Facing First Offense DUI or OVI charges in Cleveland?

Have you been charged with a first offense DUI or OVI charge in Ohio? If so, you are in for a bumpy ride! The state’s strict laws make getting pulled over for a DUI a driver’s worst nightmare. And,  if you’ve never been charged before, knowing exactly what to expect can be challenging.

If you are facing a first offense DUI or OVI in Ohio, you likely have questions about your options and what potential penalties may be in the future. First, it’s important to remain level-headed and think through your options and possible defenses. Second, understanding the possible outcomes of a DUI or OVI charge can make it easier to navigate your choices with confidence and clarity.

Here, we will explain the details of a first offense OVI in Ohio and help you think through your next steps.


Let’s start by looking closely at the terminology. Nationwide, DUI is typically used to refer to “driving under the influence.” In Ohio, the same offense is usually referred to as an OVI — “operating a vehicle under the influence.” The two terms may be used interchangeably, so do not let a reference to one or the other add confusion to your situation.

Essentially, any time that you get behind the wheel of a vehicle after consuming alcohol or drugs, you run the risk of being “under the influence” of the substance and thus at odds with the law. While having a single drink and driving is not necessarily an offense, driving while impaired definitely is.

Let’s take a closer look at what the State of Ohio considers over the limit and how it could impact your pending first offense DUI or OVI case.


Impairment can be difficult to determine, so Ohio — like most states — has a threshold for alcohol based on Blood Alcohol Content (BAC). This measure evaluates the concentration of alcohol in the bloodstream and gives a good indication of whether the driver has consumed enough alcohol to reasonably be considered too impaired to operate a motor vehicle. Likewise, Ohio has established impairment limits for other substances.

You are considered impaired in Ohio if you meet any of the following conditions:

  • Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) of .08 or higher
  • Urine alcohol concentration of .110 or higher
  • Blood serum alcohol concentration of .096 or higher
  • Concentrations of drugs including PCP, LSD, heroin, cocaine, marijuana, or methamphetamine

Underage DUI

In addition, if you are under the age of 21, the limits are even lower. For those who are underage, the following conditions qualify as an OVI:

  • Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) of .02 or higher
  • Urine alcohol concentrations of .028 or higher
  • Blood serum alcohol concentrations of .03 or higher

Enhanced Penalties

Finally, those who have consumed a considerable amount of alcohol may be at risk of receiving a “high tier” OVI charge, which occurs when one of the following conditions are met:

  • Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or Breath Alcohol Content (BrAC) of .17 or higher
  • Urine alcohol concentrations of .238 or higher
  • Blood serum alcohol concentrations of .204 or higher

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While penalties are higher for repeat OVI offenses, even first-time offenders in Ohio can face stiff consequences. It’s important to understand that an OVI carries both administrative and criminal penalties, and the process for dealing with them is different.

Administrative Penalties

Administrative penalties are penalties managed through the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. These have to do with your driving privileges and will typically involve the following:

  • Immediate confiscation of driver’s license
  • Minimum 15-day “hard suspension” of driver’s license
  • One to three years of suspension with the possibility for a restricted license

Criminal Penalties

In addition to administrative penalties, a first-time OVI offense also comes with criminal penalties. These charges can vary based on the severity of the level of impairment and the extent of damage done during the offense. If an OVI offender caused an accident, damaged property, or drove with particular recklessness, the criminal penalties may be more severe — especially if the incident resulted in injury or death.

Criminal penalties may include the following:

  • Minimum three-day jail sentence or required participation in a three-day educational program
  • Up to 5 years of probation
  • Fine of up to $1075 (plus related court fees)
  • Court-imposed license suspension of 1 to 3 years

Those who are convicted of a “high tier” OVI may face additional penalties including double the jail time.

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Part of determining whether a DUI or OVI in Ohio counts as a first offense is understanding the “lookback” period. This refers to the time period through which the court will consider prior convictions. In Ohio, the lookback period is ten years. If you have a former DUI/OVI conviction that dates back more than ten years, your new offense will be considered a first-time offense. If, however, you have a former conviction within ten years, the current case will be considered a repeat offense.


Getting your driving privileges reinstated after a first-time DUI or OVI is likely top of mind, especially if the suspension is preventing you from going to work. You can request a restricted license before the end of the suspension, but there is no guarantee that a judge will grant the request.

If a restricted license is granted, it will likely come with some or all of the following restrictions:

  • Restrictions in allowed driving hours
  • Required use of special restricted license plates
  • Installment of an ignition interlock device (IID)

Navigating the details of a first-time offense DUI or OVI in Ohio can be challenging and overwhelming. Having an experienced Ohio first offense DUI or OVI attorney by your side can help make sure you are fully aware of your options and move toward lifting restrictions as soon as possible.

