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Sentence Enhancements for DUI in Ohio

Sentence enhancers are conditions that, if they occur during your DUI incident, will increase the penalties the court will impose upon you should you be found guilty and convicted.

Sentence enhancements can be mandatory or discretionary depending on the laws of the state. In some states, if one of the factors listed above is charged concurrently with your DUI, your punishment will increase whether a judge wants it or not. Most penalty increase based on facts must be proven. In most states, sentence enhancements usually must be served consecutively with a DUI sentence. They are also extremely difficult to get reduced, waived, deferred or suspended. The existence of DUI enhancement factors in your case may lead to an increase of your DUI charge from a misdemeanor to a felony. For accident cases resulting in a death, depending on your state, special circumstances may even increase your DUI manslaughter charge to murder.

There are many different factors that can enhance your sentence, including:

  • Prior Convictions

If you have prior DUI convictions within six years of your current DUI indictment then the court will be giving you additional and harsher penalties than if this was your first offense. DUI convictions from other states will also count against you when determining how many offenses you’ve committed in that period of time. The penalties will increase until your fourth offense when the penalties will be at their highest. Any subsequent DUI conviction after your fourth offense will result in the same penalties as your fourth conviction. For the specific penalties you could be facing depending on how many convictions you’ve had, please see the above topic on DUI Penalties.

  • Higher BAC

If you’re tested BAC was above 0.17 then you will fall under the Enhanced Penalty Blood Alcohol Concentration statute. This is discussed in more depth below. Basically, the Enhanced Penalty Blood Alcohol Concentration statute provides that those who are arrested with a certain BAC, elevated to twice over the legal limit, will face additional and harsher penalties than those who are arrested with a BAC over but close to the legal limit. If your BAC is found to be in this range then in addition to the penalties laid out above you will be facing a mandatory 3 days in jail if this is your first offense; mandatory 10 days in jail if this is your second offense; mandatory 30 days in jail or electronically monitored house arrest for your third offense; and mandatory 60 days to 1 year of jail time if this is your fourth offense. The judge will probably also sentence you harsher than if your chemical BAC level was just over the legal limit. Your fine, license suspension, and sentenced jail time will probably be at the higher end of the range possible to sentence.

  • Refusal to Submit to a Chemical Test

Because Ohio is a proponent of “implied consent”, it has enacted a statute making it mandatory for every driver in Ohio to submit to a chemical BAC test. Should you refuse, your administrative license suspension (enacted by the law enforcement officer who has pulled you over) will be longer. For example, if your administrative license suspension would normally be for 90 days since you failed the chemical BAC test, if you refuse to submit to the test you will receive a suspension of one year. How much longer the administrative license suspension will be for your particular DUI offense, again, depends on how many DUI convictions you have had in the last six years.

  • Speeding or Reckless Driving

Minor speeding will not affect the penalties you could face after a DUI conviction. In Ohio only certain levels of reckless behavior will be used to enhance your sentence. If you are driving more than 30 miles per hour over the speed limit when you are pulled over and found by the officer to be impaired by drugs or alcohol then your penalties will be increased. If you are found driving the wrong way down the road while impaired by drugs or alcohol then your penalties will be increased.

  • Child Endangerment

Courts do not take kindly to DUI arrests with children present in the car. Ohio prohibits by law any person from operating a car while intoxicated when there is any child under eighteen years old in the vehicle. Therefore, if you are arrested driving impaired with underage children in the vehicle you will face charges and penalties for both driving while under the influence and also child endangerment. The child endangerment charge will also directly affect your sentence for driving while under the influence. Should you be arrested for DUI with children in the vehicle then you will be charged with a first-degree misdemeanor. If the child was seriously injured and this is your second child endangerment charge then you will face a fifth-degree felony. If the child was seriously injured and this is your second DUI with children in the car then you will be charged with a fourth degree felony. Keep in mind that these charges listed are ONLY for the child endangerment offenses. In addition to the penalties the court assigns you for your DUI, it can also suspend your license for a year (with no possibility of limited driving privileges if this is your third offense) for the child endangerment charges.

