Currently, under Ohio law, a first-time OVI offender faces, amongst other penalties, a mandatory minimum six month driver’s license suspension. During that suspension period, that person is eligible to obtain limited driving privileges for work, school, medical, court, treatment, and probation purposes only.
However, the individual must wait either 15 or 30 days from the day of arrest to be eligible to obtain limited driving privileges. This period during which limited driving privileges are unavailable is known as “hard-time.” If the individual tested over the legal limit, the “hard time” is 15 days. If the person refused to submit to a breath, blood, or urine test, the “hard time” is 30 days.
Interestingly, new legislation in the Ohio House under HB 388 would allow first-time OVI offenders to have unlimited driving privileges during the driver’s license suspension on the condition the individual obtains a special license and has an interlock device installed on his or her vehicle. The interlock device allows individuals to start their vehicles only after they blow into the device giving a clean breath sample. Under the current legislative proposal, the individual could operate the vehicle if the individual gives a breath sample indicating blood alcohol concentrations lower than .025.
This particular proposal is favorable to OVI offenders because it does not require the installation of the interlock device on a first-time offender; instead, it gives first-time offenders the option to use it if they want the ability to drive anywhere at any time. However, those taking advantage of the interlock option must cough up the additional money to install the device, which isn’t cheap. Further, it is unclear how much the special driver’s license would cost but one can assume that is not cheap either.
HB 388 would also require OVI offenders to go 10 years instead of the current 6 six years without getting a subsequent OVI conviction. OVIs are enhancement offenses, meaning subsequent offenses carry more severe penalties than prior offenses. OVIs under Ohio law however, are enhancement penalties only for subsequent offense committed within a particular time frame. Under the current law, only subsequent OVI convictions committed within six years of a prior OVI conviction carry enhanced penalties.
It is clear this particular feature of the new legislation would hurt subsequent OVI offenders who are convicted after six years but within 10 years of their prior OVI conviction. Under this new proposal, a subsequent OVI conviction committed within, not just six, but 10 years of a prior OVI conviction would carry heftier mandatory penalties including higher fines, longer driver’s license suspensions, and more jail time.