DUI/OVI Laws in Ohio

Laws and penalties for DUI/OVI in Ohio.

In Ohio, you can get a DUI (driving under the influence), sometimes called an "OVI" (operating a vehicle under the influence) for operating a vehicle while:

  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or higher (often called a “per se” DUI)
  • having a certain concentration of amphetamine, cocaine, heroin, LSD, marijuana, methamphetamine, or PCP in the body, or
  • impaired by drugs, alcohol, or a combination of the two to an extent that “it adversely affected and appreciably impaired the defendant’s actions, reaction, or mental processes.”

Like all other states, Ohio has “implied consent” laws that generally require all motorists lawfully arrested for DUI to submit to chemical testing (typically of blood, breath, or urine) for the purpose of determining the amount of alcohol or drugs in their system.

Below you’ll find more about Ohio DUI law and some of the possible penalties for refusing chemical testing and DUI convictions.

What Are the Consequences of Refusing to Take a Chemical Test?

Here are the consequences for refusing chemical testing where an officer has appropriately requested that you do so:

First Offense

Second Offense

Third Offense

One-year license suspension

Two-year license suspension if the driver had a prior refusal or DUI conviction within the past six years

Three-year license suspension if the driver had two prior refusals or DUI convictions within the past six years

When Are Police Supposed to Measure Your BAC?

To be convicted of a per se DUI in Ohio, the prosecution must prove your BAC was over the legal limit at the time you were driving. But DUI investigations take time, so there’s always going to be some delay between when a motorist was driving and the chemical testing was conducted. Ohio law says the results of a chemical test are admissible to prove BAC if police test a DUI suspect within three hours of when the suspect was driving.

What’s the Maximum BAC for Underage Drivers in Ohio?

In Ohio, it’s illegal for underage motorists (those under 21 years old) to drive with a BAC of .02% or more.

What Are the Minimum Jail Times for a DUI in Ohio?

Here are the minimum jail sentences for a first, second, and third DUI conviction in Ohio:

First Offense

Second Offense

Third Offense

Three days or three-day driver’s intervention program

Ten days, or five days and 18 days house arrest

30 days


Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a “minimum” jail sentence that’s longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

How Long will Prior DUI Convictions Remain Relevant for Sentencing Purposes in Ohio?

For most purposes—including determining the minimum jail and license suspension times—an Ohio DUI will be considered a second or subsequent offense if you have prior DUI convictions that occurred within the past six years.

Can a DUI Be “Pleaded Down” to a "Wet Reckless" in Ohio?

If you’re charged with a DUI in Ohio, "plea bargaining" for a lesser charge is possible. The term “wet reckless” refers to a plea bargain where a DUI is reduced to a reckless driving charge. Some states have laws that specifically apply to reckless driving involving alcohol. But Ohio, like most other states, has only a more general statute that applies to all types of reckless driving. (See Ohio Rev. Code Ann. § 4511.20 (2016).)

(Read about how Ohio defines reckless operation (driving) and the consequences of a conviction.)

Are Ignition Interlock Devices (IIDs) Required for DUI Convictions?

Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) generally aren’t required for Ohio DUI convictions. However, a judge can order an IID for a first offender as a condition of restricted driving privileges during a suspension. And for offenders convicted of a second or subsequent DUI, a judge must order an IID to grant restricted driving privileges.

Talk to an Attorney

Ohio DUI law is complicated and the consequences of a conviction are serious. If you’ve been arrested for driving under the influence, get in contact with an experienced DUI lawyer in your area. A good DUI attorney should be able to explain how the law applies to the facts of your case.

For more information about the legal limit, see the Blood Alcohol Level Chart

Last updated on 11/1/2016.

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