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Understanding Underage OVI Charges in Ohio

— May 31, 2022

DUI/OVI/criminal defense attorneys will not only protect your rights but will also protect your future by exploring all the possible defense tactics.

The state of Ohio uses different terminology for driving under the influence (DUI). Ohio DUI charges are classified as an OVI which means Operating a Vehicle Impaired. Although the two terms equate to the same behavior, there are minor differences in the legal aspect. This particularly relates to how the prosecutor in Ohio is allowed to prove the driver was driving while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. Ohio does not take these cases lightly, as it is entirely preventable. 

Operating a vehicle while impaired AND underage comes with serious legal consequences, not to mention the driver is putting countless lives at stake. In Columbus, the same rules apply, even though it is a college town. Many students believe that they will not be pulled over, or actually charged if they are caught drinking and driving while underage. That is not the case, as Columbus likes to make an example of those who drink and drive. 

It’s important to keep in mind that not only does an Underage OVI charge in Ohio go on their permanent record, they also could miss out on job opportunities, college programs, as well as higher education courses. All in all, it’s not worth the risk. 

To have the best outcome possible, it is necessary to contact an Ohio OVI lawyer to ensure the best outcome of the case. The legalese involved with OVI charges can quickly become overwhelming and confusing, which often ends in the driver having no idea if they actually should have been charged with driving under the influence. 

How Much Alcohol Can I Have In My System In Columbus If I Am Underage?

Of age drivers in Columbus are allowed to operate a vehicle if their blood alcohol content is less than .08%. If they are noticeably impaired or not will determine which type of OVI they are charged with. 

That is not the case when the driver is under the legal drinking age. In Columbus and the rest of Ohio, an underage driver is not allowed to have any amount of alcohol in their system whether they are operating a vehicle or not. 

When an underage person is pulled over and they are arrested for drinking and driving they will be charged with an OVUAC, which means Operating Vehicle Underage Consumption. To be charged with an OVUAC, the underage driver must have more than a .02% blood alcohol content. There is zero tolerance for young adults who decide to drink and drive. To put this into context, Virginia Tech states that if a woman weighs 120 pounds, they will only need to consume one 12 oz beer to have a .04% blood alcohol content. This means that if an underage drinker consumes any alcohol they will be over the legal limit, even if they are not drunk.

Most of the time if an underage driver is pulled over and found to be under the influence, they will be charged with an underage OVI as well as Minor In Consumption.

OVI Classifications 

There are different classifications to OVI offenses in Ohio. Sometimes, it can be confusing as to which classification of OVI the person is charged with. State law dictates that no person is allowed to operate a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley while under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or both. The law states the parameters in which a person can be charged with an OVI including the amount of alcohol they currently have in their system at the time of the traffic stop. To determine if someone is under the influence of drugs, a hair, blood, or urine test will be administered. 

OVI is used as a general term that encompasses all OVI charges.  The three major OVI charges are:

OVI “Impaired” – This is the standard driving under the influence charge in Ohio. To be charged with an OVI “Impaired” it must be proven that the driver is under the influence of drugs or alcohol AND they must be visibly or noticeably impairing the driver’s ability to operate the vehicle safely.  This means the driver’s reactions, mental processes, or actions while driving are visibly impaired to some degree. For a prosecutor to prove that the driver was noticeably under the influence, they will try to prove that the driver’s brain processes, nervous system, or muscles were not able to function properly. This is where the roadside test comes into play. If the driver fails any aspect of the roadside test, they have proven that their ability to drive is impaired. 

OVI “Per Se” – This type of OVI does not require the driver to show signs of impairment. If the driver is over the legal limit of .08% blood alcohol content, then the driver may be issued an OVI “Per Se”. There is also a high test prohibited concentration of .17% blood alcohol content. For drugs, the legal limit depends on which drug is in question. They separately have their own amounts that are considered illegal to drive. 

OVUAC – This is the OVI for underage adults. This offense has no limit, meaning that any amount of alcohol in the driver’s system will result in an automatic OVUAC. If the underage driver’s blood alcohol content is between .02% and .079% then they will be charged with an OVUAC.

What Are The Penalties For An OVUAC In Columbus?

When a driver under the age of 21 is charged with an OVUAC with their blood alcohol content being below .08% and it is the first offense, they may be sentenced to 30 days in jail and the judge may impose a fine of $250. If the driver’s blood alcohol content is above .08% then the incident will be prosecuted as an OVI. The penalties for a first-time OVI offense are 10 days to 1 year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000 could be imposed, and the driver’s license may be suspended for 6 months to 1 year.

Hallway of jail cells
Hallway of jail cells; image courtesy of Tom Blackout via Unsplash,

If the driver is being charged with their second OVUAC offense within a year and their blood alcohol content is below .08%, then they could face 60 days in jail, a license suspension of up to 5 years, and up to a $500 fine. 

It’s important to note that underage drinking and driving offenses in Columbus, usually come with other ramifications depending on the specific situation. If there is alcohol inside the vehicle then the driver could also be charged with Minor in Possession, soliciting alcohol, and distributing alcohol to minors. These offenses are tacked onto the OVUAC charge and come with their own set of penalties. 

What To Do If You Are Charged With An OVUAC in Columbus

When a driver is charged with an OVUAC it is imperative that they contact a Columbus criminal defense attorney to ensure all their rights are being protected. Having an OVI charge on a driver’s record could cost them their job, their future career, and many other opportunities, and that is why it is so important to be properly represented by an Ohio OVI lawyer. DUI/OVI/criminal defense attorneys will not only protect your rights but will also protect your future by exploring all the possible defense tactics.

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