Like so many times before, officers responded to a call about a suspected drunk driver. The officers approached the driver and noticed the driver had the usual indications of intoxication: slurred speech and the odor of alcohol. Like most D.U.I. cases, the driver failed field sobriety tests and a breath test. Unlike most cases, however, the incident occurred on the driver’s front yard. Yes, Dennis Jones was arrested for driving under the influence in his front yard in Paisley, Florida. Could this happen in Columbus, Ohio?
The answer to this question has changed during my career. Ohio O.V.I. law has changed so many times it’s hard to keep track. Beginning with the enactment of the “modern” D.U.I./O.V.I. law in 1982, Ohio Revised Code section 4511.19 has been amended nearly 20 times, and that’s only one statute! There are many other statutes affecting O.V.I./D.U.I. defense that have also undergone multiple amendments during this time. As the law stands now, a person in Ohio can, in fact, be charged with O.V.I. on private property. For many traffic offenses, Ohio law prohibits certain conduct on a public road or highway. For O.V.I., however, O.R.C. section 4511.19 prohibits operating a vehicle under the influence anywhere “within this state”.
There is an exception in Ohio law for bicycles. According to O.R.C. section 4511.52, a person can only be charged with an O.V.I. on a bicycle if the person operates the bicycle “upon a highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles”. So if you’re going to drive drunk on private property, do it on a bike and stay off the bike paths!