What Is the Difference Between DUI, DWI, OVI, and OMVI?
Ohio has several terms for drunk driving that have evolved throughout the years, including:
- Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI)
- Operating a Motor Vehicle Impaired (OMVI)
- Operating a Vehicle Impaired (also called Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence) (OVI)
There is no notable difference between DUI, DWI, OVI, and OMVI. They all penalize driving or operating a vehicle while intoxicated or impaired.
We have helped in more than 20,000 cases with customized defense strategies. Our founder, attorney Brian Joslyn, is recognized as Ohio’s leading criminal defense trial lawyer. He and his team are committed to treating each client with the compassion and respect they deserve. Attorney Joslyn and his practice are honored by such accolades as:
- National Trial Lawyers Association – Top 100 Attorneys
- Super Lawyers – Rising Star Winner
- Top Rated DWI/DUI Attorney
- Columbus CEO magazine – Top Lawyer in Columbus Top Lawyer in Columbus
- American Jurist Institute – Top Ten Attorneys
- National Academy of Criminal Defense Attorneys – Nationally Ranked Top 10 Attorney
- Top American Lawyer Association — Nominated for Best American Lawyer
- AVVO Client’s Choice Award Nominee
The Joslyn Law Firm is honored by these awards. Still, our greatest reward is helping clients out of a challenging situation. Here are a few client testimonials:
- “Brian has a very strong presence in the courtroom. My son had all of his charges dismissed!” Cindy, Google Review
- “I cannot thank Joslyn law firm enough for all of their time and effort to resolve my case. They were always there to answer questions and phone calls, because let’s face it, going through the system is nerve-wracking and scary; they made me feel so comfortable and were honest.” Ashley S.
How a Cincinnati OVI Defense Lawyer Helps You
An OVI conviction has severe consequences beyond criminal penalties. Depending on your prior record (if any), you could have a permanent criminal record that harms your future personal and professional prospects.
Here are a few of our legal victories for clients facing an OVI conviction:
- Charges: OVI, hit & skip (hit and run)
- Result: Plea to a lesser offense with fine only, no jail time
- Charges: OVI, failure to control
- Result: Plea to lesser charge, 3-day driver intervention program, no prison or probation
- Charges: OVI, vehicular manslaughter, and vehicular homicide
- Result: Not guilty verdict
While we cannot guarantee the outcome of your case, we promise to work tirelessly on your behalf for the best possible outcome.
If you were arrested on a DUI, DWI, OVMI, or OVI charge, you deserve a strong legal advocate to help clear your name. Call the Joslyn Law Firm in Cincinnati at (513) 399-6289 for a free consultation.
DUI, DWI, OVI, and OVMI Information Center
- OVI Charges Overview
- Implied Consent for Chemical Test
- Driver’s License Suspension for OVI
- Appealing a Suspended License
- Jail, Prison, and Fines for OVI Conviction
- Evidence in an OVI Case
- Defenses for OVI Charges
- Resources for OVI Charges
- News on OVI Charges
- FAQs About OVI Charges
- Attorney for OVI Defense in Cincinnati
Over time, the Ohio State Legislature has shifted from several different acronyms to describe impaired driving to a single defining term: Operating a Vehicle while Impaired (OVI). OVI is a broader category that includes alcohol intoxication and any impairment from illegal drugs, prescription drugs, or over-the-counter drugs.
The word “vehicle” now includes motorized and non-motorized transportation, including “vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley,” according to Ohio Revised Code § 4511.19. Impaired bicyclists or someone driving a horse-drawn carriage can be charged with an OVI.
What Ohio Law Determines as Impaired Driving
According to Ohio law, an individual is considered impaired under the following conditions:
- Blood alcohol content (BAC) and breath alcohol content (BrAC) is .08 or greater
- Urine alcohol concentration is .11 or greater
- Blood serum or plasma alcohol concentration is .096 or greater
- Marijuana blood concentration is 2 nanograms per milliliter
- Marijuana urine concentration is 10 nanograms per milliliter
Impairment quantities for other substances are listed in Ohio Revised Code § 4511.19.
You should know that you might be considered impaired even if your chemical test shows alcohol or drug concentrations lower than the legal limit. Even a tiny amount of alcohol, marijuana, or other types of drugs can affect your driving ability.
