By Tiya Stokey, Executive Director, Recovery Works Columbus, a drug and alcohol addiction residential treatment center of Pinnacle Treatment Centers
People struggling with alcohol use often enter treatment when their addiction results in tangible, negative, real-world consequences. They may lose their jobs, have marital problems, alienate friends, or make questionable financial choices.
In the recovery community, the mental and emotional state that accompanies these problems is commonly called hitting bottom. Hitting bottom is more than feeling foolish over an extremely bad hangover or experiencing guilt and regret about things said and done while under the influence of alcohol. It’s when then full weight of addiction comes crashing down on an individual in active addiction, and it’s impossible to ignore the impact addictive behavior has on their lives.
If you’ve ever hit bottom, you know exactly what we mean. You also know legal problems can cause you to hit bottom like nothing else – specifically, an arrest or conviction for driving an automobile while under the influence of alcohol.
In some states it’s called DUI (Driving Under the Influence), in others it’s called DWI (Driving While Intoxicated), and in others it may be called OVI/OWI (Operating a Vehicle While Intoxicated). Whatever the name, the experience of sitting in the back of a police car in handcuffs or spending the night in a county jail can wake you up very quickly to the reality of your situation. It can be the one thing among many that has the power to make you rethink your behavior and consider getting sober.
The hours spent waiting to make that one phone call can be life-changing. There’s not much to do besides take a long look at how you ended up there. For many people, it’s the moment they decide to get help and enter treatment – but not for everyone. While the consequences of one DUI arrest or conviction are serious, sometimes they’re not enough to penetrate the walls of denial around addiction. For some individuals, even a taste of jail and the burden of lawyer’s fees don’t cause them to make real changes.
The consequences of a second DUI, however, are more serious than those of the first. After a first offense – if you can afford a good lawyer – you may not have to appear in court. If you do appear in court, demonstrate you take the matter seriously, and the judge believes you’re holding yourself accountable, then you can avoid the more life-disrupting penalties. When you get arrested for a second DUI, though, especially if it’s not long after the first, the costs can be severe – and judges tend to be less sympathetic.
The Second DUI: Administrative, Criminal, and Hidden Consequences
When most people think of the negative outcomes of a DUI conviction, they’re aware of two categories of consequences: administrative and criminal. Administrative consequences are things like driver’s license suspension or revocation, payment of court fees, and anything not related to jail time, court-mandated DUI education, probation, or community service.
These administrative consequences are not identical – though they appear to be – as the legal category of consequences known as admin per se, which are non-court mandated consequences that can be triggered by a refusal to take a blood alcohol test or an arrest for DUI.
Admin per se penalties vary state to state, but generally happen immediately, before a trial or conviction. They’re the reason a police officer can confiscate your driver’s license on the spot if you refuse to take a blood alcohol test, or you take one and you’ve over the legal limit. They also give the officer the authority to impound your car on the spot, at your expense.
Hidden consequences are those you might not realize are coming. They’re often financial, such as fines and fees that catch you off guard, but can also affect membership in professional organizations, professional licensure, and future employment opportunities. They may impede your ability to qualify for student loans, purchase health and auto insurance policies, or travel internationally.
This article will briefly address the standard consequences of a second DUI conviction, with an emphasis on Ohio law, then discuss the hidden – and often more devastating – costs of a second DUI.
Ohio Drunk Driving (OVI) Laws
The State of Ohio takes all drunk driving very seriously, beginning with the first offense. If you’re convicted of OVI in Ohio, you face a variety of administrative and criminal penalties, including but not limited to fines, a suspended or revoked license, and vehicle impoundment.
According to the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles (OBMV), and using figures based on common lawyer’s fees and additional costs, the financial burden of a first OVI in Ohio averages between $7,000 – $10,000, while the burden of a second conviction can run upwards of $20,000 or more.
Driver’s License Suspension. At the time of a second arrest within a 10-year period for driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or more, as determined by a portable breath analysis machine (Breathalyzer), the OBMV will automatically suspend your license for a minimum of one and a maximum of seven years. At the end of the suspension period – and if you’re not convicted of the offense – you’re required to pay a $475 reinstatement fee.
