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Elements of a DUI Offense in Ohio

Ohio’s DUI statute states that no one shall operate a motor vehicle within the State of Ohio if the person driving has a BAC of a certain amount or a concentration of drugs over a certain amount.

BAC stands for Blood Alcohol Concentration, and it is simply the measure of alcohol in your blood. The amount of alcohol in your body is measured by the weight of alcohol in a certain volume of blood. BAC can be measured directly through the blood or indirectly through breath or urine testing. The legal BAC limit for the State of Ohio is a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08. In other words, it is illegal to drive in Ohio with a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or above.  The limit is lower for drivers under the age of 21 and for commercial vehicle drivers (i.e., truck drivers, bus drivers, etc.). Ohio has a ZERO tolerance policy for underage drinking. If you are a driver under 21, the legal BAC limit is  0.02. You can be arrested with a blood alcohol level of 0.02 or above. For commercial vehicle drivers, it is illegal to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.4 or higher.

Alcohol is quickly absorbed through the stomach lining into the bloodstream and can be measured about 30-45 min after a person has had a drink. All alcohol affects the BAC similarly so it doesn’t matter whether you’re drinking whiskey or wine, it will affect your BAC in the same way. However, different types of alcohol range in strength. A typical drink contains about half an ounce of alcohol (.54 ounces, to be exact). This is the approximate amount of alcohol found in: one shot of distilled spirits, or one 5-ounce glass of wine, or one 12-ounce beer.  A number of factors can affect how fast a person’s BAC rises. The higher the number of drinks, the higher the person’s BAC. Certain mixed drinks can contain more than a standard amount of alcohol so those drinking peach martinis could have a higher BAC than those drinking beers. When a person drinks alcohol quickly, he or she will reach a higher BAC than a person who nurses a drink over a longer period of time. Women generally have smaller body types and more body fat than men do. Since fat cells don’t absorb alcohol easily, more alcohol remains in their blood stream. The more you weigh, the more water is in your body to dilute the alcohol and lower your BAC. Your BAC won’t rise as quickly if you have food in your stomach since alcohol is absorbed into the bloodstream faster on an empty stomach. Medications  and drugs don’t affect BAC levels. However, some drugs when mixed with alcohol can enhance the effects of alcohol. This means the person will feel more impaired or drunk than their blood level would normally indicate.

Most people cannot visualize how much alcohol is in their body based on this system. They want to know how many drinks they can have and still be under the legal limit. Unfortunately, there is no easy way to guess at whether or not you are under the BAC limit based simply on how many drinks you’ve had. Because of the multitude of factors that affect blood alcohol concentrations, it is very difficult to assess your own BAC. This is why there are now breathalyzers (machines that measure BAC based on the alcohol on your breath) on the market to the public. They range in price from about $20 to $150. Now you can simply test yourself before you get in the car.

Ohio law also prohibits you from driving while under the influence of drugs. Specifically mentioned as prohibited are: amphetamines, cocaine, cocaine metabolite, heroin, heroin metabolite, L.S.D., marijuana, marijuana metabolite, methamphetamine, phencyclidine (PCP, also known as “angel dust”), salvia divinorum (a hallucinogenic drug from Mexico) and salvinorin A (active ingredient in salvia divinorum). However, even prescription drugs are defined as dangerous drugs under the DUI statute and it is illegal to drive under the influence of prescription drugs unless they have been prescribed by a doctor for you and you are only taking the amount recommended by said doctor.

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