Ohio's New OVI Law

By: Peter R. Certo, Jr. Attorney at Law

Ohio has a new OVI law which went into effect April 6, 2017. The main changes involve the "lookback" rule, driving privileges during an OVI suspension, and the mandatory 3 day jail sentence.

Generally, when someone gets stopped for an OVI they are asked to take a breath test. If they refuse the test or they fail the test (result over .08) their license will be suspended. Once the matter is assigned to a judge, and after a certain period of time (depending on the level of offense), the suspended person can ask for privileges to drive for work, school or other necessities. Those privileges would be limited to specific hours each day and designated days during the week. Under the new law, if a person agrees to have a device called a Guardian Interlock installed in their car, there would be "unlimited" privileges. Once the device is installed, the person is required to breathe into the device. If the sample is clear, the car will start. If the sample contains any alcohol, the car cannot be started.

There are Pros and Cons to this. The obvious Pro is the ability to drive all the time. Another substantial Pro is that if you agree to the Interlock system, the mandatory 3 day jail sentence, usually a Weekend Intervention Program (WIP) is waived. The Con is the inconvenience and cost of the interlock system. It appears the cost to install the system is around $100 - $200 and the monitoring fee is about $60 per month, so it can get costly. When reviewing the options one needs to compare the cost of the Interlock system, and its lack of restrictions, against the cost of the WIP, in the range of $450, plus time off work to attend the program and the imposed restrictions on when and where you can drive. I suspect many people will opt for the Interlock device.

The other substantial change involves the "lookback" rule. Under the prior law the statute would impose additional mandatory penalties if there was an OVI conviction in the past 6 years. Now the additional penalties are imposed if there has been a conviction in the past 10 years.

In the end, the best advice if you are out and drinking, is to get an Uber/Lyft, take a cab or have a designated driver. The cost of getting a ride is insignificant compared to all the costs associated with an OVI. I estimate the total cost of an OVI, including fines, court costs, license reinstatement fees, probation/interlock fees or the WIP, increased car insurance, and attorney fees will easily exceed $4,000. That would buy you a ride home every Friday and Saturday night for many years. If you are involved in an accident while intoxicated and a personal injury or death occurs, the cost can become your freedom.

Stay safe.