OVI Questions & Answers
- What happens at my first court appearance?
- Other than my arraignment, what other court appearances will I have to attend?
- What is a plea bargain?
- I have heard that an OVI charge can be amended or reduced to a Reckless Operation or a Physical Control. What is the difference between an OVI and these "reductions?"
1. What happens at my first court appearance?
An OVI is a misdemeanor offense. As such, the first court date you will attend is generally called an arraignment. At your arraignment, you must enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. If you have chosen to hire an attorney and fight the charges filed against you, a "not guilty" plea will be entered. Your first court appearance is also when you can request occupational driving privileges during your administrative license suspension, or in the alternative, get a "stay" of your administrative license suspension so that you can being driving again.
2. Other than my arraignment, what other court appearances will I have to attend?
After your arraignment, most courts will schedule a Pre-Trial Hearing/Conference. Usually, the pre-trial is a meeting between the prosecutor and your defense attorney to discuss the case, the discovery, and possible resolutions to the case. There may be one or more pre-trials, depending on how quickly information is provided and exchanged between the parties. If the case is not resolved at a pre-trial hearing, it may be set for a Suppression Hearing to determine what evidence maybe used against you at trial.
The Suppression Hearing is a very important step as it sometimes allows your attorney to attack various aspects of the State's case prior to trial. The elimination of harmful evidence is the primary purpose and goal of "Motions". A Suppression Hearing is generally heard by the judge assigned to your case . Present at a typical Suppression Hearing will be the judge, the prosecutor, the State's witness (the arresting officer) you, your attorney and witnesses the defense may wish to present.
If your case is not resolved at the time of the Motion Hearing, the case will be scheduled for Trial. This may be a Jury or a Court Trial, heard only by the judge.
3. What is a plea bargain?
A plea agreement is a process whereby a criminal defendant and a prosecutor reach a mutually satisfactory disposition, subject to the judge's approval. Plea agreements usually result in either an amendment to a lesser charge or dismissal of some charges in exchange for a guilty plea to other charges. Although a prosecutor has no legal obligation to engage in plea bargaining, your defense attorney must engage in plea bargaining if you so choose.
You have the absolute right to either accept or reject a plea offer. A judge must approve a plea offer, and is still in charge of sentencing. Your attorney should advise you as to your options and potential outcomes of your choice. This advice should be based not only on your probability of success at trial, but also on other considerations such as sentencing factors, financial considerations and time considerations.
4. I have heard that an OVI charge can be amended or reduced to a Reckless Operation or a Physical Control. What is the difference between an OVI and these "reductions?"
Generally speaking, there are two types of reductions common in OVI cases: Reckless Operation of a Motor Vehicle and Physical Control of a Motor Vehicle Under the Influence. It is important to understand the difference between these offenses before you decide whether or not to accept such a plea agreement.
A Reckless Operation is a misdemeanor traffic offense that carries four (4) points against your Ohio Driver's License. Reckless Operation covers a whole host of traffic mishaps, from driving more than 20 miles over the speed limit to striking an inanimate object. What Reckless Operation is not associated with, is drugs or alcohol. There are no mandatory penalties associated with a Reckless Operation conviction. However, should your license be suspended by the court for a Reckless Operation conviction, the reinstatement fee which must be paid to the BMV at the conclusion of your suspension is $40.00.
Physical Control/Under the Influence is also a misdemeanor traffic offense, but because it is considered a non-moving offense, it carries zero (0) BMV points. "Physical control" is defined as being in the driver's position of the front seat of a vehicle and having possession of the vehicle's ignition key while under the influence alcohol or drugs, but not actually operating the vehicle. An example would be someone who leaves a party and decides to "sleep it off" in their car rather than actually driving anywhere. So, the offense is associated with the consumption of alcohol and/or drugs. There is no mandatory suspension associated with a Physical Control conviction. However, should the court decide to suspend your license as the result of a Physical Control conviction, the reinstatement fee is the same as that of an OVI suspension: $475.00.
There are benefits and draw-backs to entering a guilty plea to either one of these charges, but both carry far fewer penalties and stigma than having an OVI conviction on your record.