Madison County OH drunk driving lawyer
16 Aug
Author: Colin Maher
Date: 2016-08-16
Categories: Traffic

Do Penalties Escalate for a Higher BAC?

Yes. Having a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) when you are pulled over for suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI) will subject you to harsher penalties, especially, but not only, when it comes to jail time.

That one-sentence answer hides a lot of complexity. What counts as OVI? What is a “high BAC”? Do legal BAC limits differ for different drivers? What penalties become more severe as BAC increases? How is BAC even measured?

Here are brief answers to each of the questions. You can learn more and request representation from an experienced Madison County, OH, drunk driving lawyer by calling The Maher Law Firm at (614) 205-2208 or filling out this contact form. An initial case consultation is free, and lead DUI/OVI defense attorney Colin Maher charges clients a flat fee.

What is OVI?

Operating a vehicle while intoxicated is just what Ohio statutes call the offense of drunk driving, drugged driving, and driving under the influence. We focus on only alcohol-related offenses here, but Ohio law enforcement officers also test OVI suspects for amphetamines, cocaine, heroin, LSD, marijuana, PCP, etc.

What are the legal limits for BAC while driving in Ohio?

This depends on how old the driver is and what type of vehicle they are operating.

  • 21 and older in a private vehicle: .08
  • 21 and older in a commercial vehicle: .04
  • Under 21: .02

Note that drunk driving laws are also enforced against boaters and personal watercraft riders. The same age-based BAC limits apply.

How do police measure BAC?

Ohio courts only recognize BAC test results from breath, blood, and urine tests performed in a state-certified medical facility or police station. A reading from a handheld breath-testing device used by a police officer after making a traffic stop cannot be presented as evidence at trial. Still, a knowledgeable Madison County, OH, drunk driving lawyer will always advise against agreeing to blow into a breathalyzer by the side of the road because the information can be used to support an arrest.

A suspect has a constitutional right to refuse to provide breath, blood, and urine samples for alcohol and drug testing. Exercising this right may result in an administrative license suspension (ALS) lasting at least one year.

What counts as a high BAC for charging and sentencing purposes in Ohio?

Elevated charges and possibly more severe penalties come with a BAC of .17 or higher.

Does simply testing over the legal limit draw a criminal penalty?

Any measured BAC that registers above the legal limit for the driver’s age and circumstances will bring an ALS and an OVI charge. The end result will depend on the facts involved in your case including proper testing procedures and whether the officer violated any constitutional rights.

Which penalties increase with a conviction for drunk driving with a high BAC?

Convictions for high-test OVIs carry minimum incarceration penalties that are double the ones for convictions for low-test OVIs (see the chart below). Judges also tend to impose longer license suspensions on drivers who test with high BACs and penalties like addiction treatment, use of an ignition interlock, and use of drunk driver license plates.

Minimum Incarceration Penalties for Drunk Driving in Ohio

DUI/OVI Conviction

Low BAC

High BAC

First Offense

3 days in a local or county jail

6 days in a local or county jail

Second Offense

10 days in a local or county jail OR 5 days in a local or county jail and 18 days home arrest with electronic monitoring (HAEM) with or without continuous alcohol monitoring (CAM)

20 days in a local or county jail OR 10 days in a local or county jail and 36 days HAEM with or without CAM

Third Offense

30 days in a local or county jail OR 15 days in a local or county jail and 55 days HAEM with or without CAM

60 days in a local or county jail OR 30 days in a local or county jail and 110 days HAEM with or without CAM

Fourth Offense

60 days in a local or county jail OR 60 days in state prison

120 days in a local or county jail OR 120 days in state prison

Fifth Offense or Sixth Offense

60 days in a local or county jail OR 60 days in state prison

120 days in a local or county jail OR 120 days in state prison

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