OVI penalties tighten

By Dean Wright - deanwright@civitasmedia.com

OHIO VALLEY — With April 4 soon upon Ohioans, drivers choosing to ride under the influence should beware as Ohio’s regulations will tighten the Ohio Revised Code around potential offenders.

According to Gallipolis City Solicitor Adam Salisbury, if a driver has a prior operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) charge, instead of looking back six years, law enforcement can look back up to 10 years to potentially increase penalties associated with a conviction of an OVI if the individual has repeated the offense. License suspensions have also been made broader.

“Even on your first OVI, it’s a one year license suspension and (with the potential of) an interlock device,” said Salisbury. “They’ve (the state) also created a new classification of charge for tampering with an interlocked device.”

Salisbury said an ignition-interlock device is a contraption placed in an automobile used to monitor a convicted OVI driver’s breath much like a breathalyzer used by police. If a driver blows above the legal limit, the device will not allow the driver to turn click on the ignition. It will also catalogue the failed start and breath test result. Even a first time offender, if convicted, will be required to make use of these devices.

Minimum license suspension time is increased to a year when it was previously a six-month suspension. An individual who tampers with or blows into a device in substitute for a convicted offender could be looking at jail time if caught.

New law changes allow for defendants to request driving privileges from the court as long as the interlock device is connected to their vehicle. Driver license suspensions are still limited to three years max. Suspensions can potentially be cut in half if defendants make use of the interlock device.

The OVI changes have been referred to as “Annie’s Law” across the state. According to annierooney.com and Annie Rooney’s obituary, “Anna Louise Rooney, always known as Annie, of Chillicothe, Ohio was killed by a drunk driver on on July 4, 2013, at around 9 p.m. Annie was traveling home after borrowing a bike for an upcoming race when an oncoming driver crossed into her lane on US Rte 50, just outside of Chillicothe.”

Rooney had previous served as a prosecuting attorney in Bozeman, Mont. The OVI law changes were inspired in part due to the desire to prevent death’s like Rooney’s. She also maintained a practice in Chillicothe.

Dean Wright can be reached at 740-446-2342, ext. 2103.

By Dean Wright