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The basics of Ohio's OVI laws

Everyone makes mistakes. Some mistakes merely teach you a lesson, while others could result in a criminal record, criminal penalties and lasting issues in your personal and professional lives. One of these costly mistakes involves getting behind the wheel of your car after drinking.

Even if you truly believe that you did not drive drunk, a police officer may feel differently. If an officer pulls you over and suspects you of drunk driving, you could face charges for operating a vehicle impaired, or OVI, as it's called here in Ohio.

Don't dismiss the potential criminal consequences

Even a first-time OVI conviction or guilty plea comes with penalties that cause more than just an inconvenience to your life. The state determined that mandatory minimum penalties should apply to everyone convicted of a first OVI. Those minimums include the following:

  • Large fines
  • Three days in jail or participation in an alternative program
  • The suspension of your driver's license for six months

These are just the minimum penalties. They could increase depending on the circumstances. The court could also order you to attend alcohol or drug assessment and treatment. You may find yourself ordered to install an ignition interlock device on your car.

Consider the non-criminal consequences

A conviction or guilty plea will follow you for the rest of your life. If all or part of your work duties require you to drive, you could find yourself searching for new employment. If you apply to college or for a college scholarship, you could face a denial. If you already attend college or have a scholarship, you could be suspended or lose that scholarship.

Even if you don't lose your job because you can't fulfill your driving duties, your relationship with your employer could end up strained due to the time you need to take off work in order to deal with penalties such as the jail time, program participation or treatment the court ordered. Getting to and from work while you don't have use of your driver's license could pose a significant problem. Your finances may suffer as well.

Consider challenging the charges

Just because a police officer claims you were drunk doesn't necessarily make it so. If you plead guilty without challenging the charges, you may miss the opportunity to have the charges reduced or even dismissed. Roadside breath tests are notoriously inaccurate, and so are field sobriety tests. What if the breath-testing machine wasn't functioning properly or the officer didn't really know how to use it? What does it mean if you suffer from some illness or injury that prevents you from standing on one leg?

Perhaps you did make a mistake. That doesn't mean you waive the right to defend yourself. If a mistake or violation of your rights occurred at any point after the officer noticed your vehicle, the charges may not stand.

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