Greater Cleveland Westside Attorney Handles OVI Charges

Cleveland criminal attorney defends your driving privileges

For years, Ohio police have been cracking down on those suspected of operating a car, truck or other motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. Penalties for first-time offenses are harsh while repeat offenders face truly daunting penalties. Michael C. Asseff Attorney at Law has defended Ohio residents for over 15 years.

What is considered drunk driving in Ohio?

In Ohio, it is a crime to operate a vehicle while impaired (OVI). More commonly referred to as DUI or DWI, recent changes to Ohio law made the penalties even more severe, and have lengthened the “look back” period from six to ten years.  This means that anyone with a prior OVI conviction will face an additional four years of heightened penalties for a second, third, fourth or fifth conviction.

Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.19 sets out two separate classes of OVI.  The first class involves what is traditionally considered “driving drunk”–a person who has simply consumed so much alcohol that he or she lacks the coordination and attention required to safely operate a motor vehicle.  This is often referred to as a “basic” or “simple” OVI.”

But the second class has nothing to do with the physical impairment caused by too much alcohol.  This second class is based upon the alcohol concentration in a person’s breath, blood, or urine, know as a “per se” violation.  This means that simply operating a vehicle with a prohibited alcohol concentration can lead to an OVI charge, even if you feel “fine” or just slightly “buzzed,” and even if you manage to pass a battery of field sobriety tests.

In Ohio, the prohibited level is “eight-hundredths of one per cent or more but less than seventeen-hundredths of one per cent by weight per unit volume of alcohol” in a person’s blood or breath (urine concentration is measured differently), usually described as a “0.08.”  Once a person’s blood or breath concentration reaches .17 or above and that person drives, he or she can be charged with what is called a “super” or “high tier” OVI, which carries more severe penalties.

Alcohol concentration is most commonly measured according to breath-alcohol content.  If you are stopped and the officer has probable cause to arrest you on suspicion of OVI, the officer will take you back to the police station and request that you submit a breath sample, or “blow,” into a contraption known as a BAC Datamaster or an Intoxilyzer.

Once you are arrested on suspicion of impaired driving, you will almost always be charged with both classes (unless there is no alcohol measurement taken or you refuse), you cannot be convicted of both based on the same arrest.

One of the most common questions people ask is whether it is better “to blow or not to blow.”  The answer to that question is complex, and there is no right or wrong answer.  But one thing is clear.  If you have a previous OVI conviction, a refusal to blow on the next conviction will always result in the “super OVI”  penalties.

Apart from the possible jail time, blowing above a .08 or altogether refusing to blow results in an automatic license suspension, known as an “administrative license suspension” or “ALS.” This suspension is imposed by the Ohio BMV and it takes effect immediately, right there at the police station.  Once a person is actually convicted of OVI, he or she will face a second, court imposed license suspension.  While you can receive limited driving privileges during the suspension, you will first have to serve what is know as the “hard” period of the suspension, which will be at least 15 days.  You cannot get driving privileges during this “hard” period.  A judge can place additional conditions on the driving privileges, such as specialized “party” plates or an alcohol interlock device.

The OVI laws also forbid operating a motor vehicle under the influence of certain drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, LSD, and PCP.  Drug levels cannot be measured in the breath, so if you are suspected of driving with drugs in your system, you will be asked, and in some instances forced, so submit a urine or blood sample.   If the blood or urine test reveals the presence of one of these drugs, you can be charged with OVI even if you are not guilty of any other drug crimes.

What should I do if I am pulled over?

If you see flashing lights in your rearview mirror, the first thing you should do is to take a deep breath and try to relax. Law enforcement officers are trained to look for nervous, anxious and other suspicious behavior and may incorrectly conclude that you are under the influence of a substance just because you are nervous. Second, keep in mind that you are not required to incriminate yourself or admit to anything to the officer. Just cooperate with officer’s requests for your identification and credentials but decline to answer any further questions or perform a confusing and difficult field sobriety test.

Depending on the situation, the officer may require you to return to the police station to take a blood test to determine your BAC. There are penalties for refusing to take the blood test, but if you have previous convictions for OVI, the benefit of refusing can outweigh the negatives, since another conviction carries higher penalties. However, you should speak with an experienced DUI attorney and understand the potential penalties prior to making this major decision.

What are the penalties for OVI in Ohio?

Ohio’s OVI penalty system is a Byzantine structure of overlapping and interrelated sanctions.  Like many states, Ohio uses a tiered system based on level of intoxication and recidivism (prior convictions) to determine the penalty.  If BAC is greater than .08 but less than .17, OVI is a misdemeanor of the 1st degree. Penalties include:

  • A mandatory minimum jail sentence of 3 days, up to 180 days.  On the first offense, a court will usually allow you to substitute a driver intervention program with probation in place of jail time.
  • A fine of $375 to $1,075
  • A mandatory license suspension of 6 months to 3 years
  • Potential requirement of Ohio’s scarlet letter—the yellow OVI license plate

Repeat offenders face significantly enhanced penalties. Penalties increase with each conviction. A second conviction raises the penalties listed above and also requires electronic house arrest and alcohol or drug assessment screening. Four OVI convictions in six years or six in 20 years is a criminal felony in Ohio and can carry up to a 20-year prison sentence.

Attorneys experienced in dismissing or reducing OVI charges

Michael C. Asseff Attorney at Law is experienced in handling OVI matters. When your ability to drive to work is at stake, an experienced attorney can be essential to protecting your way of life. Mr. Asseff has reduced or eliminated charges for many Ohioans.

While intoxicated driving is more commonly known as DUI or DWI, in Ohio it is known as operating a (motor) vehicle while impaired (OVI or OMVI). The OVI laws were already strict, but recent changes to have dropped the requirement that the vehicle be motorized. If you are intoxicated, you can be arrested and charged with OVI for driving or operating any vehicle from an eighteen-wheeler to a bicycle. Penalties can include fines, jail time, mandatory drug or alcohol testing, and more.

Contact us today to defend against DUI charges

An OVI charge can affect your life and make it hard for you to get around. If you have been charged with OVI, contact Michael C. Asseff Attorney at Law. The firm’s West Cleveland office is conveniently located and free consultations are available. Put Mr. Asseff’s experience to work for you: call 440-520-1222 or contacting the firm online.

Contact Us

Please fill out the form below and one of our attorneys will contact you.


Office Location