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DUI Defense

DUI vs. DWI vs. OVI in Ohio: What’s the difference?

By August 4, 2021July 6th, 2023No Comments

At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, DUIs are one of the most common charges that we’re asked to defend our clients against.

But there can be confusion about the terminology. Sometimes the crime is referred to as a “DUI,” sometimes as an “OVI,” or sometimes as a different acronym altogether. So what do they all mean?

The short answer is that they all basically mean the same thing, although OVI is the official term used under Ohio law. DUI defense attorney Max Hiltner explains below.


There are four main acronyms used in everyday conversation to refer to the crime of operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs:

  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
  • Driving While Intoxicated/Impaired (DWI)
  • Operating a Motor Vehicle under the Influence (OMVI)
  • Operating a Vehicle under the Influence (OVI)

DUI and DWI are the more common terms used in other states, and were used in Ohio in the past. But in 1982, the law changed to the more technical OMVI.

Since then, the law has been changed again to specify that operating any vehicle under the influence, even if it’s not motor-powered, is a crime. So the “M” was dropped, and now the official term is OVI.

Under Ohio law, you can be charged with OVI if you get behind the wheel under any of the following conditions:

  • Your blood alcohol content (BAC) is at least .08%
  • Your urine alcohol concentration is .110 or more
  • You have a certain amount of marijuana, LSD, cocaine, heroin, amphetamine, methamphetamine, or PCP in your system
  • You are “under the influence” of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of both

Consequences of an OVI charge in Ohio

There are two different types of consequences you can face if you’re pulled over while driving drunk. First, you could have your license suspended or even potentially revoked. Second, you could face criminal consequences such as a fine, probation, or jail time.

How long your license is suspended will vary depending on how intoxicated you were and whether this is your first offense or not. 

Here are the criminal consequences you could be facing:

  • First offense: up to 6 months in jail, up to 5 years probation, fine of up to $1,075
  • Second offense: minimum 10 days in jail, up to $1,625 fine, other penalties remain the same as a first time offense
  • Third offense: 30 days to 1 year in jail, up to 5 years probation, up to $2,750 fine
  • Fourth offense: the charge is now a felony, which could mean 1 year in jail and a fine up to $10,500

If your BAC was over .17, the OVI is considered “high level,” and jail time for these offenses could be doubled.

For more information about potential consequences, check out this Ohio OVI sentencing chart.

Contact an Ohio DUI/OVI defense attorney

The most important thing you can do if you’re charged with OVI in Ohio is to contact an experienced DUI defense attorney.

At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, our team has represented many people with OVI charges, and successfully gotten their charges reduced or even dropped.

Contact us today to schedule a free consultation and talk about your case.

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