What Constitutes a Felony DUI in Ohio?

Ohio has enacted two “look-back” statutes which enhance the penalties for a DUI; a six year look-back and a twenty year look-back.  This post will focus on when a DUI becomes a felony.  For a complete list of penalties for DUI offenses check out my previous article OHIO OVI PENALTIES.

Six Year Look-Back

If you receive a second DUI six years from the conviction date of your first DUI, the penalties are enhanced.  Both a first and second DUI within a six year period are first degree misdemeanors which carry a maximum fine of $1,075.00 and a maximum incarceration of six (6) months.  A second DUI within six years is enhanced, meaning that the minimum number of incarceration days and the fine are heavier. R.C. 4511.19(G)(1)(a) and (b).  A third offense within six years has even heavier fines and incarceration and carries a possibility of one year of incarceration, owing to the fact that a third offense is an unclassified misdemeanor. R.C. 4511.19(G)(1)(c).  A DUI becomes a fourth degree felony if it is a fourth offense within six (6) years. R.C. 4511.19(G)(1)(d).

Twenty Year Look-Back

A sixth or greater offense within a twenty year look-back period is a fourth degree felony. R.C. 4511.19(G)(1)(d).  Another harsh provision under Ohio law is the “once a felony, always a felony” rule contained in R.C. 4511.19(G)(1)(e), meaning that any future DUI regardless of how many years have passed is charged as a third-degree felony.  This means that if you have many years of sobriety in between DUI convictions, you still face a felony rather than having your case treated as a first-in-six misdemeanor offense.

DUI defense attorneys have challenged the constitutionality of these look-back provisions on the grounds that they violated due process and that they are a retroactive application of laws.  In State v. Miccap, 2006-Ohio-2854 (Ohio Ct. App. 9th Dist, Summit County), the 9th District Court of Appeals rejected these arguments and upheld the enhanced punishments.  It stated that the penalties imposed were not enhancements punishing prior conduct, but punishing any violations that occur after enactment of the enhancement provision.  In State v. Brooke, 113 Ohio St.3d 199, 863 N.E.2d 1024 (2007), the court upheld the right of a defendant to challenge whether or not a prior conviction was conducted in accordance with the rule of law.  For a complete discussion of Attack on prior convictions, see Ohio Driving Under the Influence Law, Weiler & Weiler J., 2009-2010 ed., pp 333-335.

Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in the Miami Valley and throughout Ohio.  Contact Charles Rowland at (937)318-1384 [318-1DUI], 1-888-769-5263 [888-ROWLAND] or visit his web site at www.DaytonDUI.com or www.facebook.com/DaytonDUI or on Twitter @DaytonDUI.

“All I do is DUI.”