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DUI and OVI while Underage / Juveniles

As you are probably aware, you have to be 16 to obtain a driver’s license, 18 to be considered an adult, and 21 to be considered of legal drinking age.  Because these legal ages are all different, OVI  is handled differently depending on how old you are.  Most drivers are over the age of 21, and therefore so are most OVI defendants.  However it is still possible to get an OVI charge when you are under 18 and when you are between the ages of 18 and 20 years old.  In this article we discuss the procedures for OVI cases where the defendant is a juvenile and where the defendant is an adult below the legal drinking age.  How do these two situations differ from each other?  How do they differ from regular OVI cases? Continue reading to find out.

What is the Penalty for Underage Drinking and Driving in Ohio?

You can read about the penalties for drinking and driving in Ohio in our other articles, such as “Common Question Regarding DUI in Ohio,” but the penalties are a little different for those who are charged with DUI while they are still below the legal drinking age.

There are still different penalties depending on what number of DUIs the defendant has had in the past year.  However, the penalties for each DUI are different.

The main difference between OVI penalties for an underage driver and a driver of legal drinking age is the maximum jail sentence.  For example, a first time DUI for an adult can be up to 60 days in jail.  For those underage, maximum sentence is 30 days for a first time OVI.

What Happens When a Minor Gets an OVI in Ohio?

For minors, there are a few key differences when it comes to the results of an OVI charge.

As with anyone under the legal drinking age, juveniles are considered OVI if their blood alcohol content (BAC) is found to be 0.02% by volume.  If a driver is of legal drinking age, the legal BAC limit is 0.08%.  To be considered juveniles and still be of legal driving age, the drivers would have to be 16 or 17 years old, which by definition puts them under the legal drinking age of 21. Therefore, juveniles will be considered OVI if they are driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher.

Another difference is the Court that handles the OVI case.  Like any other Juvenile delinquency case, there is a special Court for determining the adjudication instead of the normal courts that determine adult sentences.  When Juveniles are adjudicated delinquent (the term used for juveniles instead of criminal conviction) they usually spend time in the Juvenile Detention Center (JDC) rather than jail.  The same is true for OVI.  To learn more about the differences between Juvenile Court and adults courts, you can read other articles we have written on the subject, like the one linked here.

As we mentioned before, the other difference is that the amount of time a defendant could be required to spend incarcerated. Whether it is a Juvenile going to JDC, or an adult under 20 years of age going to jail, the maximum time an underage driver will normally incarcerated for a first time OVI is 30 days.

What Happens When an Underage Adult Gets an OVI?

When adults under the legal drinking age (drivers 18, 19 or 20 years of age) are charged with OVI, the situation is very similar to juvenile OVI.  The key difference is, of course that any criminal case where the defendant is over 18 is handled in adult court. The    legal BAC limit is still 0.02% until the driver turns 21.


The laws about OVI are already complex because so many factors effect the results of the case.  The BAC of the driver, the number of previous OVIs, etc.  Add to that the fact that the rules are different for juveniles adults under the legal drinking age, and it can all see very complicated.  If you have any questions about OVI law in Ohio, or are seeking to hire an expert attorney, feel free to contact Dearie, Fischer & Martinson.