Should Ohio Add A New DUI/OVI Charge?

The police chief in Austin, Texas recently proposed that the State add a new charge of “Driving While Ability Impaired”. Currently in Texas, a driver with a BAC of .08 or higher is considered to be under the influence. The proposed law would punish those drivers whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is between .05 and .07, according to a report by Fox News. The proposal in Texas raises the question of whether Ohio should consider adding a new charge for drivers with a BAC between .05 and .07.

Ohio’s current laws already punish drivers who “drive with ability impaired”. R.C. 4511.19(a)(1)(a) makes it illegal to operate a vehicle “under the influence” of alcohol. A driver is considered to be “under the influence” in Ohio if the consumed alcohol adversely affects and noticeably impairs a driver’s ability to operate a vehicle. Under this “impaired” law, it does not matter how much alcohol is consumed; if it is proven that the alcohol is adversely affecting the driver’s ability to drive, the driver is guilty, regardless of how much or how little alcohol was consumed.

Ohio’s current laws also punish drivers who drive with a prohibited concentration of alcohol in their system. R.C. 4511.19(a)(1)(b) to (a)(1)(k) make it illegal to operate a vehicle with prohibited concentrations of alcohol in one’s blood, breath, or urine. This law doesn’t merely presume a driver is under the influence, it flatly makes it illegal to drive with prohibited amounts of alcohol in your system. Under these “per se” laws, if a driver is caught driving with an alcohol concentration above the legal limit, the driver is guilty of O.V.I. even if the alcohol is not adversely affecting the ability to drive.

As Ohio’s current laws already address “driving while ability impaired” and also address driving with a prohibited concentration of alcohol, adding a new charge like the one proposed in Texas would be redundant and would only serve to add confusion to the already convoluted O.V.I. laws with severe O.V.I. penalties.