Ohio has an implied consent law which states that anyone who operates a vehicle implicitly agrees to take a blood, breath, or urine test for alcohol and drugs if stopped for OVI. If you refuse, you will be arrested on the spot.
A refused chemical test also means that your license is suspended for up to one year. Additionally, those who reject the test face harsher criminal penalties than those who consent, even if they fail.
Should You Take a Chemical Test?
Police officers must tell you the consequences of refusing to take a chemical test. However, they cannot force you to take the test.
The most significant benefit of refusing a chemical test is that it denies the prosecution evidence of impaired or intoxicated driving. Of course, the arresting officer may testify to other signs that you were impaired, including their field sobriety reports and personal observations.
- If you take the test and pass, you will not suffer any negative consequences (other than the unpleasant experience of being accused of drunk driving).
- If you take the test and fail, you can fight the results in court. You have the right to pay for a second chemical test to counter the police test.
When and Where Are Chemical Tests Administered?
Police officers carry a portable breathalyzer test in their vehicles. When they see a driver who displays signs of impaired driving, such as weaving in and out of their lane, officers may pull them over.
Field (Portable) Chemical Tests
First, police administer physical and verbal sobriety tests, such as reciting the alphabet backward or balancing tests involving standing on one foot. If the driver fails these tests, is glassy-eyed, slurs their words or smells of alcohol, police officers will usually ask the driver to take a breath test.
Stand-Alone Chemical Tests
If you refuse to take a portable breath test, the police have a stand-alone breathalyzer at the station. Once again, you may decline this test. However, refusing to consent to a test may harm your chance to regain your driving privileges in a timely fashion.
Your driver’s license is automatically suspended when you refuse to take a chemical test or if your chemical test shows that you are legally intoxicated or impaired. According to Ohio Revised Code § 4510.02, the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles may issue an automatic license suspension (ALS).
An ALS is a civil penalty that is separate from any criminal charges you might face. Under Ohio law, your license can be suspended for up to five years, depending on the number of previous OVI offenses, guilty pleas, and convictions:
- First offense: Mandatory one-year suspension
- Second offense within six years: Mandatory two-year suspension
- Third offense within six years; two prior OVI guilty pleas or convictions; or one prior refusal and one prior guilty plea or conviction to an OVI: Mandatory three-year suspension
- Fourth offense or subsequent refusal to consent within six years; three or more prior OVI guilty pleas or convictions; or a combination of three or more prior refusals and guilty pleas or conviction: Mandatory five years suspension
You may appeal your driver’s license suspension when you request a hearing within 30 days of your arrest. It is in your best interest to have an OVI defense attorney present at this hearing. A lawyer can introduce evidence that questions the procedures and validity of your OVI arrest and resulting license suspension.
During your appeals hearing, a lawyer may assert that:
- The arrest was unreasonable.
- The officer failed to get your permission to take the test.
- The officer failed to inform you of the consequences for refusing or failing the test.
An attorney with Joslyn Law Firm may be able to help you obtain limited driving privileges so that you can travel back and forth from work, school, and medical appointments. If this is your first OVI charge or it has been at least 10 years since your last OVI charge, the court may be more lenient in restoring your license.
License Reinstatement Requirements
According to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV), individuals who refused the chemical test or those who failed the test may have their license reinstated provided that they:
- Observe and serve the ordered suspension
- Pay a reinstatement fine
- Show proof of insurance during suspension (you cannot allow your auto insurance to lapse)
The criminal penalties for an OVI conviction are severe, and even more so if you have a higher level of alcohol or drugs in your system.
Ohio’s OVI laws have two tiers, or levels, for impairment:
- Lower-tier: BAC of 0.08 percent or greater and less than .16 percent
- Higher-tier: BAC of .17 percent or greater
Jail, prison, fines, and probation are harsher for those convicted with a higher BAC tier.
The penalties for a low-tier OVI conviction include:
- 1st Offense: Three days to six months in jail, fines from $375 to $1,075, and a license suspension of one to three years
- 2nd Offense: Ten days to six months of jail time, $525 to $1,625 in fines, and a license suspension of one to seven years
- 3rd Offense: 30 days to one year in jail, $850 to $2,750 in fines, and a license suspension of two to 12 years
The court may order you to participate in the Community Control Sanction, which can reduce your jail time. You may be sentenced to a driver’s intervention program (DIP), house arrest (with electronic monitoring), or have an ignition interlock on your vehicle instead of a suspended license.
