First Time DUI Penalties


What Is The Penalty For A First-Time OVI in Ohio?

The potential penalties for a first offense OVI in Ohio vary, depending on the amount of alcohol that was in your system, as measured by a blood, breath, or urine test.

OVI, or Operating a Vehicle under the Influence of alcohol and/or drugs, is also commonly referred to as drunk driving, DUI, DWI, or OMVI. The actual definition of OVI is found in Ohio Revised Code section 4511.19 (A)(1)(a) and the O.R.C. sections that follow.

Most people charged with an OVI are also charged with operating with a prohibited concentration of alcohol or drugs in cases where the police officer obtained a chemical test result (breath test, blood test, or urine test).

Under Ohio law, OVI penalties are divided into high-tier and low tier offenses.

A low-tier OVI is when your breath alcohol content is below .17, or there is no refusal.

A high-tier OVI is when your breath alcohol content is at or above.17, or you decline the test chosen by a law enforcement officer.

If you have refused the test requested by the officer and have a prior conviction within 20 years, it also is categorized as a high-tier OVI.

All OVI Charges In Ohio Carry Mandatory Jail Time

In Ohio, if you plead guilty (or No Contest) to, or are convicted of a first offense OVI, you are facing mandatory jail, fines & a license suspension. 

A first offense low-tier OVI in Ohio for someone over the age of 21, without a CDL, is a First Degree misdemeanor and carries a jail sentence between 3 days and six months.

The three days of jail time is mandatory. However, the judge has the discretion to allow first offenders to serve the three days in a certified Driver’s Intervention Program (DIP), also known as a DUI school, in place of the three days in jail. These DIP programs are uniformly held from Thursday through Sunday, and you are not permitted to leave the facility during the 72 hours. The tuition typically runs $350 to $400 for the DIP, and it must be paid in advance. Judges are reluctant to use this option if you have already attended a DIP.

The mandatory jail time on a first offense, high-tier OVI, is 6 days. 

On high-tier first offenses, the judge may allow you to attend a 72-hour Drivers Intervention Program (DIP) instead of three of the mandatory six days in jail. 

A first-time high-tier OVI is also classified as a First Degree misdemeanor, so the maximum jail time is six months.

Mandatory OVI Fines

Fines for all first time OVIs range from a mandatory minimum of $375 to a maximum of $1075 plus court costs. 

Many judges will assess a fine higher than the minimum, and a few will require you to pay the fine and court costs in advance before allowing you any driving privileges. Court costs usually range anywhere from $125 up to $300 or so.

All first offense OVI’s in Ohio carry a mandatory one-year license suspension. The maximum suspension is three years. This court suspension is separate from the Administrative License Suspension imposed by the police officer at the beginning of your case, which most officers never tell you about. 

You will, however, get retroactive credit for the ALS towards the mandatory court suspension once your case is concluded.

Driving Privileges On A First OVI

State law forbids a judge from giving you driving privileges for ANY reason, even for work, until after a mandatory hard-time waiting period. This period is 15 days on a first offense OVI unless you refused the test.

In a refusal case, the hard-time waiting period is 30 days.

You can request the judge to put your suspension on hold by granting what is called a stay. This is rarely ever granted. Most of the time, it results in the judge replacing it with a court suspension with an identical hard time waiting period.

Restricted plates (yellow with red lettering), also called party plates or family plates, are mandatory on first offense high-tier OVIs if you ask for driving privileges. They are optional on a first low-tier OVI.

The restricted plates are required for the duration of your license suspension.

Judges also have the option to order treatment programs, assessments, probation, community work service, or SCRAM ankle monitors to prevent alcohol intake.

Other Consequences Of An OVI Conviction

Additionally, any OVI conviction carries 6 points against your license.

There will also be a $475 reinstatement fee owed to the BMV at the end of your license suspension.

Be aware that some insurance companies will hike your insurance premiums up, sometimes for years. So you may need to shop around for a new insurance company.

OVI convictions may also cause you problems such as keeping or finding employment.

An OVI charge is a criminal offense that remains on your record permanently.  You are prohibited by law from expunging an OVI or sealing the record of an OVI.

Why You Need An Expert Lawyer

By law, judges in Ohio cannot deviate below the mandatory requirements if you plead guilty or are convicted of an OVI charge. The only way to avoid these penalties is to flat out beat the charge or negotiate a reduction to a lesser offense.

OVI charges involve many intricate nuances. Because of this, you are presented with two primary obstacles. 

First, I can assure you from the thousands of OVI cases I have handled, that prosecutors have no incentive to plea bargain with anyone who lacks the wherewithal to prevail against them in the courtroom.

Secondly, even some lawyers lack this ability, and prosecutors can tell who they are. So, if you are planning on retaining an attorney, you will need one who handles these types of cases regularly.


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The website is designed for general information only. Any information on this site is not to be construed as formal legal advice from a criminal defense lawyer,DUI lawyer, a family law lawyer or estate planning, wills, trusts, and probate lawyer, nor the formation of a lawyer/client relationship. Persons accessing this site are encouraged to seek personal advice regarding their individual legal issues.

The attorneys in our law firm primarily service Portage County courts (Ravenna and Kent) from our office in Ravenna, and Summit County courts (Akron, Stow, Barberton) from our office in Stow. Cases in all other courts in North East Ohio, such as Cuyahoga County courts, are handled under specific terms and conditions.