Some changes are coming to Ohio's OVI laws effective April 6, 2017. These changes primarily involve a change in the look-back period from 6 years to 10 years as well as a push to increase the use of interlock systems. While there are some concerns regarding the clarity of the law and certain nuances of its application, the following summarizes the more important implications.
OVI penalties increase depending on the number of prior OVI convictions. Currently, mandatory minimums increase depending upon the number of OVI convictions within the past 6 years. Effective April 6, 2017, the look-back period will increase to 10 years.
The second significant change has to do with license suspensions. The maximum license suspensions were increased, but more importantly, the minimum license suspension for a first-time OVI was doubled: increased from 6 months to 1 year.
Interlock systems are devices that must be installed on a vehicle that will test the driver's breath for alcohol before allowing the vehicle to start. For first-time convictions, courts are given discretion to order unlimited driving privileges with the use of an interlock. There are several implications, most of which can be found in the new Interlock Revised Code Section 4510.022:
- The minimum suspension is cut in half from 1 year to 6 months.
- The court "shall suspend any jail term imposed for the OVI offense."
With the good comes the bad, however. First, it should be noted that this does not apply to pre-conviction suspension (i.e., Administrative License Suspensions). Second, interlock systems are susceptible to false-positives. In addition to simple equipment malfunctions, false positives may be caused by mouthwash, energy drinks, chewing tobacco, menthol cigarettes, sweets, spicy foods, yeasty foods, etc...
If the interlock detects a violation, there are consequences:
- Imposition of the suspended jail sentence
- Increasing the length of the license suspension
- Requiring the use of a SCRAM (CRAM) - ankle bracelet to monitor alcohol use
Notice of violations will be sent to the defendant who can then appeal the violation within 14 days. However, the code that governs violations (R.C. 4510.46) limits the grounds for appeals to whether the "offender committed an ignition interlock device violation."
Pertinent Interlock Implications:
Additionally, the new statute requires those with the interlock to get an interlock driver's license, which will list the interlock restriction. Driving without the license is a first-degree misdemeanor with a mandatory minimum three-day jail sentence. All interlocks will also be required to have cameras by 2020.
Finally, there is a cost factor for interlock systems, although some funds are to be available to assist indigent defendants.
Ohio's OVI laws continue to become harsher. With HB 388, the look-back period was increased and the length of license suspensions was increased. And while the concept of unlimited driving privileges with an interlock seem reasonable, the details make it a risky and potentially expensive proposition. Finally, interlock system is discretionary for the courts and they may choose to simply ignore them. However, it is an option that may for the right people be the right decision and therefore requires full knoweldge of the implications to evaluate.