What does OVI even mean?

"OVI" stands for operating a vehicle while impaired. Most people call the offense DUI, or driving under the influence.

Is DUI/OVI just drunk driving?

No. Climbing into the driver's seat after taking medications or using illegal drugs that affect balance, vision, judgment, or reflexes can also draw a charge for driving while impaired.

Who do police target for drunk and drugged driving enforcement?

Everyone. While cruising or doing traffic control, police watch for these behaviors in particular:

  • Speeding
  • Going below the posted speed limit
  • Stopping far back from a red light
  • Crossing a lane marker, drifting, and weaving

In fact, just driving between midnight and 6 am can be a factor in raising an officer's suspicion.

I got pulled aside at a DUI checkpoint. Why would the officer have thought I was impaired?

While speaking with drivers, officers listen for slurred speech, take note of confusing answers to questions, watch for signs of discoordination like dropping one's license, and sniff for the odor of alcohol and marijuana.

Are DUI checkpoints even legal?

Yes, if they are set up correctly. State and federal courts have ruled repeatedly that interests in protecting the public from intoxicated drivers outweigh the inconvenience of being screened for DUI/OVI while sober. That said, hiring an attorney who knows how to challenge the validity of a particular checkpoint is crucial if you got arrested for OVI following a random stop.

Are field sobriety tests mandatory?

No. Neither are results from assessments done outside of certified health care facilities considered scientifically valid in Ohio courts. You could be doing yourself a favor by politely refusing requests to let an officer check your eyes and have you perform walk-and-turn and one-leg stand tests.

Are breath, urine, and blood tests mandatory?

No, but keep reading.

What happens if I refuse breath, urine, and blood tests?

The requesting officer can, and probably will, immediately seize and suspend your driver's license. If you have a commercial driver's license, are younger than the legal drinking age of 21, or have prior OVI-related convictions, that administrative license suspension is practically automatic. Speak with a DUI lawyer in Columbus as soon as possible if this happens.

Can I appeal an administrative license suspension?

Yes. You can request partial restoration of driving privileges during your first court appearance. You also have 30 days from the date your license got taken away by the arresting officer to file a full appeal of the administrative suspension.

Again, ask an OVI defense attorney to help you get your driver's license back. The appeals process works differently for commercial drivers. Also, collecting and presenting evidence that will convince a judge or hearing administrator to let you back on the road can be challenging without good legal advice and representation.

I agreed to the chemical tests. What evidence shows impairment?

Ohio recognizes several "per se" standards for impairment. This means that certain test results automatically count as evidence of being too drunk or stoned to drive. For alcohol, the legal limits are .08 BAC for adults driving private vehicles, .04 for commercial drivers, and .02 for underage drivers. Any breath, urine, or blood sample that registers at those levels or higher draw automatic charges of DUI/OVI.

Drug concentrations are more difficult to summarize, but one you may need to keep in mind is the legal limit for cannabis/marijuana: Urine readings of 10 ng/mL and blood readings of 2 ng/mL indicated impairment per se.

My samples did not show per se impairment. Can I still be charged and convicted?

Yes. An officer can still charge you if he or she observes signs of impairment. In court, the officer's testimony, witness accounts, footage from cruiser dash cams and officer body cameras, and evidence from field sobriety tests can all be used to support conviction.

What are the penalties for drunk or drugged driving?

Consequences for DUI/OVI include the following, with penalties increasing for second and subsequent convictions:

  • Fines
  • License suspension with or without restricted driving privileges
  • Jail or prison time
  • Required drug and alcohol education
  • Required drug and alcohol treatment
  • Use of an ignition interlock device, which is essentially a Breathalyzer connected to your car's starter
  • Use of specially designed offender plates
  • Surrender of personal vehicles

What are some defenses against DUI/OVI?

There are a number of ways to defend yourself from an OVI conviction, and it is imperative that you find the right attorney to handle your case.

A skilled Columbus criminal defense attorney will challenge a badly done OVI stop as invalid and question how the officer performed field sobriety tests. Your attorney should also work to identify reasons other than intoxication that you seemed impaired and explore whether the officer really had enough reason to suspect you were driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

The fact is field sobriety tests almost always raise questions over their validity, especially for people with any illness or disability. The accuracy of chemical tests can also be questioned because they depend greatly on the quality of the equipment used, the handling of samples, and the training of medical personnel.

Does Campbell Law do OVI defense?

Absolutely. Campbell Law offers no-cost case consultations, so reach out to us if you have been arrested or indicted for driving under the influence.

As a former prosecutor, April Campbell understands better than anyone the limitations of tests for alcohol and drug impairment. She also recognizes that an OVI conviction can impose significant hardships on entire families, not just the person who must stop driving and face other punishments.