This week we are featuring an article written by Curt Kissinger, a guest columnist with http://www.cincinnati.com.
Beginning in April, significant changes to Ohio’s operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol (“OVI”) laws are set to be implemented.
Ohio House Bill 388, known as Annie’s Law, is named for Chillicothe attorney Annie Rooney, who was killed by a multiple prior OVI offender in an automobile accident on US 50.
Ohio law prohibits drivers from operating a motor vehicle if their ability to operate a vehicle is appreciably or noticeably impaired by alcohol or drugs. The statute creates a separate offense for driving a vehicle with a prohibited blood-alcohol level. An OVI conviction requires the court to impose mandatory penalties related to jail time, fines, license suspension, and vehicle immobilization and forfeiture.
Under Annie’s Law, the mandatory minimum suspension of a driver’s license, for a first-time offender, increases to a minimum one-year suspension from the previous six-month suspension. The maximum length of the suspension remains three years. For individuals with prior OVI convictions, the new law increases the length of the suspension.
To address concerns regarding individuals with multiple OVI convictions, Ohio law provides an array of increased mandatory penalties for offenders who have prior OVI convictions within the past six years. Annie’s Law increases this “look back” period from six to 10 years. By way of example, if a driver is convicted of a new OVI charge, and had a prior OVI conviction eight years ago, the mandatory penalty for the new OVI would be no greater than the mandatory sentence for a first-time offender. Under the new law, that prior conviction would now fall within the 10-year look back period and subject the defendant to increased penalties.
The most significant change created by Annie’s Law involves first-offenders and the use of the ignition-interlock device (“IID”). The IID is installed in the ignition of a vehicle requiring the driver to submit a breath test before the vehicle will start. If alcohol is detected, the vehicle will not start and notice of the failed start, and the breath test result, is recorded.
For the first offender, the mandatory minimum license suspension increases to one-year. However, Annie’s Law will now permit a defendant to request the court to allow unlimited driving privileges with the installation of the IID. The theory being that the IID provides the greatest assurance that an individual is not driving under the influence of alcohol. If a person requests the IID, the new law will allow the court to reduce the mandatory minimum suspension from one-year to six-months. If a driver has a positive alcohol reading or tries to tamper with or circumvent the IID, the length of the suspension may be doubled.
Hopefully, future legislative changes aren’t necessitated as a result of the tragic loss of life on Ohio’s highways.
Judge Curt Kissinger is a judge on the Hamilton County Municipal Court and is chair of the Court’s Criminal and Traffic Law Committee. He is elected from the 4th judicial district which includes Anderson Township, Mount Washington, Newtown, Mariemont, Fairfax, Hyde Park, Mount Lookout and Oakley.