When is a DUI a Felony?

Driving under the influence (DUI), known as Operating a vehicle impaired (OVI) in Ohio is a serious criminal offense that poses substantial short- and long-term consequences to those who are convicted. While any DUI / OVI offense can result in fines, imprisonment, a criminal record, driver’s license suspension, probation, and other penalties, there are certain situations where drivers can face even stiffer charges and penalties for OVI.

At L. Patrick Mulligan & Associates, LLC, our Dayton DUI / OVI attorneys have cultivated a record of success protecting the rights, freedoms, and futures of clients charged with operating a vehicle impaired. While most DUI cases are prosecuted as misdemeanors, there are times when these charges can be elevated to felonies. Those are the times when working with a proven DUI defense firm becomes critical.

In Ohio, a DUI / OVI can be elevated to a felony when certain aggravating circumstances are involved. These include:

  • Multiple convictions – Ohio takes a tough stance on habitual offenders, or drivers who have had multiple convictions for OVI in the past. Under state law, you can be charged with a felony if you are convicted of a fourth DUI / OVI within 6 years based on Ohio's lookback period. Additionally, you can be charged with a felony is you are convicted of a sixth DUI / OVI within 20 years.
  • DUI causing injury – You can face felony charges for aggravated vehicular assault if you cause an accident that causes serious harm to another person while driving under the influence of either alcohol or drugs. Aggravated vehicular assault can be prosecuted as a third-degree felony, which carries penalties that include up to $10k in fines and up to 5 years in prison. In cases where additional aggravating circumstances are present, such as driving on a suspended license or having prior OVI convictions, the charge can be elevated to a felony of the second degree, which is punishable by up to 8 years in state prison.
  • DUI causing death – Aggravated vehicular homicide is the most serious DUI / OVI offense a person can face in the state of Ohio, and it is prosecuted in cases involving fatal collisions. Depending on the facts of the case, this charge can be prosecuted as a felony of the first, second, or third degree, all of which impose mandatory terms of imprisonment.
  • Prior felony DUI – If you have been convicted of a felony DUI / OVI for any reason in the past, any new DUI / OVI charge will be prosecuted as a felony, regardless of whether the offense itself constitutes a felony and regardless of whether any prior convictions are beyond the state’s lookback period.

Penalties for a Various Degrees of an OVI Charge

If you’ve never been accused of an OVI, you may not know that most first-time OVI charges are misdemeanors. These offenses carry significantly fewer or less severe punishments than felonies. For example, for a first-time OVI, you may face the following penalties:

  • 3 days to 6 months in jail
  • A fine of $375 to $1,075
  • Mandatory alcohol treatment program
  • Driver’s license suspension of 6 months to 3 years
  • Installation of the Ignition Interlock Device (IID)
  • Mandatory yellow license plate

Second- and third-OVI punishments go up from there. For example, you may have to go to jail and be under electronically monitored house arrest, and you might have your license suspended for up to 5 years with a second conviction. A third OVI could result in license suspension of 10 years.

The misdemeanor becomes a felony on your fourth OVI conviction. If your fourth OVI is within 6 years of your previous offenses, you might be convicted of a fourth-degree felony. This conviction could lead to a prison sentence, lifetime license suspension, and a fine of up to $10,000. A second felony might mean 5 years in prison.

If this is your first OVI charge and someone was severely injured or killed as a result of your driving, you could face a first-degree felony. A charge of this nature results in a mandatory prison sentence of 10 years and a $20,000 fine, or a third-degree felony, which includes a mandatory prison term of 1 to 5 years.

What to Expect When Charged with Felony OVI

When an OVI becomes a felony, anyone facing the charges should understand that the stakes are far higher than those in misdemeanor DUI cases. Felony allegations can threaten a person’s reputation, profession, financial stability, and future. They are also grounds for sentences in a state prison. Additionally, felony DUI / OVI convictions can subject drivers to lengthy license suspensions or revocations, substantial fines and fees, loss of civil rights such as voting and gun ownership, and the repercussions of having a felony on one’s criminal record, among other consequences.

If you or someone you loved stands accused of felony DUI / OVI, working with a proven defense firm should be your primary concern. Our legal team is led by Attorney L. Partrick Mulligan, a Board Certified Criminal Law Specialist by the National Board of Trial Advocacy. By drawing from Attorney Mulligan’s expertise and the insight of our entire legal team, we are able to provide the aggressive and effective defense clients need when everything is on the line.

Don’t wait to make the most important call you can. Contact us 24/7 for a free case review.

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