  • Accident/Injury

If your DUI results in an auto accident that kills or seriously injures someone then you will be facing much harsher penalties than if you were pulled over simply crossing the center line. You will face both DUI charges and charges resulting from your injury of the other individual. Because you were driving under the influence, your offense will be elevated from a vehicular homicide or assault charge to aggravated homicide or assault. If you are convicted of aggravated vehicular homicide then you could be facing a first- or second-degree felony depending on how many previous convictions you have on your driving record. In order to charge you with aggravated vehicular homicide the prosecution must prove that your DUI was the proximate cause of the death. If your lawyer can show there was other possible causes of the person’s death such as distraction or speeding then you might be able to get the charges reduced. As long as the prosecution cannot prove alcohol or reckless driving was the cause of death then you have a good chance of being charged with vehicular homicide.

For a charge of aggravated vehicular homicide with a DUI specification, an offender will be sentenced 2-10 years of prison (per count) and a lifetime license suspension. For aggravated vehicular assault you could be sentenced 1-5 years of prison (per count) and a license suspension of 2-10 years (or 3 years to life depending on the level of felony).

  • Property damage

If you commit serious property damage while driving under the influence then you could face additional or harsher penalties as well as the elevation of your misdemeanor offense (first-offense DUI) to a felony.

  • Underage minor

Ohio has a zero tolerance policy for underage DUI. As such, if you are a driver under 21, you will be arrested for driving after underage consumption if your chemical BAC is 0.02 or above. If your chemical BAC is 0.08 and above you will be arrested for driving under the influence, facing the same penalties as adults and if your chemical BAC is 0.17 or above then you will face the harsher penalties imposed by the Enhanced Blood Alcohol Concentration statute. If you are arrested for OVUAC (operating a vehicle after underage consumption) or if you are under 18 and facing OVI charges then you will not face additional penalties than an adult arrested for DUI but you will face different penalties. You will be required to participate in a juvenile driver improvement program approved by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles and you lose your license, forcing you to retake the driver’s license exam after a six-month suspension. You will also have to pay a reinstatement fee.

  • Driving with a suspended license

Ohio prohibits operating a vehicle with a suspended license. This includes administrative leave suspensions and the court-mandated suspension you will receive for driving under the influence. See below for penalties of driving while under a DUI suspension.

  • Failure to provide proof or insurance/registration

If you are pulled over for a DUI or any other type of traffic incident in Ohio and fail to provide proof of liability insurance to the law enforcement officer, then you will face an additional noncompliance suspension. Your driving and registration privileges will be suspended for 90 days for the first offense, one year for the second offense and two years for any additional offenses within a five-year period. In order to reinstate your driving privileges you will be required to both serve the allocated suspension period and also pay a reinstatement fee, the amount of which will depend on how many offenses you’ve had in the last five years. You must pay a reinstatement fee of $100 for the first offense, $300 for the second offense and $600 for the third or greater offense within that five-year period. If you fail to surrender your driver’s license and license plates prior to the start of your suspension then, in addition to the reinstatement fee, you will also face a mandatory non-voluntary surrender fee of $50. You will also be required to file for HIGH RISK insurance with the Ohio BMV for a period of three years for the first offense and five years for any subsequent offense. You are entitled to an administrative hearing on this matter (for information on administrative hearings, see the topic on them) but be aware that you will have to pay a $30 hearing fee.

  • Driving without required ignition interlock device

Ohio has set out conditions that you must follow if the court has mandated that you must use an ignition interlock device.  The most important of those conditions is that you are NEVER allowed to drive without utilizing the required device. You are not allowed to tamper with or remove the device. Should you be pulled over and you are not using your mandated ignition interlock device you will face additional penalties as well as all the penalties that comes with a second/third/fourth DUI.

  • Failure to obey traffic signals/other traffic law violations

While minor speeding or running a red light might not increase the penalties you will face for your DUI charge directly, such incidents could result in additional charges being brought against you or, at the very least, traffic tickets. All these violations will accumulated in your case, resulting in greater charges than if you were just convicted of driving under the influence.

  • Driving with an open container

Ohio has separate open container laws in addition to its DUI laws. You are prohibited from having open containers of alcohol while operating or being a passenger in a vehicle. If you in a stationary motor vehicle with open containers of alcohol you have also violated the open container law. Having open bottles or cans of alcohol found in your vehicle when you are pulled over will not aid in your defense against driving under the influence.


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