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When can Ohio OVI charges be classified as a felony offense?

On Behalf of | Mar 29, 2024 | DUI

Drivers get arrested for operating a vehicle under the influence of drugs or alcohol (OVI) offenses every day across Ohio. Some people get arrested due to targeted traffic enforcement efforts. Their erratic behavior in traffic makes police officers suspect them of intoxication. Other times, people get arrested because of their involvement in a collision if they fail chemical testing.

Especially if someone has never had any issues with the legal system before, people may not realize how serious an OVI offense can be. The courts can potentially hand down the maximum penalties even in cases where someone has not harmed others and does not have any prior criminal record. The impact of pleading guilty to an OVI offense can alter someone’s life.

In some cases, an OVI or drunk driving charge could lead to felony charges. Felony charges have more of an impact during background checks and carry more serious penalties. What circumstances might warrant felony prosecution for impaired driving allegations?

Causing injury or death

One of the most common reasons that people face more serious OVI charges is that their actions have negative consequences for other people. If someone causes a crash or hits a pedestrian as part of an OVI infraction, the state could charge them with aggravated vehicular assault, which is a third-degree felony. If someone causes a crash where another person dies, that could constitute aggravated vehicular homicide. The allegedly impaired driver might face second-degree felony charges.

Repeatedly driving while under the influence

OVI offenses have high rates of recidivism. Essentially, someone arrested for drunk driving once has a decent chance of getting arrested for similar charges again in the future. If someone has three prior OVI convictions within the last decade, then a fourth offense could lead to third-degree felony charges. If someone pleads guilty or gets convicted of six OVI charges within 20 years, that would also lead to felony charges. It’s also worth noting that anyone who has previously faced a felony OVI charge typically faces felony charges for any future OVI offenses.

The nature of the allegations brought by the state should influence how someone responds to Ohio drunk driving charges. Understanding what may lead to more serious charges and penalties may benefit those accused of impairment at the wheel. Seeking personalized legal guidance is a wise place to start.