The Impact of a DUI on a Professional’s Career

In a recent incident, a school bus driver in central Ohio has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of drunken driving and endangering children. On November 25, a school bus was pulled over after several individuals reported erratic driving. The bus’s driver admitted to drinking alcohol before beginning her route, and an open container of whiskey was found in the bus. On checking her blood levels, her BAC was over twice the legal limit. Two children were on the bus during this incident, but neither were harmed. She is said to be entering an alcohol treatment program and she faces up to 6 months in prison at her sentencing hearing in February.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the driver quit her job as a bus driver last week. This could be pre-empting the disciplinary actions she could face a result of this charge. A DUI charge can adversely impact the careers of many professionals, including bus drivers, lawyers, and law enforcement officers.

Apart from the potential for fines and jail time, a charge for a DUI-related offense can lead to disciplinary hearings, suspension of a professional license, and even the loss of a professional’s job. This can make a single offense have a huge impact on the life and career of the alleged offender. Many jobs, such as pilots, have requirements for arrested individuals to report their criminal charges within a certain time limit. The individual situations for each career type vary, but if you are a professional who has been charged with a DUI offense, a lawyer can help you determine what’s in store for your career as a result of these charges.

Some professions that can be impacted by a DUI charge include:

  • Doctors
  • Dentists
  • Nurses
  • EMTs
  • Pilots
  • Stock Brokers
  • Lawyers
  • Commercial Drivers
  • Teachers
  • Real estate agents
  • Professional athletes

Because DUI convictions cannot be expunged from your record in Ohio, they can have a lasting effect of your future. When seeking to gain a certain professional license, including a CDL license, your traffic history and criminal background may be reviewed. A DUI in your past can easily influence your employment opportunities.

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Ohio’s DUI Repeat Offenders Registry and the Current Issues with it

Almost every state in the U.S. has a sex offender registry, where those convicted of sexual related offenses are listed for the public to see. In a similar way, Ohio employs an OVI Repeat Offender Registry. Any person who is convicted of 5 DUI offenses within a 20 year period is added to this database. Their information, including their address, can be accessed by the public through this online listing. Once 20 years have passed without the offender committing 5 DUI crimes, their name is removed from the registry. The database was established to help law enforcement keep track of repeat offenders and keep Ohio’s streets safer.

However, recent analysis of the registry has revealed that it is largely incomplete and outdated. Many of the counties throughout Ohio, including Delaware County, are not listed at all in the registry. In fact, The Columbus Dispatch cites that only about half of the counties are represented in the list, and many habitual offenders are not properly included.

The registry was created in 2008, and each person listed must have committed at least one DUI offense since that time. Currently, there are about 520 individuals registered in the database, and not all of the information is accurate.

According to the Dispatch, the Ohio Public Department of Public Safety assembles the entries for the registry from information sent to it by the individual courts throughout the state. There is currently no penalty against courts that do not provide repeat offender information to the state, and there seems to be confusion amongst many counties as to whether they have been or are even able to submit the required information for the registry.

This raises some important concerns about the use of this public database. Not only is the registry surely missing many offenders, it may also contain incorrect information about those who are listed. With the inaccuracy of the record so high, it seems to currently be a drain on taxpayer’s money and the court’s time. If the database cannot be relied upon for accurate information, it ceases to be a database of any value to attorneys, law enforcement, and the general public.

Those who support the use of the registry are seeking out answers as to why it is not maintained and hoping to reform the procedures involved. For those already registered or facing addition to the untrustworthy records, a system so out of date is cause for concern.

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Labor Day Weekend OVI in Ohio

As the summer draws to a close, many tourists and locals will be out to finish the season with a last hurrah over Labor Day weekend. The four-day weekend induced by the National Holiday will give everyone a chance to take trips, socialize, and relax. For some, that includes drinking with friends, and in light of the festivities, it’s important to proceed with caution when alcohol is involved. The Columbus police force will be on the look-out for drunk or drugged drivers, and may have checkpoints set-up to catch those with a BAC of more than .08. Nearly 700 individuals were reported as OVI, or more commonly known as DUI, offenders for 2012, and both local officers and highway patrolmen will be on high alert.

