April 28, 2017

Annie's Law Aims to Reduce Drunk Driving

by Shawn R. Dominy, Dominy Law Firm

April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month and the cost of drunk driving just went up. Penalties for OVI convictions were increased with Ohio’s recent implementation of “Annie’s Law.” The law, which actually involves revision of nearly 20 existing laws and the addition of a new one, will result in stiffer sentences for individuals convicted of OVI.

OVI Convictions Now Carry Longer Driver’s License Suspensions
A person convicted of OVI faces certain mandatory penalties, including a driver’s license suspension. The length of the license suspension is selected from a range established by statute. The range was just increased for both first time and multiple offenders. For a first offender, the license suspension was previously a minimum of six months. Under the new law, that minimum suspension is increased to one year.

OVI Offenders Are Incentivized to Use Ignition Interlock Devices
When a driver uses an ignition interlock device, the driver is required to blow into a tube, and the vehicle will not start if the driver’s breath sample contains alcohol. If a first offender uses an ignition interlock during the driver’s license suspension, the offender may be given ‘unlimited driving privileges’ rather than the traditional ‘limited driving privileges.’ A first time offender who uses an ignition interlock may also have the suspension period cut in half, meaning the suspension could be as short as six months rather than one year. In addition, a first time offender granted unlimited driving privileges with ignition interlock gets any jail sentence suspended.

OVI Sentences Will Be Enhanced Based on Prior Convictions
Ohio OVI sentences are enhanced if an offender has prior convictions within the ‘lookback period.’ For example, a first offense in the lookback period carries a minimum of three days in jail, while a second offense in the lookback period is punishable by a minimum of ten days in jail. Annie’s law changed the lookback period from six years to ten years.

Implementing Change is Challenging
As “Annie’s Law” involves the interplay of several different statutes, interpreting the law may prove to be complicated. While some specifics regarding ignition interlock orders are particularly ambiguous, the ambiguities will require clarification to successfully meet the legislature's objective of decreasing drunk driving in Ohio.

Shawn Dominy