Hardship Licenses. After a mandatory period (length determined by total number of convictions) without a driver’s license – known as the “hard suspension” period – you may be eligible for what’s called a hardship license. Also known as restricted licenses, these allow you to drive under very limited conditions. In Ohio, a hardship license will allow you to drive to and from work, school, church, and medical appointments. Click here for details on the Ohio Hardship application process and requirements.
Driver’s Intervention Program (DIP), Mandatory Alcohol/Drug Assessment. After a second DUI arrest in a 10-year period, you will be required to attend a Driver’s Intervention Program. You’re required to pay both the $375 DIP program fee and a $50 Alcohol-Abuse Education Fund fee. You’re also required to pay the costs of the Alcohol/Drug Assessment. If your assessment determines you need treatment for problem alcohol use, you’re required to pay for the treatment.
Ignition Interlock Device (IID). If you’re convicted of a second OVI in Ohio, you’re required to install an IID on your vehicle. An IID is a breathalyzer that’s directly connected to the ignition system of your car. It requires you to test your blood alcohol level (BAC) before you turn the key in the ignition. If the IID test yields a result greater than the pre-programmed BAC – 0.08% in Ohio – then the car will not start. The IID also requires rolling tests at random times after ignition. If the result of a rolling test is above the legal limit, the device records the event, then triggers an alarm, such as lights flashing or horn honking, that will continue until the vehicle is turned off or an acceptable breath sample is given. You will be required to pay all costs related to the IID, which average $200-$300 for installation and $100-$200 per month for device monitoring, calibration, and rental.
Administrative Fees. You’re required to pay various administrative court fees for a second DUI arrest in a 10-year period, including court fees, jail cite-and-release fees, and blood/breath testing fees. These fees can accumulate to more than $500.
A judge has the final say in all criminal penalties, but by law must follow the guidelines below when considering your sentence. Criminal penalties apply once you’re convicted of the offense, unlike the automatic administrative penalties listed above.
Fines. A second conviction for OVI carries a fine of not less than $525 and not more than $1,625.
Jail Time. A second conviction within 10 years carries a minimum jail sentence of 10 days and a maximum jail sentence not to exceed six months, with the possibility of five days of jail time plus 18 days of HAEM (House Arrest with Electronic Monitoring) and/or CAM (Continuous Alcohol Monitoring). If your BAC test result is 0.08% or higher, you’ll receive a minimum jail sentence of 20 days and a maximum jail sentence not to exceed six months, with the possibility of receiving 10 days jail time plus 36 days of HAEM/CAM.
Vehicle Impound/Immobilization. After a second OVI conviction in Ohio, your vehicle will be impounded for 90 days at your expense. Dismissal of this rule may apply if the vehicle is the sole means of family transportation and the vehicle will be driven only by a family or household member. All exceptions and dismissal decisions are at the discretion of the presiding judge.
OVI Accident with Serious Personal Injury. All OVI convictions involving serious personal injury of another person can result in charges of Aggravated Vehicular Assault. Penalties include a $5,000 fine, a prison term of up to five years, a license suspension of 2-10 years, and a mandatory remedial driving course. OVI crashes involving serious bodily injury are prosecuted as third-degree felonies. The felony may be upgraded to a second-degree felony if you were driving with a suspended license or have other driving-related felony or OVI convictions on your record. Second-degree felonies can include a prison term of 2-8 years, a license suspension of 2-10 years, or you may have your driver’s license revoked altogether.
OVI Crash Causing Death. In Ohio, any OVI offense involving the death of a person may be prosecuted as Aggravated Vehicular Homicide or Reckless Aggravated Vehicular Homicide. Aggravated Vehicular Homicide is a third-degree felony with a maximum fine of $10,000, 1-5 years in prison, and license suspension for 3 years to life. Reckless Aggravated Vehicular Homicide is a second-degree felony with a maximum fine of $15,000, 2-8 years in prison, and license suspension determined by the presiding judge. Convictions for both carry a maximum $10,000 fine and maximum 30-year jail sentence. Repeated OVI-related Aggravated Vehicular Homicide convictions can lead to first-degree felony charges, fines of up to $20,000, and 10-15 years mandatory prison time.