The penalties for a high-tier or aggravated OVI conviction include:
- 1st Offense: Six days to 180 days of jail time, fines from $375 to $1,075, and a license suspension from one to three years
- 2nd Offense: 20 days to 180 days in jail, fines from $525 to $1,625, and a suspended license from one to seven years
- 3rd Offense: 30 days to one year of jail time, fines from $850 to $2,750, and a license suspension from two to 12 years
A judge may also order substance abuse treatment for any OVI conviction. First-time offenders may be exempt, but anyone with two or more OVI convictions must undergo treatment.
The prosecution must prove you were operating a vehicle while legally impaired. Prosecutors need not prove you were driving the car at the time—it may be enough that you were sitting in the driver’s seat of a parked car.
Evidence used in an OVI case includes:
- Chemical test results
- Video footage of your field sobriety test, behavior, and speech
- Officer’s testimony
- Physical evidence (such as open containers or drug paraphernalia)
- Eyewitness statements
- Your statements made during your arrest or after
A defense lawyer from our team will have the opportunity to see the evidence, documentation, and testimony presented by the prosecution. Joslyn Law Firm has the resources to conduct an investigation, present evidence, and offer testimony to counter that of opposing counsel.
An OVI defense lawyer from our firm will seek to suppress or question the accuracy of the prosecution’s evidence. Our defense strategies include the following:
- Look for errors or flaws in the chemical test, either the device itself or the officer who administered the test.
- Discredit the police officer’s testimony as biased or simply incorrect.
- Remove from evidence any statements you gave without being advised of your rights.
- Question the accuracy of a witnesses’ memory.
- Obtain video evidence that shows you appeared sober.
This is a downloadable PDF provided by the Garfield Heights Municipal Court. It is a comprehensive list of Ohio’s OVI charges, penalties, exceptions, and statute reference guide.
Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) is an international, nonprofessional fellowship of people who want to do something about their alcohol use. Membership is open, and meetings are run by volunteers using contributions.
The City of Cincinnati offers victims information and notification of court proceedings, advocacy, support, and referrals for individuals affected by another person’s wrongdoing. Trained advocates are a liaison between the prosecutor’s office and victims.
This website from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) provides information on state-licensed providers specializing in alcoholism, drug addiction, and mental illness.
Andrew Strock, a West Virginia resident, was arrested on an OVI charge in Washington County, Ohio. Strock was sentenced to 60 days with credit for 18 days served, his driver’s license was suspended for three years, and he must pay a fine of $1,350.
A 52-year old Zanesville resident with nine prior drunk driving charges was convicted on three separate OVI charges. Shad Gordon pleaded not guilty despite having twice the legal limit of alcohol in his system. Each OVI charge has a maximum jail term of 180 days.
Joseph J. Fulesi of Elyria was charged with operating a vehicle under the influence and willful disregard of public safety—his 11th OVI charge. Police caught Fulesi in his truck, facing southbound in the northbound lane of SR 57.
Could I Go to Jail for a First-Time Offense?
First-time offenders with a BAC of less than .17 percent could avoid jail if the court orders a three-day driver’s intervention program, plus a fine.
How Long Is My License Suspended for OVI?
The length of your license suspension depends on whether it is your first offense, if you refused a chemical test, or if your BAC level is in the high tier.
Do I Have to Take a Breathalyzer Test?
You may refuse to take a breath test, but doing so means immediate arrest and automatic license suspension.
Can You Challenge a Breathalyzer Test Result?
A. Chemical tests are not perfect. Challenging the accuracy of the test or the skill of the person administering the test is an effective defense.
If you or a loved one faces an OVI charge, Joslyn Law Firm is ready to defend you. Everyone makes mistakes, including getting behind the wheel after one too many drinks. You could avoid jail time, license suspension, and other adverse effects with the help of a drunk driving defense attorney.
While there is no difference between a DUI, DWI, OVI, or OMVI, a drunk driving conviction can ruin your personal and professional life. Call our team in Cincinnati for a free consultation: (513) 399-6289.