If you are pulled over while driving, that means that the officer already has probable cause, meaning a compelling reason, to stop you. This can range from a broken tail-light to speeding, but once you are stopped, the officer will keep an eye out for any signs of intoxication. If an officer notices any of the following, you may be arrested on suspicion of OVI:

  • Slurred or nonsensical speech
  • Inability to follow the officer’s directions
  • Statements or admission of guilt by you or a passenger
  • Open containers in the vehicle
  • Smell of alcohol
  • Unusually enlarged or constricted pupils

The officer may suspect that you are intoxicated if he finds any of the above, and you may be asked to complete a field sobriety test. You are not legally required to take this test, and it can be more difficult to pass than one would expect. If you refuse the test or fail, you may be asked to take a BAC test in the form of a breathalyzer, blood test, or urine test. There are legal ramifications for refusing these tests, unlike the field sobriety test.

If you are arrested for OVI in Ohio this weekend, you could face anywhere between 180 days and 18 months in prison and / or up to $5,000 in fines, depending on your circumstances. You may also have your license suspended and you may be required to participate in an intervention program. Remember that in the event of an arrest, you do have the right to remain silent and it may be in your best interest to consult an attorney before speaking to the police.

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A Closer Look at What 0.05 BAC Means

With such a big change on the discussion table about what the legal BAC means, it’s important to closely examine what impact the NTSB’s proposition would have. In a drastic step to decrease drunk driving, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report earlier this year recommending that states lower the level of blood alcohol level (BAC) required for an OVI arrest. Currently in all 50 states, BAC must be at 0.08 for am OVI, commonly known as DUI, but the proposed level would only be 0.05. That’s about a 50% cut in how much alcohol can be in a person’s blood while driving.

To put this in perspective, currently an average sized adult can drink about 2 beers and a couple of margaritas. According to The Police Notebook BAC calculator, under the new proposal a person who weighs 160 pounds could only have one of the following before being unable to drive:

  • 2 light beers
  • 1 dry martini
  • 1 frozen daiquiri
  • 2 glasses of wine

A smaller person may be unable to have so much as a glass of wine at dinner. This also means the average woman wouldn’t be able to have more than 1 drink without being considered legally impaired.

The recommendation was met with approval by some, including the Governors Highway Safety Association and MADD, who laud the change as preventing drunk-driver related deaths. Although the number of alcohol related driving fatalities has been on the decline for years, they say that a reduced BAC requirement will further help reduce them. The report estimates that this measure would reduce fatalities by 500-800 each year.

However, opponents of the proposal say that this will do very little to help with drunk drivers and instead will hamper responsibly drinking adults and the restaurant industry’s workers. The American Beverage Institute, which represents 8,000 restaurants and their workers, has said that this measure focuses on moderate drinkers instead of the real problem. They say that that reducing the BAC so severely will keep reasonable and safe adults from being able to relax and have a drink while crippling servers working at restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages with little to show for it. Sarah Longwell, spokeswoman for the organization, compared the recommendation to a situation when “people are driving though an intersection at 90 miles an hour and so you drop the speed limit from 35 to 25.”

Over 70% of alcohol related traffic fatalities are attributed to drivers with a BAC or over 0.15, twice the current legal limit. So when the majority of deaths result from drivers who are far over the allowed BAC, will lowering that BAC help the problem? Opponents of the recommendation say that it would be more beneficial to focus efforts on repeat offenders and those far over the legal limit. Concerns have been raised that more drivers will face a first DUI arrest and its serious consequences without any real progress being made to protect lives.

The NTSB does not hold any actual authority to draft laws or legislation, but their recommendation certainly has weight in debates over the future of DUI legislation. The board initially made the recommendation in 1982 that the legal limit be decreased from 0.10 to 0.08.

Speculation has emerged over what this could mean for technology in cars as well. Testing will soon be underway for car devices that test BAC, with the possibility of this technology coming standard in all cars. If the legal BAC might be undergoing changes, this could lead to a hiccup in this development. If the debate over the legal BAC interferes with the development and production of these devices, it might interfere with their ability to save lives. The question would then come down to whether a device that refuses to start your car if you’ve been drinking or a lower BAC law would prevent more drunk-driving deaths.

