In a recent ruling, The Ohio Supreme Court clarified the correct, potential sentencing for repeat OVI offenders. In the opinion from Justice Judith L. French, OVI defendants who qualify as repeat offenders are subject to not only penalties from their original offense, but penalties provided by the repeat offender statute.
As Court News Ohio reports, the decision centered on the case of Edward South of Summit County. Following a 2012 accident, South not only was convicted of an OVI but also sentenced an additional three years in prison for his qualifications as a repeat offender. These three years were ordered to be served consecutively with his 36-month sentence for the underlying OVI offense. The Ninth District Court of Appeals, however, disagreed and set aside South's sentences.
The confusion stemmed from the fact that four separate criminal statutes seemed to apply to South's case, a fact that Justice French admitted was "repetitive and confusing." The community control sanction of R.C. 2929.14, French reasoned, did not apply because it does not mention or apply to OVI third-degree felonies. Subsection (A)(3)(b), however, did apply and provides the 36-month sentence for the OVI offense.
Additionally, statute R.C. 2941.1413 defines repeat OVI offenders as offenders who "within twenty years of the offense, previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to five or more equivalent offenses." South qualified for that distinction and the statute allowed the trial court to then add an additional one to five years to the sentence.
Essentially, the justices found that the trial court's initial interpretation was correct: South was lawfully subjected to the initial third-degree felony penalty of 36 months and the additional repeat offender penalty of an additional three years. The Supreme Court was unanimous in its upholding of the repeat offender penalties, and only two justices dissented from the ruling that the initial OVI penalties should still apply.
A New Reality for Repeat OVI Offenders
Penalties for repeat OVI offenders in Ohio have always been harsh, but this ruling embodies just how damaging to the defendant they can be. This new clarification means that the courts now have the power to sentence these offenders to a maximum of eight years in prison. For offenses where no one was harmed, these are extremely significant penalties.
This case, however, also demonstrates just important proper defense counsel can be for repeat OVI offenders. For both the OVI third-degree felony offense and the repeat offender specification, the possible penalties are at the court's discretion, which means, to some degree, they are flexible.
As this case clarifies, potential prison sentences for a repeat offender OVI charge can include:
- Third-felony penalties: 9, 12, 18, 24 or 36 months in prison
- Repeat offender specification: 1 to 5 years in prison
The range of possible sentences here means that minimum penalties are still possible--and are likely dependent on the circumstances of your OVI incident and the knowledge, diligence, and skill of your defense counsel.
If you have been charged with an OVI offense, we invite you to call us today at The Law Offices of Saia & Piatt, Inc. today. Our sought-after and award-winning Columbus OVI attorneys have built our reputation as one of the most premier OVI firms in Ohio. Clients who choose our firm call upon some of the most accomplished and proven defense counsel on the forefront of this dynamic practice area.
Start defending your future today. Contact us to request a free case evaluation.