Operating a Vehicle Impaired (OVI) Does Not Mean Drunk Driving

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“But officer, I’m not drunk!”  The legal standard in Ohio for the offense commonly known as “drunk driving” is not whether the defendant was drunk.  In Ohio, it is illegal:  (1) to be operating a vehicle impaired with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or greater, or (2) to operate a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.  Under Ohio law, under the influence does not equal drunk.  A jury in an OVI case will be instructed that:

What Does OVI Mean?

“Under the influence” means that the defendant consumed some alcohol, whether mild or potent, in such a quantity, whether small or great, that it adversely affected and noticeably impaired the defendant’s actions, reaction, or mental processes under the circumstances then existing and deprived the defendant of that clearness of intellect and control of himself which he would otherwise have possessed.

The question is not how much alcohol would affect an ordinary person.  The question is what effect did any alcohol, consumed by the defendant, have on him at the time and place involved.  If the consumption of alcohol so affected the nervous system, brain, or muscles of the defendant so as to impair, to a noticeable degree, his ability to operate a vehicle, then the defendant was under the influence.

Ohio Jury Instruction 711.19.

Ohio, like most states, has lowered the threshold from “drunk” to merely being under the influence.  Even though the threshold has changed, the evidence remains the same – bad driving, bloodshot and glassy eyes, odor of alcohol, slurred speech, stumbling/unsteady on feet, poor performance on field sobriety tests, etc.

If you have been arrested for DUI and wish to get your questions answered by an experienced Columbus DUI Attorney, call our offices at (614) 547-5757 for a free consultation.