Changes in Ohio OVI Laws


  • In 1982, Ohio's legal limit for Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) was reduced from .15% to .10%.


  • In 2003, Ohio’s legal limit for Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) prohibited levels for those 21 and older was reduced from .10% to .08%


  • On September 23, 2004, House Bill 163 took effect amending a number of criminal and OVI related statutes. Under the new law, repeat OVI offenders face harsher penalties. As a result, the following changes have occurred:
  • The look back period for repeat OVI offenders with 5 or more DUI convictions increased from 6 to 20 years, so as to close what has been referred to as the “six-year legal loophole”;
  • New felony OVI provision requires a mandatory prison sentence of 1 to 5 years if an offender has 5 or more OVI convictions in the past 20 years;
  • Increased penalties for refusal of a chemical or breathalyzer test if offenders have one or more prior OVI convictions;
  • For first-time OVI offenders, issuance by a judge of the scarlet and red “family plate” nka restricted license plate is now discretionary, not mandatory;
  • Increased penalties for vehicular assault when an offender fails to stop at the scene of an alcohol-related accident;
  • Courts are now required to maintain records of OVI and criminal convictions for 50 years.


On August 17, 2006, Ohio’s OVI statute was amended to include the following:

  • Prohibit the operation of a motor vehicle with trace levels of metabolites (i.e. marijuana, cocaine, etc.) present in the blood and urine which can remain in a person’s body up to 30 days;
  • Increasing the time limit to withdraw blood and urine for an alleged violation from 2 to 3 hours;
  • Updating the law to prohibit both “drinking” while driving and being under the influence of a drug.


On January 1, 2007, Ohio’s OVI statute was amended, modifying recent Ohio Supreme Court cases making DUI prosecutions easier.

  • Permits a court to allow evidence of alcohol or drug tests from "any health care provider".  However, there are 3 conditions to admissibility of this evidence:
    1. The State must have an expert testify as the lay meaning of this evidence.
    2. The State must prove that law enforcement obtained the results legally (i.e. follow strict, written procedures or through a search warrant).
    3. Each and every Ohio Department of Health regulation must be met. 
  • Prior to this amendment, only health care providers with Ohio Department of Health Lab Director's permits could produce evidence against an accused impaired motorist.
Ohio state senate


As of September 30, 2008, Ohio Senate Bill 17 went into effect instituting many changes to Ohio's already tough OVI/DUI law!  While the changes for a first time offender experienced little change, persons charged with an OVI who have had a prior conviction for OVI within 6 years face tougher penalties.

  • Specifically, if convicted of a 2nd offense within 6 years, the court may require a continuous alcohol monitoring device ("CAM," a device worn around the ankle that will notify probation if you ingest alcohol);
  • In addition to mandatory incarceration, the court is required to order an alcohol/drug assessment and any recommended treatment will be mandatory;
  • Finally, if the court grants driving privileges during the mandatory 1-5 year suspension, privileges are not available for the first 45 days and once granted;
  • The restricted license plates (aka "scarlet letter" or "party plates") AND an ignition interlock device (breathalyzer) are mandatory.
  • Sentencing for 3rd offenders within 6 years also was stiffened as well as some of the other alcohol related offenses