Driving under the influence or OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs) can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony in Ohio. Understanding the difference between a misdemeanor DUI and a felony DUI can help you determine how to proceed with your case.

Misdemeanor DUI in Ohio

If you are arrested for drunk driving, the judge may charge you with a misdemeanor DUI if you have two or fewer DUI convictions in the last ten years. The judge could also charge you with misdemeanor DUI if you have had four or fewer DUI convictions in the past 20 years. The DUI penalties for a misdemeanor offense are less severe than the penalties for felony DUI. 

The potential penalties for misdemeanor first time DUI offense in Ohio are:

  • Minimum of three days in jail or 72-hour driver intervention program
  • Maximum jail time up to six months
  • A fine of $375 to $1,075
  • Driver’s license revocation from six months to three years
  • Probation up to five years

If you are convicted of a second offense misdemeanor DUI offense within ten years, you could face:

  • Mandatory 10-day jail term (increased to 20 days with a high BAC test or prior BAC test refusal within 20 years)
  • Fines between $525 and $1,625
  • Driver’s license suspension up to seven years
  • Mandatory ignition interlock 
  • Probation 
  • 90-day vehicle immobilization

Your prior DUI history impacts the sentencing for a misdemeanor DUI offense. Other factors could also impact the severity of the penalties.

Felony DUI in Ohio

Felony DUI charges can result in harsh penalties. For example, you could be charged with fourth degree felony DUI if you were convicted of three or four DUI charges in the past ten years. The judge may also charge you with a fourth degree felony DUI if you have had five or more DUI convictions in the past 20 years.

The potential penalties for a fourth felony DUI are:

  • A minimum fine of $1,350
  • Minimum of 60 days in prison (up to five years in prison if you have five or more convictions in the past 20 years)
  • Criminal forfeiture of the vehicle title in your name
  • Class two license suspension 
  • Court ordered participation in a program by a community addiction services provider

If you have been convicted of a felony DUI at any time in the past, you could be charged with a third degree felony DUI. The potential penalties for a third degree felony DUI offense are similar to those for a fourth degree felony DUI conviction. 

The minimum fine and jail time are the same. Also, the court can impose a 30-day prison term with an additional 110 days of house arrest. During house arrest, the person is subject to continuous alcohol monitoring. 

The penalties for a felony DUI conviction can be increased when there are aggravating circumstances. Your criminal history can also have a significant impact on sentencing.

Ohio Revised Code §2929.13 allows the court to impose community control sanctions for third and fourth felony DUI offenses. Community control is supervised probation. The court may impose terms and conditions that the person must follow during the probation period.

A probation officer supervises community control. The person may be required to submit to random alcohol and drug tests. The court could require the person to complete a drug and alcohol assessment or use a SCRAM (secure continuous remote alcohol monitoring) device.

In some cases, community control conditions could include electronic monitoring or restrictions on travel. Violations of any of the terms and conditions of community control could result in additional jail time and other penalties.

What Should I Do if I Am Arrested for DUI in Ohio?

Do not panic. DUI charges are serious, but an arrest is not a conviction. You could have one or more defenses to DUI charges. It is wise to consult a DUI defense lawyer before making decisions about your case. 

DUI convictions have long-term consequences; the collateral consequences could include:

  • Higher insurance premiums
  • Difficulty finding a job
  • Loss of civil rights for a felony conviction
  • Trouble obtaining professional licenses
  • Being ineligible for specific government programs and education loans
  • Trouble finding a place to rent or lease

Make sure you understand the facts about DUI cases in Ohio before you plead guilty or go to court without a lawyer.