Proof of Prior Convictions in Misdemeanor OVI Cases

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A conviction for a drunk driving misdemeanor (OVI) charge carries certain mandatory sentencing provisions, which increase depending on the number of prior convictions for the same or similar offense within the “look back” period.  For example, a first simple DUI offense I within a six year period carries a mandatory 3 day jail term, whereas a second offense simple OVI within the preceding six-year period carries a mandatory 10 day jail term.

The prosecutor, in a DUI misdemeanor case, does not have to prove the prior convictions beyond a reasonable doubt because the prior conviction is not an element of the offense of drunk driving.  In fact, the prosecutor is not allowed to mention the prior DUI misdemeanor or felony conviction to the jury during a trial.  Rather, the prior conviction is a sentencing factor to be considered by the judge.  The exception to this rule is for a misdemeanor OVI charge under R.C. 4511.19(A)(2), which requires proof of a prior conviction within the last 20 years and the defendant refused to submit to a chemical test after he was arrested for OVI.

Prosecutors routinely use unofficial BMV or other law enforcement records to prove that a defendant has a prior drunk driving conviction at sentencing.  Often, the existence of a prior DUI felony or misdemeanor conviction is not a matter up for debate because both the prosecutor and the defense attorney are aware of the prior conviction.  However, when proof of a prior conviction is an element of the offense, such as for a felony OVI charge or a misdemeanor OVI charge under R.C. 4511.19(A)(2), the proof required is beyond a reasonable doubt and can be challenged on technical grounds.

If you’ve been arrested for OVI in Columbus and have questions about how a prior conviction can be used against you, contact an Experienced OVI Attorney at (614) 547-5757.