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New Drug Recognition Experts in Ohio

In another step to crack down on rising numbers of individuals operating a vehicle the influence (OVI), commonly known as DUI, on the roads, Ohio has begun enacting a new strategy to gauge whether a driver is intoxicated or drugged while behind the wheel. Funded by federal grants, Ohio became the 48th state to train officers to act as DREs, or Drug Recognition Experts. This gives certain trained officers the ability and authority to analyze whether a person is under the influence of drugs, even if the drugs have been prescribed and are being used legally. These officers are also trained in spotting the differences between a drunk driver and a drug-impaired one.

Beginning in 2010, Ohio has specially trained 71 law enforcement officers for this task, four of which operate in Columbus. The use of these officers has become more widespread, and in 2012 alone 480 evaluations were performed on drivers.

Law enforcement is enthusiastic about the new assessment procedure, and supports the new ability to assess drivers. The program claims to have an 86 percent accuracy rate when compared to urine and blood tests. State officials have praised the ability for the trained officers to be able to comment on a driver’s mental state and how much he or she is actually impaired as opposed to simple numbers that they say may not reflect an individual’s state.

However, criminal defense lawyers aren’t thrilled by this new prospect. Some opponents of the DREs say that the accuracy rate is far lower than publicized, and they cite the subjectivity of personal assessment rather than scientific evidence as cause for concern. Critics worry that the patrolmen will push alleged offenders into participating in the evaluation and incriminating themselves when they have no legal obligation to do so. The program is new and those accused might not be aware of their rights in this situation. The legal ramifications of refusing to submit to a blood of urine test may also scare drivers into succumbing to the assessment, despite the fact that they cannot be punished for doing so.

Whether the assessments of these DREs will be permissible in court remains to be seen. No case has been brought before a judge yet, but when one is it will set a precedent for using these tests in the future. DUI attorneys are worried about the outcome, however. If a DRE’s assessment is deemed legal proof of impairment, then even if a driver’s BAC is below the legal limit they may still be facing jail time, fines, and a mark on their record.

Ohio plans to continue furthering the program while also training the rest of its officers in spotting drug use. For those that are pulled over and accused of drug use, your rights can be confusing. The best course of action may be to refuse to answer any questions or make any statements without a defense lawyer present.

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4th of July DUI in Ohio

Independence Day is a time to celebrate American history with family and friends, but it can be easy to get caught up in the festivities. The Fourth of July is one of the biggest days of the year for driving under the influence arrests, commonly known as DUI, DWI or OVI depending on the state. In 2011, almost 600 OVI arrests were made by Ohio State Highway Patrol. Ohio has strict laws and harsh penalties for those convicted of an OVI (Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence) offense, ranging from prison time to heavy fines and driver’s license suspensions. These accusations carry serious consequences that can impact all areas of your life.

A person found to have blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than .08 while in physical control of a vehicle can be charged with OVI, according to Chapter 4511 of the Ohio Revised Code. The penalties for the offense increase, however, if the person’s BAC is higher than .17.

The majority of DUI offenders have never been charged before and are facing their first DUI. For first-time offenders with BAC of less than .17, an OVI is usually categorized as a first degree misdemeanor. This can carry a sentence of up to 6 months in prison, but any OVI convictions comes with a mandatory 3 days in jail. If the driver had BAC over .17, however, they may also be required to participate in a driver’s intervention program. In addition, an offender convicted of OVI can face fines from $375 to $1, 075, and the person’s driving privileges can also be suspended from 6 months to three years. A defense attorney may be able to assist you with getting a special permit to drive for purposes such as education and work during your suspension.

If an offender is charged with another DUI within 6 years, the penalties increase as outlined by Ohio Revised Code 4511.19. For a second OVI offense, the offender must serve a mandatory 10 days in jail, and may be sentenced for up to 6 additional months. Fines of up to $1500 can also be ordered, and your license can also be suspended. Subsequent OVI charges continue to increase potential consequences, and if you accrue more than 3 OVIs within 6 years, you may be charged with Felony DUI in Ohio. This means that the charge is a fourth degree felony, and carries potential sentences of up to $10,000 in fines and / or up to 5 years in prison.

