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DUI Defense

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

By April 10, 2024No Comments

Facing charges of driving under the influence (DUI) can be a daunting experience for anyone. At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, our criminal defense attorneys understand the complexities and nuances of defending clients against DUI/OVI allegations.

But oftentimes, there can be confusion about the terminology. Sometimes, the crime is referred to as a “DUI,” others as OVIs, and even different acronyms altogether. So, what do they all mean?

In this blog, we aim to simplify these terms for you and shed light on their meanings, particularly in the context of Ohio law, where the term OVI is officially used. Read through insights from our DUI defense attorney, Max Hiltner.

DUI, DWI, and OVI - What Are The Differences?

There are four primary acronyms used frequently in conversations to refer to the offense 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)

Here’s a generaloverview and explanation of what these terms mean:

What is a DUI in Ohio?

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) pertains to operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol. For a DUI charge to be applicable, it must be established that the individual’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) exceeds the legal limit of 0.08. 

Typically classified as a misdemeanor, a DUI offense can escalate to a felony if it leads to property damage, injuries, or fatalities resulting from a car accident. Although widely used in many states, the term “DUI” is no longer used in Ohio.

What is a DWI in Ohio?

A DWI, also known as driving while impaired or driving while intoxicated, means essentially the same thing as a DUI. It refers to a person being intoxicated or impaired by alcohol or drugs while they’re driving. Like DUI, the term DWI is no longer used in Ohio.

DUI and DWI were once common terms used in Ohio and other states. But in 1982, Ohio transitioned to the more technically precise acronym OMVI (Operating a Motor Vehicle Impaired)

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 then the “M” was dropped; now the official term is OVI.

What is an OVI in Ohio?

An OVI stands for “operating a vehicle under the influence.” This means the same thing as a DUI in other states and has been the term in the state of Ohio since 2004. 

If a person is behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol and has a BAC greater than 0.08, they can be charged with an OVI. 

Additionally, unlike a DUI, a person can be charged with an OVI even if they are not actually operating the vehicle. If they are simply sitting in a parked or idling car and are determined to be impaired, then they can be charged with this offense.

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

Driving while under the influence of alcohol (often called a DUI or OVI in Ohio) carries serious consequences. These fall into two categories:

  1. License-Related Consequences: Your driver’s license could be suspended or revoked. How long your license is suspended will vary depending on how intoxicated you were and whether it’s a first or repeat offense.
  2. Criminal Penalties:  You could face fines, probation, or jail time. Here’s a breakdown of possible penalties, which can increase with subsequent offenses you could be facing:

    • First Offense: For a first OVI offense in Ohio with a blood alcohol level below .17%, penalties may include up to 6 months in jail, 3 days in jail or a 3-day Drivers Intervention Program, up to 5 years of probation, fines from $375 to $1,075, and a suspended license for 1 to 3 years. Double jail time is possible for higher blood alcohol levels.
    • Second Offense: A second offense within 10 years may lead to up to 6 months in jail, 10 days in jail or 5 days in jail with 18 days of electronic house arrest, up to 5 years of probation, fines from $525 to $1,625, and a suspended license for 1 to 7 years. Mandatory assessment and treatment apply. Jail time could double for higher blood alcohol levels.
    • Third Offense: A third offense within 10 years could result in up to 1 year in jail, 30 days in jail or 15 days in jail with 55 days of electronic house arrest, up to 5 years of probation, fines from $850 to $2,750, and a suspended license for 2 to 10 years. Mandatory assessment and treatment apply. Jail time could double for higher blood alcohol levels.
    • Fourth Offense: A fourth offense becomes a felony, carrying even more severe consequences.

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

For a comprehensive overview, refer to the Ohio OVI sentencing chart and consider consulting a legal professional for specific advice on potential consequences.

How A Good OVI / DUI Attorney Can Help

When you have questions or need clarification, enlisting the assistance of a skilled OVI/DUI attorney’s assistance can significantly impact your case’s outcome. 

A skilled attorney, such as those from Hiltner Trial Lawyers, can meticulously analyze all evidence, identifying weaknesses and inconsistencies to develop robust defense strategies for your case. They possess the negotiation skills to engage with prosecutors, aiming to potentially reduce the severity of the charge through plea bargains or other agreements. 

In the event of a trial, the attorney can adeptly represent you, presenting compelling arguments and evidence to persuade the jury of your innocence and secure a not-guilty verdict. Furthermore, even in conviction cases, the attorney can offer valuable guidance on mitigating the sentence, advocating for leniency during sentencing hearings. 

Ultimately, a proficient OVI/DUI attorney serves as your strongest advocate, navigating the complexities of the legal system to safeguard your rights and future.

Contact an Ohio Dui/Ovi Defense Attorney

If you find yourself facing an OVI charge in Ohio, it’s crucial to seek assistance from a seasoned DUI defense attorney. 

At Hiltner Trial Lawyers, we have a proven track record of effectively representing individuals with OVI charges, often securing reductions or dismissals of their charges

Protect your rights and explore your options. Schedule your free consultation now with us or contact (330) 475-3164.

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