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Ohio OVI/DUI Charges Facts

OVI/DUI Offenses

OVI/DUI offenses are extremely serious and must not be taken lightly. Essentially, the terms are synonymous and refer to the operation of a vehicle (ORC §4511.01) while impaired. Definitions and penalties are defined in ORC § 4511.19.

The process of assessing your rights begins not when the officer requests that you walk in a straight line, but how much intake of alcohol or illegal substances (other than prescription or over-the-counter medication) that you have taken prior to entering the vehicle. If, however, you operate a vehicle with full knowledge of the warning signs on your prescription medication’s label, you can still be held liable for an OVI offense because you have voluntarily assumed the risk. It is important to bear in mind that a BAC of .08 percent or above is above the legal level.

What Does Physical Control Mean For OVI/DUI Purposes?

The fact that you don’t feel or behave as though you are inebriated outside the vehicle is irrelevant to what occurs when you are inside. Under Ohio law, to be operating a vehicle while impaired, you need not be driving, but merely sitting behind the wheel in a parked vehicle, in possession of the keys. Taken together, these facts will indicate to law enforcement that you have “physical control” (ORC § 4511.194) and are, therefore, responsible for the vehicle’s proper operation.

Does Sobriety Shield a Suspect From a Routine Stop?

Notably, even if you are sober while operating a vehicle, you can still be subjected to questioning if law enforcement has probable cause to make a stop.  Probable cause makes a crime’s commission more likely than not, based on the surrounding facts and circumstances (The deduction must be more than a mere “hunch.”) For example, even if you are not intoxicated or under the influence of illegal substances, and your vehicle swerves or if you are driving over the speed limit, law enforcement will have the requisite probable cause to question you.

Routine questions are permissible without a warrant (e.g., your name and contact information). However, if you are placed under arrest and “in custody” (i.e., without freedom to leave), law enforcement must administer your Miranda warnings, and you must be accorded the U.S. Constitution’s Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination.

BAC Versus Blood Tests and Fourth Amendment Implications

Police do not require a warrant when administering BAC tests, and a suspect must submit to such chemical testing in furtherance of the public interest. However, if law enforcement administers a blood test, it must be done in accordance with Fourth Amendment warrant requirements (Birchfield v. North Dakota, 579 U.S. ___ (2016).

Any information or evidence searched or seized subsequent to a warrantless search (e.g., the taking of blood) is considered “fruit of the poisonous tree” and, hence, inadmissible at trial.

Caveat: Pursuant to ORC § 4511.192, Ohio law criminalizes  suspects’ refusal to submit to BAC and blood tests after being advised of Ohio’s implied consent laws — if they have a second conviction within the last twenty (20) years.

Therefore, a suspect can still be arrested for a refusal to submit to a blood test after a second offense within twenty years. For this reason, it is essential to speak to a specialist in OVI/DUI law who can determine your rights based on the circumstances of your case.

Inherent in a OVI/DUI charge and conviction is the potential for an individual’s loss of quality of life, employment, educational opportunities, custody rights, and a host of other penalties, including a criminal record. Therefore, you must consult an experienced OVI attorney about your defense and your rights, from the time of law enforcement’s stop of your vehicle to taking chemical tests (breath—BAC or blood samples).

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