Is physical control better than OVI?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jul 14, 2021

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What you need to know…

  • A DUI is known as an OVI in Ohio, and you can be charged with an OVI even if you weren’t physically driving the vehicle.
  • A physical control charge comes with similar penalties to OVI, including jail time and hefty fees.
  • Hiring a DUI defense attorney could help you reduce OVI charges to physical control or reckless operation charges.

What is an OVI charge? OVI stands for “operating a vehicle while intoxicated.” Many states refer to this as a DUI or DWI. DUI in Ohio is known as an OVI. Ohio DUI laws changed the name to OVI in 2003 to umbrella drugs and other intoxicating substances under the DUI charges.

Is physical control better than OVI? Not necessarily. When it comes to Ohio OVI laws, you can still face the same penalties as a DWI without any actual physical control of a vehicle.

Even if a drunk driver wasn’t caught driving, they could still face a physical control charge for simply sitting in the driver’s seat or touching the steering wheel.

This guide will explain in more detail what a physical control charge is in Ohio and how it differs from a DUI/OVI charge. Scroll down for more information on how to beat a physical control charge and the key differences between physical control and OVI.

If you need to speak with an OVI or DUI defense lawyer, enter your ZIP code in our search tool above to find a DUI attorney near you.

What is the difference between physical control and DUI?

The main difference between physical control and OVI/DUI is operation. The “O” in OVI stands for operation, and the actual physical operation of the motor vehicle is what’s considered when law enforcement is looking to press OVI charges.

Is physical control a DUI?

In Ohio, physical control is considered a non-moving violation. This means that while a driver may not have been physically driving the car while intoxicated, they were still in possession of the ignition key and/or were sitting in the driver’s seat.

The car does not need to be running for you to be charged with physical control in Ohio.

Other states look at physical control differently. If you aren’t a Buckeye, refer to this list of DWI laws by state to see how physical control is judged where you live.

How long does physical control stay on your record?

Because it’s considered a non-moving violation, a physical control charge is technically a traffic violation in Ohio.

This means a physical control charge stays on your driving record forever.

Physical control charges cannot be expunged, and the Ohio BMV will display the charges on the front page of your driving record for three years.

What is the penalty for a physical control charge in Ohio?

Physical control charges will result in the same penalties as OVI in Ohio. First offenses are considered misdemeanors and come with fines of up to $1,000 and jail time up to 180 days. You could also have your license suspended for up to one year.

Ohio OVI penalties are slightly harsher, but not by much. First offenses receive jail time up to 180 days, fines up to $1,075, license suspension up to three years, and six points automatically added to your license. You could also have your license plates restricted and an interlock device applied to your car.

So is physical control better than OVI? It’s all relative to the driver and the circumstances.

Often, DUI lawyers can reduce OVI charges to physical control to prevent jail time or steep fines. Let’s take a closer look at Ohio OVI laws and ways a DUI attorney can help you.

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Ohio OVI Laws

In 2017, the Ohio Legislature amended the state’s OVI laws with a bill known as “Annie’s Law.” Check out this video to learn more about Annie Rooney and the new law:

Ohio residents need to be aware of these changes and how they affect the DUI consequences in the state before reading more of this guide.

Ohio’s new OVI laws include amendments to the following:

  • Look Back Period is now 10 years instead of six. Second or third-time offenders will face more severe charges if they were previously convicted of an OVI 10 years ago or earlier.
  • Suspended Licenses are now avoidable if drivers agree to install an ignition interlock device (IID). With an IID, a driver must breathe into a breathalyzer before the car will start. You can find other ways to reinstate your license through the OHIO BMV.

If you’re facing a physical control charge in Ohio, these new laws may apply to you.

What is an OVI failure to control charge?

In Ohio, “failure to control” is a failure to maintain your lane, and includes skidding, swerving, and either drifting off-road or into another lane. You can fail to control your vehicle for many reasons besides driving under the influence, including ice on the road or other inclement weather.

When you’re facing an OVI failure to control charge, you’re facing compounding charges that come with harsher penalties.

For example, a failure to control citation will add two points to your license. A first-offense OVI adds six. This adds up to eight points on your license, and when you consider that 12 points may result in a loss of license in Ohio, you can see that an OVI failure to control charge is a serious offense.

What can OVI be reduced to?

Depending on the circumstances of your case, you may be offered a plea for a reduced charge. A DUI defense attorney may also argue on your behalf to reduce your OVI charge.

An OVI can be reduced to a physical control charge or a reckless operation charge, both of which are misdemeanor traffic violations. While physical control penalties are similar to those of OVI, reckless operation comes with fines of $600 or less and jail time of no more than 60 days.

Reckless operation penalties do vary by city, so it’s important to find a DUI attorney near you who is familiar with your city’s laws. Watch this video to learn more about reducing OVI charges in Ohio:

What are the new Ohio reckless operation expungement laws?

In October 2018, Ohio passed new expungement laws allowing for the sealing of multiple criminal records to eligible offenders.

Neither an OVI charge nor a physical control charge can be expunged in the state of Ohio.

As of the publication of this article, expungement is not an option for reckless operation under Ohio law. The new law also excludes minor misdemeanor offenses, traffic violations, and OVI charges.

Is physical control better than OVI?

This guide makes it clear that physical control charges and an OVI come with similar penalties in the state of Ohio. If you’re facing OVI charges, it will be up to you and your attorney to decide whether or not physical control is better than OVI in your case.

Depending on your driving record, physical control may be better than OVI. Only a DUI defense attorney familiar with Ohio OVI laws can answer this question for you.

Enter your ZIP code in our free online tool below to connect with an experienced drunk driving lawyer near you.



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