Substance Abuse Treatment Programs. At the discretion of the judge, you may be ordered to participate in a residential substance abuse treatment program and/or perform community service work. The presiding judge determines the length of both. You’re responsible for the cost of any treatment program mandated by the judge.
The Hidden Costs of a Second DUI
The first level of hidden costs stem from one basic fact: you have to pay for everything a judge orders you to do. You’re also responsible for administrative fees related to your conviction, not including your personal lawyer’s fees. The accumulation of these costs results in the high estimate – upwards of $20,000 – mentioned above. You can expect to pay fees for any or all of the following:
- DUI education programs
- Psychological testing
- Substance abuse treatment programs
- Court-ordered therapy
- Towing and impound of your car
- Jail time
- Probation supervision
- Community service supervision
- Community service insurance
The second level of hidden costs are also financial in nature, but they cut deeper and reach further than the one-time fees listed above. They can affect the entire trajectory of your life. They impact career plans, savings and retirement goals, and your ability to function as a provider or caregiver within your family. A second DUI conviction can lead to the following:
- Professional licensing complications
- Nurses can have their license suspended
- Stockbrokers can lose their license
- Real estate agents can lose their license
- Physicians can face censure and/or lose their license to practice
- Pilots must report any DUI conviction to the FAA, and their medical fitness certifications come under review
- Law students may be required to sit out for a year before taking the bar exam
- Health insurance policies become more expensive and more difficult to obtain
- Car insurance premiums skyrocket
- Some countries, such as Canada, frown upon DUI convictions and may bar your entry
In addition to the hidden consequences of a second DUI, there are consequences that stem from a felony conviction of any sort. If your DUI conviction involved serious bodily injury, DUI Manslaughter, or Vehicular Homicide, the crime becomes a felony rather than a misdemeanor. Hidden consequences of a felony conviction are a well-known topic in legal circles and are known as collateral consequences. These can include any or all of the following:
- Temporary loss of certain civil rights, such as voting
- Difficulty getting hired
- Difficulty renting homes or apartments
- Restrictions on your ability to hold public office
- Restrictions on your ability to obtain new professional licenses
There’s more to mention: if your penalty includes jail time, then clearly during your incarceration you can’t work or fulfill parenting responsibilities. Missing work can start a cascade of knock-on damages, such as missing rent payments, loan payments, credit card payments, and child support payments. Each of those carry their own set of consequences, none of which are good. Missing your family responsibilities has long-term emotional ramifications for you and your family members, all of which are too complex for the scope of this article.
For an in-depth examination of the collateral consequences of felony convictions, please visit the National Institute of Justice page here and The Council of State Governments Justice Center page here.
The Wake-Up Call You Don’t Want
The only person who can determine if you’ve hit bottom is you – that’s fact. The only person who can decide to enter treatment is you – that’s also fact. Or is it? In the case of a second DUI conviction, that’s not fact. After a second DUI, a judge can compel you to enter treatment. Treatment is often a non-negotiable condition for fulfillment of your legal obligations. That’s not a situation you want to find yourself in, because even if you’ve never been to an AA meeting or experienced any kind of therapy or counseling for substance abuse whatsoever, you know treatment and rehab only works if you decide you need it.
If you’ve already had one DUI conviction and you’re still drinking, the chances are you’re still drinking and driving on occasion. That’s a serious problem. Not only does it put your life and the lives of others in danger, but it also creates a near-endless list of personal, professional, and financial complications that can take decades to rectify.
While it’s inadvisable to dispense specific advice without meeting you, this piece of counseling is both necessary and easy to offer: if a second DUI is even a remote possibility in your life – you should seek treatment for your alcohol or substance use disorder right away. Don’t wait until you’re sitting in a jail cell to make the call.