In addition to jail time and fees, OVIs can have other negative impacts on your future. Unless a lawyer can help you get the charges reduced or dropped, the offense may go on your record, which can affect your educational, housing, and employment opportunities. Your insurance will probably go up if you are convicted, and you can even be dropped altogether.

Remember to drive safely during the festivities this Independence Day. If you find yourself facing charges after the holiday, seeking legal help may be the best option to work toward a not-guilty verdict, a case dismissal or another favorable outcome. An attorney may be able to fight a blood or urine test, as these tests are administered by humans and are subject to error. These tests are often the prosecution’s key evidence against you, and a lawyer can try to get these thrown out, minimizing your chances of a conviction.

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NTSB .05 BAC Recommendation and Ohio OVI Law

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made a new recommendation today regarding what should constitute the legal limit when it comes to blood or breath alcohol content (BAC) for driving under the influence (DUI) in all 50 states. The new recommendation would lower the BAC level of .08 that Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) and related organizations championed and fought for in the 1980s to a mere .05, which can be feasibly achieved by only two drinks in an hour in the average American male, and one drink an hour for the average American female.

The NTSB claims that such a reduction in BAC limits by the states would restart the stalled reduction in DUI-related deaths originally sparked by the earlier MADD initiatives like raising the drinking age to 21 and lowering the legal limit to BAC .08, bringing the number of alcohol-related traffic deaths closer to zero. DUI fatalities in the United States dropped from 20,000 to just over 9,500 between 1980 and 2011, or from 40% of all traffic deaths to 31% allegedly due to awareness campaigns and states gradually implementing these legal recommendations. The reduction in DUI-related deaths occurred mainly in the 1990s, beginning to stall out by the end of the decade.

The board alleges that lowering the legal limit from a BAC of .08 to a BAC of .05 would save approximately 500-800 more lives a year, while the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety gives a higher number at 7,000 lives a year. The NTSB points to other countries to back up their claim. Most European countries have a BAC legal limit of .05, and Australia recently watched their alcohol-related traffic deaths decrease by 12 percent after the implementation of a legal limit of BAC .05.

Many people strongly disagree with the recommendation for reducing the legal limit, claiming it would do nothing but put responsible, unimpaired drivers at risk for an expensive DUI conviction by blatantly ignoring the variables in the relationship between driving ability, BAC, and impairment in each individual. The managing director for the American Beverage Institute, Sarah Longwell, called the recommendation "ludicrous" and pointed out that in the 1980s "groups like MADD assured the country, that, based on all the science, 0.08 BAC was absolutely, unequivocally where the legal threshold should be set for drunk driving."

Longwell then questions whether it’s the science that has changed, or the goals of anti-alcohol activists. The American Beverage Institute instead believes that the focus should be on the drivers with higher BAC levels, since more than 70% of DUI fatalities are caused by drivers with a BAC of 0.15 or higher – which represents an average consumption of six or seven drinks. Since these drivers are already on the roads with a BAC limit of .08, what would a BAC limit of .05 do but cause an increase in arrests in what would otherwise be responsible drivers, the ABI alleges.

The NTSB can’t put the BAC reduction into place, but many state legislators will take the recommendation seriously, as well as the organization’s recommendation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to provide financial incentive to the states that implement the changes.

When it comes to Ohio DUI, known in this state as Operating a Vehicle while Impaired or OVI, the recommendation to lower the BAC limit from 08 to .05 is not only "ludicrous" as Longwell says, but unnecessary. According to O.R.C. § 4511.19 it is an illegal OVI offense for any person to operate a vehicle in Ohio if under the influence of alcohol, a drug of abuse, or combination, or with a BAC level of .08 or higher.

An OVI offense in Ohio is therefore simply driving while impaired at any BAC level, with .08 acting essentially as a mandatory BAC guideline for intoxication. Since an arrest for drunken driving in Ohio is primarily based on the impairment of the driver, lowering the BAC level in Ohio OVI law to .05 would just be redundant. If you are concerned about the NTSB’s OVI law recommendations affecting your Franklin County OVI charge, or are seeking to fight for a reduction or dismissal of your Columbus area OVI case, it is strongly recommended you seek the counsel of an experienced Columbus OVI defense lawyer to explore all of the defense options available to you.

