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Is driving while intoxicated a misdemeanor or a felony in Ohio?

If the police pull you over and arrest you for allegedly having a blood alcohol content above the legal limit, it can be a scary moment. You might be worried about the possible consequences on your employment, possible fines and jail time, the suspension of your drivers’ license, and the effects on your education opportunities if you’re a student. While you wait for your trail date, you may wonder if you are being chard with a misdemeanor or a felony, and what the difference between them are in terms of legal penalties.

Misdemeanor OVIs in Ohio

Ohio law outlines the conditions under which an OVI is a misdemeanor for sentencing purposes. Under the statute, anyone who operates a motor vehicle with a concentration above the legal limit of alcohol, marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin or another intoxicating substance in their system can be charged with a misdemeanor OVI.

The legal penalties of a misdemeanor OVI conviction vary depending upon the circumstances of the case and the judge’s discretion. You could face a drivers’ license suspension of 90 days or more, a fine of up to $20,000, and jail time ranging from 3 days to several years. The court may also require you to pay for the installation of an ignition interlock device on all of your vehicles.

Felony OVIs in Ohio

There are certain circumstances that can aggravate an OVI charge and elevate the sentence from a misdemeanor to a felony. For example, if the court convicts you of your third or fourth OVI in ten years, or of your fifth OVI in twenty years, they will find you guilty of a fourth-degree felony.

Felony OVI convictions come with a heightened prison sentence. You would also have to pay a fine of between $1,350 to $10,500.

Ohio’s OVI laws are strict, and the penalties they impose are severe. It’s important to remember, however, that just because you have received a criminal charge doesn’t necessarily mean that you will receive a conviction. You always have the opportunity to prepare and present a defense to the charges, and have your side of the story heard.