duI Defense

Ohio DUI Penalties

A DUI charge in Ohio carries severe penalties. Many of these are mandatory, while others are optional. Some judges have their own set of “mandatory” penalties, which include a variety of sentencing options from the “optional penalties” list below.

Administrative License Suspension (A.L.S.)

  • If your breath, blood or urine test is over the legal limit, or you refused the test, the officer will take your driver’s license on the spot and place you under an Administrative License Suspension. The form provided to you by the officer indicates the action taken.
  • The A.L.S. lasts for a period of 90 days to 5 years, depending on previous offenses or refusals. There is a “hard-time” waiting period with absolutely no driving privileges whatsoever. This period lasts at least 15 days or more depending on previous offenses or refusals.
  • Some judges will allow a “stay” of the A.L.S., which effectively puts the A.L.S. “on hold” until a later date. Many courts will not allow a stay of the A.L.S. Some judges will require it to be filed in writing or by an attorney.
  • The A.L.S. is independent of the DUI charge itself, which usually carries a longer, mandatory license suspension. Even if you overcome the DUI charge, the A.L.S. remains in most cases.
  • At the end of the A.L.S., you must pay a $475.00 reinstatement fee to the B.M.V. to get your driver’s license back. Otherwise, you will continue to be suspended indefinitely.

1st Offense

  • Jail – A minimum of 72 consecutive hours in jail or a driver’s intervention program (DUI school).
  • Fine – A minimum of $375 plus court costs.
  • Court License Suspension – A minimum of six months, with limited privileges only after the “hard time” waiting period.
  • A “high-end” test, or a refusal with a prior in the previous 20 years, doubles the mandatory jail time to six days jail (or three days jail and three days in the driver’s intervention program). It also makes the restricted plates mandatory.

2nd Offense

  • Jail – A minimum or ten consecutive days.
  • Fine – A minimum of $525 plus court costs.
  • Court License Suspension – A minimum of one year with a minimum “hard time” period with no driving privileges for thirty days.
  • Mandatory restricted license plates (yellow with red numbers).
  • Mandatory 90 days immobilization of the vehicle used if titled to the defendant when the offense was committed.
  • A “high-end” test, or a refusal with a prior in the previous 20 years, doubles the mandatory jail time to twenty days.

3rd Offense

  • Jail – A minimum of 30 consecutive days.
  • Fine – A minimum of $850 plus court costs.
  • Court License Suspension – a minimum of two years, with a “hard time” waiting period of six months and a required ignition disabling device for days 181 to 365.
  • Mandatory restricted plates (yellow with red numbers).
  • Mandatory forfeiture of the vehicle used if titled to the defendant when the offense is committed.

Subsequent DUI Offenses

  • A fourth or fifth offense in six years, or a sixth offense in twenty years, constitutes a felony DUI.
  • Once you have a Felony DUI on your record, all future DUI charges are felonies.
  • Felony DUI offenses carry mandatory jail and/or prison sentences, minimum fines of $850 plus court costs, mandatory license suspensions of 3 years to life, mandatory restricted plates (yellow with red numbers) vehicle forfeiture and treatment programs.

Optional Penalties for Misdemeanor DUI Offenses

  • Fine – $375 to $2,750 depending on the level of the offense.
  • Jail – Up to six months on first or second offenses, and one year on a third offense.
  • Court License Suspension – 3, 5 or 10 years, depending on the level of the offense.
  • No driving privileges – Some judges will not grant any driving privileges unless you plead guilty and/or pay your fines and court costs in full.
  • Alcohol/drug treatment – Some judges will require treatment programs under various conditions.
  • Restricted license plates – Required by some judges even for first offenders.
  • Vehicle disabling device – Some courts may require them for limited privileges or as a condition of bond.
  • Community Work Services – Required by some judges.
  • Probation, ban on all drinking, random alcohol/drug testing, SCRAM ankle bracelet may be imposed in some courts (photo on the right).

Felony DUI Penalties

  • Felony penalties carry mandatory incarceration. Judges are reluctant to use local jails to house prisoners long term, and often will opt for mandatory prison terms instead, up to 5 years.
  • Fines range from $1,350 to $10,500.
  • Court license suspensions range from 3 years to life, with absolutely no privileges for the first 3 years.
  • Vehicle forfeiture is mandated.
  • Restricted plates (yellow plates with red letters) are mandatory, if privileges are ever allowed. Judges may impose any of the penalties listed under misdemeanor DUI offenses as well as a host of community control sanctions, listed in the Ohio Revised Code.

Other DUI Considerations

  • Mandatory DUI incarceration has to be served all at once. You cannot split the time up.
  • Judges are not allowed to grant work releases during the mandatory incarceration.
  • There are severe penalties for transferring a vehicle out of your name if it was used in certain DUI offenses. The judge will find you in contempt and require you to repay the N.A.D.A. blue book value of the vehicle as a penalty.
  • For all CDL holders, a first DUI conviction in Ohio now results in a 1-year commercial driver’s license disqualification. A second DUI results in a lifetime CDL disqualification. It doesn’t matter whether the offense was committed in a commercial vehicle or a private vehicle.
  • For DUI offenses, certain controlled substances such as marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, L.S.D., phencyclidine and heroin have been assigned arbitrary prohibited concentration levels, which have no relation to impairment. These levels may exist for weeks or months after ingestion.
  • Prior offenses are calculated from date of conviction to date of current offense.
  • Different prohibited alcohol levels apply to persons under age twenty-one and holders of commercial driver’s license.
  • Ohio courts are now required to keep records of DUI offenses for fifty years.
  • A.L.S. suspension can be appealed within thirty days of your initial appearance. However, the grounds for such an appeal are very strictly limited by statute.
  • See a chart of Ohio DUI Penalties by Judge Jennifer P. Weiler, from Garfield Heights Municipal Court.


To have any degree of success in a DUI case, you must have a criminal defense lawyer who handles DUI charges on a regular basis and understands the complexities of Ohio DUI Law.

“I am in court nearly every day on DUI cases. All too often, I see DUI defendants represented by lawyers who are clueless about DUI law. Many times these attorneys are relatives, friends of the family or practice in other areas of the law.” – Dan Weisenburger.


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The attorneys in our law firm primarily service Portage County courts (Ravenna and Kent), and Summit County courts (Akron, Stow, Barberton). Cases in all other courts in North East Ohio, including Cuyahoga County courts (Cleveland, Garfield Heights, Bedford, Parma, Rocky River etc…) are handled under specific terms and conditions.