Many people who have been charged with operating a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Ohio have questions about the potential sentences they may face, what certain elements of the charges are, and whether they will have a criminal record, among other questions.

Columbus OVI FAQ

Although searching the internet for answers to your questions is one of the best places to start finding information for the drunk driving charges against you, nothing compares to speaking to an actual OVI defense lawyer.

Brian Joslyn of the Joslyn Law Firm in Columbus, Ohio is an experienced attorney and knowledgeable with Ohio’s traffic and motor vehicle laws and will answer your Columbus DUI or OVI FAQ. Call the Joslyn Law Firm at (614) 444-1900 for a free consultation today.

Back to top

Q. Do you have to be driving a vehicle to be convicted of OVI?

A. No. You can be convicted of OVI without actually driving, but having “physical control” of the vehicle, which involves three factors: (1) that you were in the vehicle’s driver’s seat; (2) that you were in possession of the ignition key, and (3) that you were either under the influence of alcohol or have tested over the legal limit.

Q. How is the term “Operation of a Vehicle” defined?

A. “Operation” is defined as sitting in the driver’s seat, in possession of the ignition key, and causing the vehicle to move. Movement of the vehicle is a key element in an OVI conviction.

Q. What is the difference between a conviction for OVI and “Physical Control?"

A. Although OVI and “physical control” convictions are both first-degree misdemeanors, OVI convictions carry minimum penalties for past offenses, while “physical control” convictions do not. A prior OVI conviction within the last six years will increase minimum jail time for a present conviction from 3 to 10 days. However, if you are convicted of OVI and have a past “physical control” conviction, the minimum jail time will still be 3 days. A “physical control” conviction also does not carry the stigma of an OVI conviction.

Q. Is it always illegal to drink and drive under Ohio law?

A. Yes, when you are not impaired and your blood alcohol content is not at or above the legal limit.

Q. Is it possible for a person to calculate his or her blood alcohol content?

A. Yes, with graphs, charts, etc.; but these are not accurate and fail to take into account such factors as the rate of alcohol absorption into the bloodstream, the distribution of alcohol throughout the body, elimination of alcohol from the body, body type (i.e., water, fat, and muscle content), the rate of consumption, the alcohol content of the drink(s), food consumption, tolerance of alcohol, gender, and level of impairment.

Q. What other factors affect impairment level?

A. Medication and fatigue.

Q. Can you still be convicted of OVI if your BAC is below the legal limit?

A. Yes, depending on your level of impairment.

Q. What should you do if you are arrested after having a few drinks?


  • Keep your hands on the steering wheel;
  • Don’t look for ID, unless that is requested;
  • You may politely request to consult with an attorney before answering questions;
  • Step out of the vehicle,if asked to do so;

Q. Do you have the right to refuse sobriety tests?

A. Yes, but prior convictions within the past six or twenty years may double your mandatory minimum sentence.

Q. What constitutes “minimum time?”

A. The “minimum time” that you potentially may face depends upon your number of OVI convictions within the past six years.

Q. What is the sentence for a first conviction?

A. If this is only your first OVI conviction within the past six years, the minimum sentence is 3 days in jail or a seventy-two-hour driver intervention program.

Q. What is the sentence for a second conviction?

A. If this is your second OVI conviction within the past six years, you will typically face a minimum jail sentence of 10 days, if you submit to chemical testing. If you refused chemical tests, you will face a minimum of 20 days in jail.

Q. What is the sentence for a third conviction?

A. For a third OVI conviction, you will receive thirty days in jail, if you submitted to chemical testing. If you refused testing, you will face a sixty-day jail sentence.

Q. Do some cities within the state of Ohio have stricter OVI codes than others?

A. Yes. Codes addressing OVI sentencing procedures are stricter in some Ohio municipalities than others, and each municipality’s code overrides the state code. For example, Columbus’ city code has what it calls a lifetime look-back period, which means that no any prior OVI offense will be considered in the sentencing process, regardless of how many years ago it took place.

Q. What are some of the penalties imposed under the new OVI law?

A. Except for first-time offenders (to whom the new law does not apply): increased fines, increased fees for license reinstatements, extended restraints on your ability to drive from 30 to 45 days; for one or more prior convictions within the past six years, an ignition interlocking or SCRAM devices in your vehicle, drug and alcohol treatment programs.

Q. Can law enforcement force blood draws without court intervention?

A. Yes. Under the new law, court intervention is not always required. If you have been convicted of two or more OVI offenses within the past six years or five or more offenses within the past twenty years, or if you have been previously convicted of a felony, law enforcement can use whatever force is necessary to obtain a blood sample without first obtaining your approval.