What You Should Know about Being Stopped for Drunk Driving

​​Q:  If I am stopped by the police after I’ve had a few drinks, what should I do?
A:  First, pull to the right side of the roadway as soon as you can do so safely.  Keep your hands on the steering wheel. Do not begin to search for paperwork until the officer asks you to. After providing your identifying information, you have a right to politely inform the officer that you will not answer any further questions without first speaking to an attorney. 

Q:  If I’ve said I won’t answer further questions without an attorney, and the officer tells me to get out of the car, do I have to comply?
A:  Yes. You must get out of the car if ordered to do so. If you do not, you could be charged with a crime. 

Q:  What should I do if the officer wants to give me a sobriety test?
A:  Once you are out of your car, you have the right to politely refuse all roadside sobriety tests. You are not required to perform roadside sobriety tests and it is not a crime to refuse to perform the roadside sobriety tests. 

Q:  What happens if the officer arrests me?
A:  If you are arrested, you will be asked to submit to one or more chemical tests (breath, blood and/or urine) to measure your BAC (Blood Alcohol Content). You can choose whether or not to submit to a chemical test, but you should be aware that, under certain circumstances, refusing the test itself may be a crime. Also, if you refuse to submit to a chemical test, you face the possibility of a longer administrative license suspension (ALS). Further, if you have been convicted of another drunk driving offense within the last 20 years, the mandatory minimum jail sentence may be doubled.

On the other hand, if you submit to a chemical test and test results show you were over the legal limit, you are more likely to be convicted of an OVI than if you refuse to take the test. In most cases, the test results will be used as evidence of your guilt. Also, if you take the test and you have a BAC of more than .17, the mandatory minimum jail sentence will be doubled.
Q:  Let’s say I have one prior OVI conviction and refuse to submit to testing. My friend, who also has one prior OVI conviction, submits to a test and has a BAC of at least a .08 but less than .17. Is there a difference in the minimum amount of time each of us might spend in jail?
A:   According to Ohio law, if you have been convicted of an OVI offense within the past 20 years, and you refuse to submit to a chemical test, you risk doubling the minimum amount of time you might spend in jail. That “minimum time” you may face depends on how many OVI convictions you have had within the past six years. 

If this had been only your first conviction within the past six years, the minimum sentence would have been three days in jail or a 72-hour Driver Intervention Program. Since this is your second conviction within six years, you would normally face a minimum jail sentence of 10 days. However, because you refused testing, you face the possibility of double that time (a minimum of 20 days in jail), whereas your friend, who submitted to testing, would face a minimum of only 10 days. 

If this had been your third conviction in six years, you would have faced a minimum jail sentence of 60 days (double the 30 days’ minimum because you refused testing).  

Q:  I’ve heard that some cities in Ohio are tougher on OVI offenses than others. Is that true?
A:  Yes; it is true that the codes of some Ohio municipalities are stricter than the State Code. When that is the case, the municipality’s code takes precedence over the state’s code. For example, the Columbus City Code has what is called a “lifetime lookback” period. This means that, in Columbus, any prior OVI, no matter how many years ago it was, will be considered when deciding penalties. 


This "Law You Can Use" consumer legal information column was provided by the Ohio State Bar Association. It was originally prepared by attorney Jon J. Saia, a partner in the Columbus law firm, Saia & Piatt, Inc., and updated by Jessica G. D'Varga of the same firm. 

Articles appearing in this column are intended to provide broad, general information about the law. This article is not intended to be legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific legal problem, readers are urged to seek advice from a licensed attorney.



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