The act of Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated is a crime in all 50 states. However, some states like Ohio use the abbreviation of OVI rather than DUI or DWI, which are more common and recognizable by most people. Even so, you can avoid getting an OVI on your record by learning what this charge is and how it is punished in states that use Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated laws.
What is an OVI?
OVI stands for Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated. It is commonly used in states like Ohio that do not differentiate it from other more common intoxicated driving terms like DUI or DWI.
In the states that utilize Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated laws, an OVI applies to the use of either alcohol or drugs before or while driving a vehicle. Drugs themselves can mean illegal or controlled substances as well as over-the-counter or prescription medications that cause intoxication.
Further, most states use a minimum blood alcohol content level of 0.08 percent. Drivers who are at or over this limit can and often are charged with OVI. This 0.08 percent minimum applies to drivers ages 21 and older. For minors, the minimum BAC limit is 0.02 percent. For commercial drivers, the BAC is set at 0.04 percent.
Law enforcement officers are trained to spot and target motorist behaviors most associated with Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated. The most common behaviors that could get you pulled over and subjected to OVI questioning include:
• stopping suddenly without due cause in the lane of traffic
• braking erratically
• drifting back and forth across the center lane marker or the shoulder of the road
• following other cars too closely
• driving without your headlights on
• signaling that does not match your driving actions
If you exhibit these behaviors while driving a motor vehicle, you could be pulled over and subjected to a breathalyzer test as well as a field sobriety check. The police officer who pulled you over may have you blow into a breathalyzer device, which will give an accurate reading of your BAC.
You also may be asked to undergo field sobriety tests. In states like Ohio, you may not have the option to refuse a field test because of the state’s implied consent laws. If you refuse the test, you could be arrested and have your driver’s license suspended for up to one year.
The field sobriety tests can include having to walk in a straight line with your arms out to the side of your body. You also may be asked to recite the alphabet. If you fail the breathalyzer or any of the field sobriety tests, you could be arrested and charged with Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated.
How Is an OVI Punished?
States with Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated laws use a variety of methods to punish OVI offenses. The severity of the punishment you face will depend on whether you are a minor, adult driver, or a commercial driver. It also will depend on whether or not you have prior OVI offenses on your driving and arrest records.
For drivers age 21 and over, a first-time Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated offense can result in a mandatory jail sentence of three days to six months. Additionally, you may face paying civil fines of $375 to $1075. Your driver’s license may be suspended for up to 90 days, and you may receive six points towards a license suspension on your driving record.
If you commit a second offense of Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated within six years of your first OVI conviction, you could face a mandatory jail sentence of 10 days to six months in jail. Moreover, your license can be suspended for one to five years.
You cannot drive for a mandatory 45 days after your conviction. You also may be fined a minimum of $525 to a maximum of $1625. The court will order you to undergo mandatory alcohol or drug rehabilitation treatment. Your car will be fitted with restricted plates as well as an interlock breathalyzer device at the judge’s discretion.
A third OVI conviction within six years of your first can result in a minimum of 30 days to one year in city or county jail. Your fines can total anywhere from $850 to $2750. Your driver’s license will be suspended for two to 10 years. You also cannot drive for at least 180 days after your conviction.
The judge will sentence you to court-ordered drug or alcohol treatment. A third conviction will also result in mandatory restricted plates and an interlock on your vehicle at the judge’s discretion.
A fourth or fifth Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated conviction within six years of your first or a sixth OVI conviction within 20 years of your first can result in the harshest penalties. You will be fined a minimum of $1350 to $10,500.
Your license will be suspended for anywhere from three years to life. You also will be sentenced to having restricted plates and an interlock device on your car. In some instances, your car may be subject to forfeiture.
The legal penalties for underage OVI are not as harsh as those for adult offenders. Underage drivers convicted of Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated can be subject to fines up to $250. They can also be sentenced up to 60 days in jail and be ordered to undergo drug or alcohol rehabilitation. Their driver’s licenses can also be suspended for up to 30 days.
What to Do If You are Charged with OVI
Given the range of legal penalties that you could face, it makes sense that you would want to know what to do if you are arrested for and charged with an OVI. Your first step should involve hiring an attorney within the state who specializes in OVI law.
An OVI lawyer can be a valuable resource to utilize if you want to avoid jail sentences, steep monetary fines, and losing your driving privileges. Your attorney can perform a number of critical tasks after he or she takes over your case. Primarily, your lawyer can make sure that you were lawfully arrested and that the charges against you actually match the facts of your case.
The attorney can do this by checking the results of your OVI breathalyzer or field sobriety test. He or she can also review dash cam footage of your arrest and review the results of any urine or blood samples you had to give after your arrest. If the results show that you were under the legal BAC limit or that the police officer had no due cause for pulling you over, your lawyer could ask the court to drop or lower the charges against you.
Even if the charges against you are lawful, an OVI lawyer can still help you avoid the severest penalties. You could be eligible for a diversionary program, for example. Your lawyer may ask the court to allow you to complete rehabilitation rather than go to jail.
An OVI is a serious charge that can lead to long-lasting consequences on your life. It is the same as a DUI in most states. An OVI lawyer may be able to help you avoid the damages that come with being convicted of this offense.