Ignition Interlock Laws in Ohio

A range of penalties are imposed when a person is convicted of operating a vehicle while impaired, often referred to as an OVI violation. In Ohio, one of these penalties may include an ignition interlock. Similar to a Breathalyzer, an ignition interlock device is made up of a handheld unit, a mouthpiece and a cord that connects to a vehicle’s ignition. It requires the driver of a car in which it is installed to blow into the mouthpiece so that the handheld unit can measure his or her breath alcohol concentration (BAC) before the ignition can be turned on. If the driver’s BAC is too high, according to state-determined limits, a signal is relayed through the cord to lock the ignition system, preventing it from being started. The device will continue to keep the ignition locked until the driver is able to submit a breath sample in which the unit detects no alcohol. Each time the ignition interlock is engaged, the system stores the activity and transmits it to the driver’s probation officer for review. The inclusion of an ignition interlock program in the driving laws of states like Ohio is designed to prevent accidents related to drinking while driving.

Ohio Alcohol Limits

Under what is called Ohio’s Zero Tolerance Policy, the Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) limit for underage drivers, or anyone under the age of 21, is 0.02 percent. Any underage driver with a BAC higher than this is charged with Operating a Vehicle After Underage Consumption (OVAUC) and must wait at least 60 days before retaking the driver’s license exam in order to have limited driving privileges restored. Thereafter, they are periodically required to demonstrate proof of insurance. The Ohio OVI BAC limits for adults are slightly higher but taken just as seriously. The BAC limit for OVI is 0.08 percent with a second category of Aggravated or Enhanced Penalty for 0.17 percent or higher BAC levels.

Ohio also has an Implied Consent law, which means that every driver with an Ohio license agreed, upon obtaining their license, to undergo field sobriety tests should an officer of the law suspect the driver of being under the influence of drugs or alcohol. If the driver refuses, he or she could be subject to immediate suspension of the license as well as other potential penalties.

First Time Offenders and Annie’s Law

Under this law, which came into effect in April 2017, the license suspension penalty for first time OVI offenders was raised to one year. The law came was named after Annie Rooney, who was killed by a repeat OVI offender. However, these first-time offenders can get this penalty cut in half by using an ignition interlock for a minimum of six months.

Repeat Offenders

If you receive subsequent OVI convictions within six years of the first one, you are required by law to have an ignition interlock device installed in any car you drive. When this occurs, you are also required to obtain a special restricted driver’s license marked to indicate that you may only drive vehicles that have an ignition interlock.

Interlock Program Requirements

Anyone required to use an ignition interlock must go through several steps to comply with the program. They must:

  • acquire an Interlock License from the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV)
  • possess proof of insurance for any vehicle(s) in which an interlock unit will be installed
  • schedule an appointment with their court appointed probation officer
  • schedule an appointment with a licensed ignition interlock installation service provider

How to Use an Ignition Interlock System

To use a typical interlock ignition system, hold the handheld unit and press the on button until the LED light turns on with the word “Blow.” At that point, you must submit a specific pattern of inhalations and exhalations into the mouthpiece in order for the system to properly register your BAC. Most often, that pattern is three exhalations, an inhalation, an exhalation and an inhalation followed by a final exhalation.

Ohio law also requires that the vehicle remains running while mandated tests are taken. The ignition interlock device itself will prompt retests at random intervals through an LED message on the screen and a loud beep. If the vehicle is in motion while one of these retests is being conducted, and the system detects alcohol in the breath sample submitted, the ignition will not be shut off. However, the system will signal the driver to pull over and stop the vehicle.

Interlock Violations

Any violation of one’s interlock restrictions during the final 60 days of the license suspension and interlock restriction period extends that period by 60 more days.

If you have been ordered by an Ohio judge to have an ignition interlock system installed on your car, then once you have obtained all the necessary paperwork, it is time to seek out a certified Ohio ignition interlock system installer. If you feel you might have a drinking problem, or that it may be difficult for you to avoid violating the terms of the ignition interlock program, then it may be wise to also seek out help from one of the many alcohol treatment centers or counselors in the state.