Why You Need an Ohio First-Time DUI Lawyer

A first-offense DUI charge is no small matter – your freedom and reputation are at stake. When you find yourself facing serious charges, an experienced Ohio DUI attorney can protect you by working to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

Here’s the bottom line – the prosecution’s job is to convict you, and they’ll try to do that by convincing you that you have no other options, railroading you into an unfair deal.

At Botnick Law Firm, we understand that the system is broken, and we’re committed to making a difference by helping Ohio residents fight back.

We’ll help you by:

Although every case is different and not every DUI will get dismissed, talking to our attorneys is an important first step to deciding how to move forward with your case.

Process step-by-step

  • 01.
    Initial Arrest

    01. Initial Arrest

    The process to charge someone that’s been accused of a crime begins with an arrest. If the police have reason to believe that someone has committed a crime, the accused can be taken into custody. Police will usually start by asking basic questions like name and address to identify a person, and then they’ll often pivot to more specific questions related to the incident. At some point during this, you should have been read your “Miranda warnings.”

  • 02.
    Reading Your Rights

    02. Reading Your Rights

    You have the right to remain silent to avoid disclosing evidence that could potentially be self-incriminating, as well as the right to an attorney to defend you in court. Those are your unwavering rights that must be recited upon taking someone into custody. Take note of when these rights are read to you, as it could be helpful information for your attorney.

  • 03.

    03. Booking

    When you’ve been taken down to the station, police will fingerprint you and get your photograph to update their records. Once this is done, you should be granted the opportunity to contact your criminal defense lawyer. If you don’t have a lawyer, get a loved one to book a consultation with a lawyer on your behalf. It’s important that you do NOT disclose any details about your case over the phone with your loved ones, as those calls are monitored.

  • 04.

    04. Investigation

    After you’ve made it through the booking process, the police may begin conducting their investigation with you. Depending on the situation, this might include a personal search, collecting samples, interviewing/interrogating, police lineups, etc.

  • 05.
    Court Appearance

    05. Court Appearance

    You’ll be held at the station until you can be brought before a judge. The initial court appearance will happen within 48 hours or less of the arrest. Here, the judge will review the case and decide if there’s any reason to keep you in holding or if bail can be granted. If bail is granted, you’re allowed to be released upon certain conditions.

  • 06.

    06. Hearing

    Depending on the seriousness of your allegations, you may have a preliminary hearing at which a judge can determine whether enough evidence exists to charge you with that level of crime. You’ll be able to plead “guilty” or “not guilty.” If you plead not guilty, your case will be sent to trial. You may get the opportunity to enter a plea deal. That’s something your attorney will advise you on.

  • 07.

    07. Discovery

    In the discovery stage, the case against you is made much more transparent. The prosecutor will share the evidence they have against you with your defense attorney. During this time, your attorney can make additional requests for evidence if need be. All of the evidence on the table will be considered, and your lawyer will work with you to form the best plan for your defense.

  • 08.

    08. Trial

    If a plea deal is unable to be reached, the case will enter trial. During the trial, the prosecutor begins by presenting the case to the jury. They share any evidence they have against you and have witnesses make their statements for the prosecution. This can be tough to sit through. Afterward, it’s your lawyer’s turn to take the stands and share your side of the story. Your lawyer can question the prosecutor’s witnesses and all of the evidence that was used against you. There are many different strategies that your lawyer will use to defend you during the trial.

  • 09.

    09. Sentencing

    In a best-case scenario, you will have been found not guilty by the end of the trial, and the charges against you have been dropped. If you are found guilty, the judge must determine what your sentence/penalties will be. The sentencing will happen at another hearing, usually a few weeks after your trial ends.

Ohio Felony Sentencing

Prison TIme
Maximum Fine
First Degree
3-11 years
Second Degree
2-8 years
Third Degree
9-36 or 12-60 months
Fourth Degree
6-8 months
Fifth Degree
6-12 months

Ohio Misdemeanor Sentencing

Jail Time
Maximum Fine
First Degree
Up to 180 days
Second Degree
Up to 90 days
Third Degree
Up to 60 days
Fourth Degree
Up to 30 days
Minor Misdemeanor

Frequently Asked Questions

How many points is a first-offense DUI or OVI in Ohio?

An Ohio first offense DUI will result in six points on your driver’s license, triggering a warning letter from Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. Getting 12 points or more in two years will result in a mandatory license suspension.

Can you avoid jail time for a first-time DUI or OVI in Ohio?

Yes, you may be able to avoid jail time for a first offense DUI or OVI conviction in Ohio by attending a driver’s intervention program (DIP). Instead of three days in jail, you will spend three days attending an intervention course given by an approved DIP provider.

Ohio Courts System

We have successfully represented clients across Northern Ohio. If you are facing criminal charges, we can help you too. Don’t delay. The district attorney is building their case against you right now.

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