Drugged Driving OVI (DUID)

Ohio RC 4511.19(A)(1)(j) prohibits operation of a vehicle under the influence of a controlled substance. Those controlled substances can include marijuana. It also includes illegal street drugs such as cocaine and heroin. The drug most commonly found in OVI cases is prescription medications used to treat anxiety and pain. 

Ohio law also contains different types of "per se" offenses for drugged driving. The statute prohibits operating a motor vehicle if a statutorily specified concentration of drugs are in the driver's blood or urine regardless of whether the substance is causing impairment. Those substances including:

  • marihuana (marijuana or cannabis);
  • marihuana metabolite;
  • amphetamine;
  • cocaine;
  • cocaine metabolite;
  • heroin;
  • heroin metabolite (6-monoacetyl morphine);
  • L.S.D.;
  • methamphetamine;
  • phencyclidine;
  • salvia divinorum; or
  • salvinorin A.

If the driver submits to a blood test or a urine test administered under RC 4511.19 then the test is generally admissible at trial if the test was given within three hours of the time of the alleged violation.


Affirmative Defense for OVI Prescription Drug Offenses

Ohio’s Revised Code § 4511.19(K)(1)-(2) sets out the requirements for the “prescription defense.” Under the statute, the prescription defense applies if:

  1. the person obtained the controlled substance pursuant to a prescription issued by a licensed health professional authorized to prescribe drugs; and
  2. the person injected, ingested, or inhaled the controlled substance in accordance with the health professional's directions.

Because a prescription is required, individuals who use marijuana under a doctor’s recommendation do not fall under this defense because the doctor’s recommendation to use marijuana or cannabis is NOT considered a valid prescription.


Ohio’s Implied Consent Statute for Drugged DUI Cases

If you drive on the roads or highways in Ohio, then Ohio law provides that you are “deemed” to have given consent to a chemical test or tests of the person's whole blood, blood serum or plasma, breath, or urine to determine the alcohol, drug of abuse, controlled substance, metabolite of a controlled substance, or combination content of the person's whole blood, blood serum or plasma, breath, or urine. Id. § 4511.191(A)(2).

Despite this deemed consent, if you actually refuse to submit to a lawful request of your blood, breath or urine then an administrative penalty can be imposed immediately. Before a refusal will count as a refusal, the arresting officer must read you Ohio's implied consent warning that tells you about the administrative suspension.

Under § 4511.191(B)(1), the administrative penalty for a first refusal to submit is one year, the administrative penalty for a second refusal is two year, the administrative penalty for a third refusal is three years.

The law enforcement agency where the arresting officer is employed is allowed to  designate which of the tests shall be administered. Id. § 4511.191(A)(3). You are not usually allowed to speak with an attorney about the consequences of taking the test or refusing before you make the decision. In other words, your right to counsel usually has nothing to do with your obligations to submit to the chemical test.


Penalties for Drugged Driving in Ohio

Whether you are charged with driving under the influence of marijuana, another controlled substance, alcohol, or a combination of these substances, the penalties are the same:

A first OVI is a 1st degree misdemeanor -

  • mandatory minimum of 3 days consecutive imprisonment;
  • maximum of 6 months imprisonment (or required attendance in a driver's intervention program for 3 days);
  • fine not less than $375, not more than $1075;
  • 6 months to 3 year suspension;
  • See Ohio Rev. Code Ann. §§ 4511.19 (G)(1)(a)(i),(iii),(iv); §4510.02(A)(5).


A second OVI within 6 years is a 1st degree misdemeanor -

  • mandatory minimum of 10 consecutive days imprisonment;
  • maximum imprisonment 6 months;
  • required assessment by alcohol and drug treatment program;
  • fine not less than $525, not more than $1,625;
  • class 4 license suspension (1 to 5 years);
  • offender's vehicle and license plates impounded for 90 days;
  • See R.C. § 4511.19 (G)(1)(b)(i),(iii)-(v); § 4510.02(A)(4); § 4511.193(B)(2)(a).


A third OVI within 6 years is a 1st degree misdemeanor -

  • mandatory minimum of 30 consecutive days imprisonment;
  • maximum of not more than 1 year;
  • Fine not less than $850, not more than $2,750;
  • class 3 license suspension; (2 to 10 years);
  • required participation in an alcohol and drug addiction program;
  • criminal forfeiture of vehicle;
  • See R.C. § 4511.19 (G)(1)(c)(i), (iii),(iv),(vi); Id. § 4511.193(B)(2)(b).

A fourth or fifth OVI is a 4th degree felony -

  • mandatory minimum of 60 days consecutive imprisonment;
  • maximum imprisonment for 1 to 5 years;
  • fine not less than $1350, not more than $10,500;
  • 3 years to life license suspension;
  • required participation in an alcohol and drug addiction program;
  • potential criminal forfeiture of vehicle;
  • See R.C. § 4511.19 (G)(1)(d)(i),(iii), (vi); § 4510.02(A)(2); § 4511.19(G)(1)(d)(v).

A sixth or subsequent OVI is a 3rd degree felony -

  • mandatory minimum of 120 days consecutive imprisonment;
  • imprisonment for 1 to 5 years;
  • fine of not less than $1350, not more than $10,500;
  • license suspension;
  • mandatory participation in an alcohol and drug addiction program;
  • potential criminal forfeiture of vehicle;
  • See R.C. § 4511.19 (G)(1)(d)(i),(iii)-(v).

Driving Under the Influence of Marijuana in Ohio

Under Ohio law, operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, certain types of drugs, or a combination of them is prohibited as OVI (often called “DUI”). Ohio Rev. Code § 4511.19.

Alternatively, it is a crime to have a certain concentration of alcohol or a prohibited substance in your system regardless of the impairment caused. When a chemical test shows a concentration of alcohol or the prohibited substance in your system then it can be prosecuted as a “per se” version of OVI.

The “per se” levels for marijuana are set out in § 4511.19(A)(1)(vii); Id. § 4511.19(A)(1)(viii)(I)-(II).


Prohibited Substance                                             Urine                                            Blood

Marijuana                                                               10 ng/ml                                     2 ng/ml

Marijuana metabolite                                              35 ng/ml                                     50 ng/ml

Marijuana metabolite with alcohol or other drugs    15 ng/ml                                     5 ng/ml


So the “per se” drugged driving law in Ohio applies to cannabis, cannabis metabolites, and other controlled substances. Under this law, if you operate a vehicle with detectable levels of THC in the blood above 2 ng/ml or detectable levels of THC-COOH in the urine above 15 ng/ml then you can be found guilty of DUID. (Ohio Revised Code Annotated Section 4511.19).


Additional Resources

Ohio's Drugged Driving Laws - Visit the website of the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Law (NORML) to read a summary of Ohio’s drugged driving laws with an emphasis on cases involving marijuana or cannabis. Find information on prohibited substances under Ohio’s OVI law, affirmative defenses, implied consent, penalties, sobriety checkpoints, case law, and per se drugged driving laws.


Finding a Defense Attorney for Drugged OVI Cases in Cincinnati, Ohio

If you were arrested for driving under the influence of a controlled substance then contact the experienced Cincinnati OVI defense attorney at Joslyn Law Firm. We represent clients charged with OVI drug offenses throughout Cincinnati and the surrounding areas of Hamilton County, OH.

Whether your OVI cases involves an allegation of using marijuana, or street drugs such as cocaine or even prescription medication, we can help. Let us put our experience to work for you. Call (513) 399-6289 today to discuss your case.

This article was last updated on Friday, November 20, 2015.