Most people know that the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration here in Ohio is .08, but that isn't the end of the story. There is much more to the state's laws regarding operating a vehicle while impaired, or OVI.
The more you know about the law, the better off you may be as you enjoy time with friends, family or co-workers and consider whether you can safely, and legally, drive home afterward.
There's more than one legal limit
The .08 limit only applies to certain adults -- meaning drivers age 21 or older. Drivers under the age of 21 cannot have a BAC of .02 or above. If you have a commercial driver's license, or CDL, then your BAC cannot be more than .04. You could face harsher penalties if your BAC is .17 or higher. As you can see, the law encompasses more than just the adult legal limit.
You agreed to testing
When you got your Ohio driver's license, you agreed to participate in chemical testing to determine your BAC. If you refuse, you could lose your ability to legally drive due to an administrative license suspension. You have 30 days to request a hearing to contest this civil suspension, which differs from a license suspension in connection with a conviction for OVI, which means you lose your license for no less than 90 days.
The penalties could substantially affect your life
If your BAC was .17 or higher, or you have at least one other OVI conviction on your record, you could face harsher penalties. Across the spectrum, the penalties include potential jail time of at least three days up to prison time for up to 15 years. The fines could be as little as $375 up to $20,000. Other penalties include the following:
- Use of an alcohol monitoring system
- Use of an ignition interlock device
- Immobilization or forfeiture of your license
- Participation in drug or alcohol treatment
- Participation in a driver's intervention program
- Use of yellow OVI plates on your vehicle
- Payment of court fees and costs
As you can see, the repercussions for drunk driving here in Ohio can be substantial. Then there are consequences in your personal and professional lives. With so much at stake, the best course of action would involve not drinking and driving at all. However, you could make an error in judgment and end up stopped by police.
If suspected of drunk driving, the officer may ask you to participate in field sobriety tests, which are not a legal requirement to do. The officer will attempt to establish probable cause to arrest you for OVI, and if you end up under arrest, you still retain the right to challenge the charges.