The holidays are supposed to be times spent with family and friends. However, in recent years the night before Thanksgiving has been dubbed "Blackout Wednesday," a day in which people begin a long period of binge drinking.
This day, according to officials, is the start of the worst period for alcohol-related incidents, OVI arrests and reckless driving cases nationwide. The period from Thanksgiving to New Year's Day is one of the most dangerous times to be on the roadways each year.
Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Eve in 2012, 1,091 people were killed in drunk driving crashes nationwide, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Officials say most crashes occur on New Year's Eve.
Last year, there were 1,127 drunk driving crashes in November, and 21 people died as a result of the crashes, according to the Ohio Department of Public Safety. Additionally, there were 1,037 drunk driving crashes in December last year and 21 deaths.
The Ohio State Police Department and local law enforcement agencies throughout the state are relentless when it comes to catching those who get behind the wheel while under the influence of drugs or alcohol during the holiday season. Not only is drunk driving dangerous, it is a highly prosecuted crime.
In Ohio, a person can be arrested for an OVI, or drunk driving, if he or she is in actual physical possession of a vehicle while under the influence of drugs, alcohol or a combination of substances. Possession simply could mean sitting in the driver's seat with the key. You do not have to actually be driving the vehicle to be charged.
In OVI cases, intoxication can be proven if the driver has a blood alcohol concentration above the .08 percent legal limit. This usually is done through a breathalyzer test. However, a breath or urine test can be used to prove a person was under the influence of a controlled substance, such as marijuana, cocaine or heroin.
Generally, a first offense for OVI in Ohio is a first-degree misdemeanor under Ohio Revised Code § 4511.19. This could mean jail time, fines, placement of an interlock device on your vehicle, driver's intervention program, court costs, driver's license suspension and other penalties.
The penalties continue to increase with each OVI conviction. For example, if someone has been convicted of three or four previous OVI violations within six years or five OVI convictions within 20 years, the offense would be a felony.
If drunk driving results in a crash and causes serious physical harm to another person or unborn baby, it could be considered aggravated vehicular assault. This offense is more serious than an OVI offense, and it could be a felony of the second or third degree.
If a person dies as a result of a drunk driving crash, the driver could face aggravated vehicular homicide charges. This also could apply if the crash caused the unlawful termination of another person's pregnancy. This could be a felony of the first or second degree.
An OVI conviction could change the course of your life. The best way to avoid an OVI this holiday season is to not get behind the wheel if you consume alcohol. Make safe and smart decisions when it comes to your right to drive. Have a designated driver on hand if you do decide to imbibe, and never be a passenger in a car with a drunk driver.