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What Is Look Back Period for DUI/OVIs in Ohio?

If you have been charged with a DUI offense in Ohio, you may also be impacted by Ohio’s look back period if you have ever been convicted of or pled guilty to a previous DUI/OVI offense. By using look back periods, a court will often take into consideration any prior DUI offenses on your record. A “look back” period is the amount of time that a prior conviction or guilty plea for a DUI/OVI offense will be included as a factor when calculating the penalties for any future DUI convictions. This look back period allows prosecutors to review your past criminal record and history to review for previous offenses in order to increase the penalties for your current offense.

Prior to 2017, the look back period in Ohio was 6 years. However, in 2017, Ohio enacted Ohio House Bills 388 and 436, better known as “Annie’s Law,” which included significant changes for Ohio’s DUI laws. One of the most significant changes of the new law changed the look back period in Ohio by altering the “look back” period for DUI/OVI offenses. Under “Annie’s Law,” the look back period in Ohio for DUI offenses was extended from previously 6 years to 10 years under the current law. Thus, under Ohio law, if you have had a prior DUI/OVI conviction or have pled guilty to a DUI/OVI offense over the past ten years, it will be considered as your first DUI offense and will increase your current penalties accordingly. Under Ohio law, the penalties for DUI offenses increase with each consecutive offense, meaning that you will face more severe consequences for your second offense and even more severe for your third DUI offense and so on until you face felony charges that can result in a long prison term, permanent driver’s license suspension, forfeiture of your vehicle, mandatory alcohol or drug treatment, and expensive fines.

For example, if you have been charged with a DUI offense, and if you have also been convicted of or pled guilty to a DUI/OVI offense within the last 10 years, instead of the mandatory minimum of 3 days in jail for a first DUI offense, you will instead face the mandatory minimum of 10 days in jail for a second DUI offense in Ohio. The penalties will be even harsher if you have more than one prior DUI/OVI conviction or guilty plea within the last 10 years.

Furthermore, while the look back period in Ohio is ten years in most cases, the look back period for your DUI offense can dramatically increase under some circumstances. If you were charged with a DUI/OVI and refused a breath test in that case, the look back period will be extended to twenty years instead of ten. This extension adding an extra ten years to the look back period if you refused the breath test for the prior DUI offense along with the automatic license suspensions and assumed guilt under Ohio law that makes refusing a breath test a risky endeavor especially without an experienced DUI defense attorney.

If this is your sixth DUI offense within twenty years, your DUI offense will become a fourth-degree felony and the look back period extends to twenty years to include the prior five or more DUI convictions under Ohio Revised Code section 4511.19(G)(1)(d). Finally, if you have already been convicted of a DUI/OVI offense, any DUI offense after that conviction will be treated as a second felony DUI offense, no matter how far apart, making the look back period for felony DUI offenses permanent under Ohio’s policy of “once a felony, always a felony” set out in O.R.C. section 4511.19(G)(1)(e). If this condition applies, you will be facing a third-degree felony charge under the permanent look back period for prior felony DUI offenses, instead of your case being treated as a first DUI offense and a misdemeanor if you have not been convicted of a DUI offense over the past ten years.

An additional condition that impacts the look back period for any prior DUI offenses applies if your prior DUI offense was committed while in the City of Columbus. If the prior offense occurred in Columbus and you were charged under the Columbus City Code rather than Ohio State Law, there is no actual look back period limiting the amount of time that the court can look back. Instead, the judge may consider every prior conviction when sentencing you.

Importantly, if you were previously convicted of an offense under Ohio’s “Physical Control” law, O.R.C. 4511.194, for being under the influence of alcohol or drugs while simply being “in the driver’s position” while you were in “possession of the ignition key or other ignition device,” this charge will not be considered a DUI offense and so the prosecution will not be able to use it as a prior DUI/OVI offense to enhance your charges under Ohio’s look back period.

The look back period of typically ten years unless one of the special circumstances apply that lengthen the period stands as a key example of why it is so important to be represented by an experienced and talented DUI defense attorney in Ohio that might be able to either dismiss the charges against you or at least have them reduced to reckless driving or a similar charge so that you are not in danger of having a prior DUI offense on your record that can enhance any future DUI charges if you are arrested again for driving under the influence.

If you have been charged with a DUI offense for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Ohio, it is imperative that you contact an experienced Ohio DUI defense attorney as soon as possible. If you have one or more DUI/OVI convictions or guilty pleas on your record within the last 10 years, it is even more crucial that you speak with a qualified attorney as soon as possible because of the increased penalties that you will be facing as a result of the look back period under Ohio law.

If you any of the special circumstances that extend the look back period apply to you, you are facing severe consequences that could severely damage your entire life for bad decisions that were made up to twenty years ago, or even longer in the case of prior felony DUI offenses. Understanding how prior convictions can impact your present case and what defenses may be available to you is difficult, but your attorney can work with you to explain how “Annie’s Law” and the look back period may affect you in your case. An attorney with experience defending against DUI charges and who has thoroughly researched “Annie’s Law” and Ohio’s look back period can inform you of possible defenses and the strategies for defending against your DUI charges. In some cases, you may be able to face lesser charges in exchange for pleading guilty and waiving your right to trial. Your attorney can work with you to present the possible defenses and possibly have the charges against you reduced through negotiations with the prosecution or perhaps even dismissed.