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What Are Common DUI/OVI Sentence Enhancers in the State of Ohio?

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol is a serious offense in the State of Ohio.  In-fact, repeat-offenses are considered felonies and offenders can be sentenced to mandatory jail-time.  For both first-time and repeat offenders, DUIs are accompanied by incredibly steep fees and other court-ordered preventative measures.  However, not all DUIs are alike.

“Sentence Enhancers” are details of a DUI arrest that will increase the penalties of the offense (should the individual be found guilty and convicted).  Sentence enhancers in Ohio include prior OVI/DUI convictions and BAC level. There are common charges that DUI/OVI charges can be coupled with, but those are the only sentence enhancers attached to a specific DUI/OVI charge.

The Sentence Enhancers must be proven before they can be appended to the DUI sentence. Importantly, sentence enhancers are extremely difficult to get waived or reduced.

Sentence Enhancers in the State of Ohio

  1. Prior Convictions

Prior convictions strongly influence the sentencing associated with a DUI violation.  In Ohio, prior DUI violations that occurred within the past six years can—and often-times will—result in harsher penalties. The penalties will increase until your fourth offense.  At that point, sentencing is at its highest tier of severity and will remain there for any subsequent convictions.  It’s worth noting that when the court reviews previous DUI violations, convictions from other states will also be accounted for as well.

  1. BAC Level

Your BAC level at the time of arrest certainly influences the final sentencing.  For example, a BAC over 0.17 falls under the jurisdiction of the Enhanced Penalty Blood Alcohol Concentration statute, mandating that additional and harsher penalties are enforced for those over twice (thus, .17) the legal limit.  Twice the legal limit also involves mandatory jail-time, even for first-time offenders:

  • First Time Offence: 3 days in jail
  • Second Offence: 10 days in jail
  • Third Offence: 30 days in jail (or house arrest)
  • Fourth Offence: 60 days to One year in jail

In addition, your DUI fine, point deduction, license suspension, and even insurance rates may all increase depending on your BAC during the arrest.

Charges That Sometimes Accompany A DUI/OVI Charge in Ohio

Again, Prior Convictions and BAC Level are the only two sentence enhancers for a DUI/OVI charge, however, there are several charges that sometimes accompany DUI charges that may complicate the defense of the DUI/OVI matter. These include:

  1. Accident/Injury or Property Damages

First—and perhaps, foremost—if a DUI results in the death or serious injuries of an innocent bystander, the violator will obviously be facing harsher charges, in addition to the DUI charge.   Individuals that find themselves in this situation will face two (or more) separate charges: one for the driving infringement, DUI/OVI, and another for the harm done to others. DUI would be charged, but in addition, a vehicular homicide (which is the case when drugs or alcohol aren’t involved), an aggravated homicide, or an assault will also be charged. Aggravated vehicular homicide involves a first- or second-degree felony depending on any previous convictions. This means a 2-10 year prison sentence (per count) and a lifetime license suspension. For aggravated vehicular assault you could be sentenced 1-5 years of prison (per count) and a license suspension of 2-10 years.  Property damage is obviously less severe but can lead to additional charges depending on the amount of damage done.

  1. Child Endangerment

If children (less than 18 years of age) are passengers during the time of arrest, there will be more charges during the arrest.  In general, courts and judges take these offenses rather seriously and will maximize punishment to the extent they can.  This remains true in Ohio, where individuals charged with this particular crime will be tried for child endangerment as well as the DUI violation. If the child was seriously injured, the offender can certainly be charged with a felony depending on the circumstances of the incident:

  • If the child was seriously injured and this is the second child endangerment offense for that individual: a fifth-degree felony.
  • If the child was seriously injured and this is the second DUI offense with children in the car: a fourth-degree felony.

Remember that these charges are only for the child endangerment.  This does not include the sanctions for the original DUI, which may be serious in their own right.

  1. Driving While Underage

Ohio mandates a zero-tolerance policy for underage DUI violations.  This means that individuals that are under the legal age to consume alcohol (21 years old), can be convicted with only .02 BAC.  In other words, the “legal limit” BAC doesn’t apply to adults under 21 years old; blowing of anything greater than .02 will result in arrest. If you are arrested for OVUAC (operating a vehicle after underage consumption) or if you are under 18 and facing OVI charges then you will not face any additional penalties, however, the penalties will be different.   For instance, you will be required to participate in a juvenile driver improvement program approved by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles.  Likewise, you will lose your license, for a minimum of six months and be required to pay a reinstatement fee.

  1. Lack of Registration and Insurance Coverage

Failure to provide registration and proof of insurance could also impact the details of your DUI/OVI charge. In this instance, the penalties associated with lack of registration and insurance are simply added to the sanctions resulting from the DUI.  Namely, driving and registration privileges will be suspended for three months to five years, depending on the number of prior offenses.   Reinstatement fees associated with driving without sufficient insurance can be costly, and to compound to the problem, violators will be required to file for “High Risk” insurance with the Ohio BMV upon reinstatement.

  1. Operating without an Ignition Interlock System

DUI violators are often court-mandated to install an ignition interlock device in their vehicle to prevent future offenses.  They are effectively forbidden to operate a vehicle without such a device.  However, not all individuals that should have this device actually take measures to install it.  Similarly, many install the device, only to tamper with or remove it. Should you be pulled over and are found not to be using your mandated ignition interlock device, you will face additional penalties as well as all punishments associated with repeat-offense DUI.

  1. Open Container Laws

Although it may seem obvious, among the most common charges coupled with a DUI/OVI charge is the presence of an open alcohol container during the time of arrest.  Importantly, Ohio has a separate set of open container laws in addition to its standard DUI laws. Drivers are strictly prohibited from having open containers of alcohol while operating a vehicle. This applies to passengers of vehicles also, as well as any individual in a stationary motor vehicle.  Having open bottles or cans of alcohol found in your vehicle when you are pulled over will not aid in your defense against driving under the influence.  More commonly, it will affect your charges and penalties, resulting in higher fines, longer jail-time, or mandatory implementation of interlock devices or electronic ankle braces.