can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

A plea bargain is different than your plea.  A plea bargain happens when “a defendant and prosecutor agree the defendant will plead guilty to a limited charge or for a reduced sentence.”  Plea Bargain, Bouvier Law Dictionary.

What Are the Possible Penalties If You Plead Guilty for a DUI (OVI) Conviction?

First Offense

  • If you plead or are found guilty of a misdemeanor of the first degree, the court shall sentence you to all of the following:
    • A three-day mandatory jail term
      • In addition, the court may impose a longer jail term or attendance of an intervention program.
      • Conversely, the court may sentence you to a mandatory three-day attendance of an intervention program instead of jail time.
    • A fine ranging from $375 to $1,075
    • A license suspension ranging from one to three years
  • Your potential penalty varies depending on the level of intoxication.
    • The court may determine your sentence between the given ranges based on whether your BAC (blood alcohol concentration) level was low or high.
      • A “low level” means that your BAC was less than .17%.
      • A “high level” means that your BAC was more than .17% or you refused the testing.
    • See Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4511.19 for the full list of penalties.

Repeat Offenses

  • If you previously plead or were found guilty of three or more OVIs within ten years, then the next penalty will no longer be a misdemeanor and you will be guilty of a felony. Also, if you previously plead or were found guilty of five or more OVIs within twenty years, then you will be guilty of a felony.  The court shall sentence you to the following:
    • A sixty-day mandatory jail term
      • The mandatory jail term can increase due to the amount or severity of the previous OVI convictions.
      • The jail term could range from 60 days to 5 years.
    • A fine ranging from $1,350 to $10,500
    • A license suspension ranging from three years to life

Misdemeanor vs. Felony

  • A misdemeanor is “a crime that is less serious than a felony, either because the conduct is defined to be a misdemeanor by statute or because the punishment assessed for the conduct is less than that for a felony.” Misdemeanor, Bouvier Law Dictionary.
  • Felony is “a crime punishable by death or imprisonment for at least one year. Felony, Bouvier Law Dictionary.
    • These words do not just have legal meaning. Other aspects of your life may be affected because of a felony conviction.  A felony conviction could affect your public reputation, such as harming future educational or career opportunities.  This type of conviction could reach even the private realm of your life by affecting child custody.

What Is Implied Consent and How Does It Affect a DUI Charge in Ohio?

Implied consent is “consent that is given without its deliberate expression by the consenting party.”  Implied Consent, Bouvier Law Dictionary.  Ohio law asserts that anyone who drives operates a vehicle within the state is “deemed to have given consent to a chemical test or tests of the person’s whole blood, blood serum or plasma, breath, or urine to determine the alcohol, drug of abuse, controlled substance, metabolite of a controlled substance, or combination content of the person’s whole blood, blood serum or plasma, breath, or urine if arrested.”  Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4511.191.  The police officer just needs reasonable grounds to believe that an individual was operating a vehicle impaired.  Id.  If an individual refuses a chemical test, then his or her license will be suspended for one year.

This information constitutes only a brief summary of possible outcomes for a guilty plea.  If you have more questions concerning a specific DUI charge, you should contact one of the criminal defense attorneys in our firm in order to be fully informed before making a serious decision.