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OVI in Ohio: Misdemeanor or Felony?

OVI continues to be a topic that citizens and Courts in Ohio take very seriously.  As we discussed in our article “First OVI Offense vs. Multiple OVI Offenses,”  the penalties for OVI differ based on the situation.  Here, we will specifically talk about when an OVI becomes a felony.  Keep in mind, as always, that there can be exceptions to the rules when it comes to criminal proceedings.  While we can discuss the rules, this is not a guarantee of what will or will not happen in a criminal proceedings.  Furthermore, even a misdemeanor OVI is extremely undesirable.  The above referenced article goes into more detail about the consequences for OVI.  Here we will discuss specifically the difference between misdemeanor and felony OVI convictions.


Misdemeanor OVI Convictions

Normally, a first time OVI offense is a misdemeanor of the first degree, the most serious type of misdemeanor.  However, the circumstances surrounding the OVI often result in other related traffic charges and sometimes even felony charges depending on many factors.   As an offender gets more than one OVI conviction, the penalties tend to get worse.  Multiple OVI offenders may face increased jail time and heavier fines.  As we discuss in the next section, too many previous OVI convictions will result in a felony charge, even if all the previous convictions were misdemeanors.  Once again, we will refer you to our most recent OVI article for specifics about the way penalties increase as OVI convictions increase.  But what are the rules for being charged with felony OVI?  We discuss this in the following section.

When is DUI/OVI Considered a Felony in Ohio?

So when does an OVI charge become a felony?  If you are operating a vehicle under the influence, there are numerous things that could go wrong resulting in a felony charge, even on a first time OVI.  Aside from that, there are several ways in The Ohio Revised Code for an OVI charge or conviction to become a felony.  One way is to have several previous misdemeanor OVI convictions.  Three OVIs in Ten years will result in a felony OVI charge.  Five or more OVIs in twenty years will also result in a felony charge.  In either situation, the conviction will usually be a felony of the fourth degree.  This type of OVI felony conviction usually carries a prison term of somewhere between sixty days and five years.

Any previous felony OVIs from any period of time will usually result in a felony of the third degree.  The rules for determining the prison term are the same for the felonies of the time-based felonies discussed above.  Whether the felony conviction is the result of multiple previous misdemeanor OVI convictions or one previous felony OVI conviction, there is usually an associated fine between $1,350.00 and $10,500.00.

There are many other penalties associated with misdemeanor and felony OVI convictions, but which ones apply will depend on the offense and the previous offenses.  As you can see, there are quite a few variables that differ from case to case.  $10,500.00 is a much more significant fine than $1,350.00, and five years in prison is much more time than 60 days.  Feel free to contact us if you fell the need for an attorney to help you navigate the process of dealing with an OVI charge.


OVI charges can be misdemeanors or felonies.  They are never something you want to deal with, but there are many different variables that can make different OVI cases very different from each other from the offender’s point of view.  Even with two misdemeanor OVI cases, the outcomes can be quite different and the same is true for felonies.  If you have been charged with OVI, do not hesitate to contact the expert Attorneys at Dearie, Fischer & Martinson.