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Penalties for Underage OVI During Spring Break 2012

Underage Offender

Spring break is a prime occasion for consuming alcohol and partying, especially in college towns across Ohio. Yes, alcohol remains illegal for those less than twenty-one years of age, but historically that ban has had negligible impact on keeping liquor and beer out of the hands of minors. One of the most dangerous parts of any scenario involving copious amounts of drinking or even drug use is driving under the influence.

As you can imagine, Ohio does not treat people who drive while intoxicated or drugged lightly – especially not underage drunk drivers. Driving under the influence is commonly referred to as DUI in many states, and even Ohio. However, according to the state statute, this crime is actually called OVI – Operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. When a minor is charged with the offense, it is referred to as Operating a Vehicle After Under Age Consumption (OVUAC).

If a driver under the age of 21 is arrested for a first OVI in Ohio after driving with a blood alcohol content level between .02% and less than 0.08%, several things may happen. The first is immediate suspension of their Ohio driver’s license by the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles. The license will remain suspended for a period of 90 days to 2 years, according to section 4510.02(A)(6) of the Ohio Revised Codes.

Other penalties may include a $250 fine, 30 days of jail time and / or probation, an alcohol treatment program ordered by the court, as well as a remedial driver’s instruction class. Penalties are stiffer if this is a repeat DUI offense or if the blood alcohol content level was greater than 0.08%.

Underage drunk drivers who receive conviction while enrolled in a public Ohio university will also lose financial aid given by the state for a period of two years.

Other penalties related to underage drunk driving are possible sanctions by the driver’s college or university. Many colleges in Ohio maintain their own honor code, which they expect all students to abide by. Depending on the terms laid out in their code or student handbooks, there can be additional punishment for crimes, even if they were not committed on campus. A student disciplinary council may be called to determine penalties such as suspension, exclusion from extracurricular activities, and potentially even expulsion.

Keep in mind that an arrest for allegedly driving while intoxicated does not mean that conviction is automatic. An experienced defense attorney can help the driver avoid or minimize any penalties. Many defense lawyers also represent clients during student disciplinary hearings, helping ensure their education and future career opportunities do not suffer.

Ohio is home to many of the nation’s top colleges and universities, including Kent State, Ohio State University, Ohio University, Wright State University, Youngstown State University and others. Law enforcement officers will still be vigilant to drivers under the age of 21 who behave suspiciously on the road. Please drive responsibly this Spring Break.

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Holiday Season Means DUI Checkpoints

‘Tis the season for holiday parties, meaning ’tis the season for frequent DUI stops. Police will be on the lookout for drunk drivers, and are likely to set up OVI checkpoints this season. Despite what you may have heard, police officers are not prone to let drivers they suspect of driving under the influence off easy due to Christmas spirit — they’re just as likely to arrest you as any other time of the year. Penalties for an OVI are significant, with a required three day jail sentence that could extend up to 180 days and up to a $1,075 fine — and that’s just the first offense. The second offense carries a 10-day minimum sentence and a 1-5 year suspension of your driver’s license. Penalties continue to increase after that.

Police must announce a checkpoint ahead of time, and it will often be mentioned on the local media’s website. Usually, the reports will say where the checkpoints will be, and what hours they will be operational. However, you have to be vigilant, and if you’re not looking for news about checkpoints, it’s easy to miss. Checkpoints are frequently at night, but Ohio police also have them during the day. Earlier this month, a checkpoint on South High Street was held from noon to 4 p.m., and snagged two OVI arrests and 11 other citations. The checkpoints tend to be more frequent during holiday seasons, especially for holidays known for alcohol consumption, like New Years.

Even at a checkpoint, you can refuse a field sobriety test or breath test. Your refusal will lead to an automatic suspension of your license for a year. However, it will also deny prosecutors an important piece of evidence they could use against you.

A positive test will not automatically mean a conviction, just as refusing a test does not automatically mean you’ll go free. In either situation, an experienced Columbus DUI defense attorney can help argue your case, and fight evidence. There are also specific procedures police must go through, and many ways for your rights to be violated. An attorney will fight for your rights.

The best way to ensure a safe holiday is to make sure to use a designated driver or to call a cab. But if you wind up being arrested for drunk driving charges, our attorneys are here to help you.

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