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Mandatory sentences for drunk driving are changing

Annie's Law will increase mandatory sentences for drunk driving related offenses in Ohio; changes will become effective April 6, 2017.

Sentencing requirements for Ohio OVI convictions will be drastically different after April 6, 2017, which is the date Annie's Law becomes effective. The law was named after a former Ohio prosecutor and former Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyer member named Annie who was struck and killed by a drunk driver. The law will increase penalties for OVI offenses by including an expanded look back period for prior OVI convictions, create longer mandatory minimum license suspensions, change requirements related to ignition interlock devices for first-time OVI offenders, and impose stiff penalties for interlock violations while also decreasing penalties for people who abide by ignition interlock rules.

Longer Look Back Periods

Under current Ohio law, mandatory minimum sentencing requirements increase if a person has a prior OVI conviction within the past six years. For example, when a person has a prior conviction, mandatory minimum sentences for jail increase to ten or twenty days in jail depending on the breath test result or refusal. When Annie's Law becomes effective the look back period for prior convictions will expand to ten years. Many people ask whether the look back period is determined from date of arrest or from the date of conviction. The time is measured from the prior date of conviction to the date the next offense is charged.


Increased Length of Mandatory Minimum License Suspensions

The new law increases the minimum license suspension from six months to twelve months for first time offenders. A first offense OVI requires a six month to three year driver's license suspension under current Ohio OVI law. After April 6, 2017 all first offenders must be given a license suspension between one and three years. A second offense in six years currently carries a one to five year license suspension. Under the new law, a license suspension for a second offense within ten years must be between one and seven years. A third offense within ten years carries a license suspension of two to twelve years under Annie's Law.

Requirements Related to Ignition Interlock Devices

Current law gives courts the discretion to grant limited driving privileges for occupational purposes, medical needs, family necessities, and court ordered meetings. The ability to grant privileges for these purposes will not change. The new law, however, will give courts the ability to grant unlimited driving privileges if an ignition interlock device is installed on the vehicle. The mandatory minimum time a person must wait to obtain driving privileges, which is fifteen days for a positive chemical test and thirty days for a refusal, does not change under the new law.

The procedure for obtaining driving privileges will be a multi-step process. An OVI lawyer will petition the court for unlimited driving privileges with ignition interlock. The court will issue an order for ignition interlock which the accused will take to get the ignition interlock device installed. The order and certificate showing the device was installed will be taken to the BMV and a restricted driver's license will be issued.

Sentencing Changes Related to Ignition Interlock

If an ignition interlock violation occurs, a person may be ordered to wear a monitor that provides continuous alcohol monitoring, jail time, increased court costs, and a longer driver's license suspension.

The good news is that if the court grants unlimited driving privileges to a first-time offender with ignition interlock, the court will suspend any mandatory jail term. This applies to high tier offenses as well as simple OVI offenses. Furthermore the court has the discretion to reduce the license suspension from twelve months to six months if there are no violations for first time offenders. 

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