State of Ohio Appellate Court Clarifies Statutes Regarding OVI Sentencing

Ohio OVI Laws

In a recent case examined by the Appellate Court of the State of Ohio, a decision was made that clarifies how sentencing for an OVI felony works in conjunction with the sentencing of a repeat offense. The decision clarifies that the statutes regarding repeat-offender specifications and OVI felonies are irreconcilable and must be considered separately when determining sentence terms.

The case began with the conviction of Edward South for a third-degree felony for driving under the influence with a previous offense. The trial court imposed a mandatory sentence of three years for the repeat-offense specification in addition to a consecutive five-year mandatory sentence for the underlying OVI felony. The 8-year prison sentence was then determined to be unlawful by the Ninth District Court of Appeals.

Ohio statute outlines the following sentencing laws:

  • Third-degree felony OVIs carry discretionary sentences of 9-36 months in prison
  • Repeat-offender specifications carry mandatory sentences of 1-5 years in prison

The Ninth District concluded that the trial court wrongfully assumed that the repeat-offender specification changed the maximum sentence for the underlying felony and overturned the entire 8-year prison term and sent it back to trial for re-sentencing. On September 30th, the State of Ohio Court of Appeals then concluded that the Ninth District wrongfully overturned the entire sentence, when only a portion of it was unlawful.

OVI Provisions

Ultimately, the State of Ohio Court of Appeals decided that there were two issues with the case. The first was the initial sentence imposed on South, which assumed that the two different provisions of OVI law affected each other. The second issue was the ruling of the Ninth District, which assumed that the imposed prison term was equivalent to one sentence.

The conclusion that can be drawn from this case is that a repeat offense should be penalized separately from the offense itself, although the two are charged under one count. This also means that a repeat offender cannot be sentenced to more than the maximum as defined by statute, regardless of repeat offenses.

How does this affect your OVI case? Call our Cleveland OVI lawyers today to discuss.