How per se laws affect your OVI arrest

Jan 15, 2019 | drunk driving

Police officers who pull you over under suspicion of OVI have many methods of obtaining evidence to use against you in court to make those charges stick. From the moment they approach your vehicle, they are on the alert for signs that you have been drinking and that you are impaired. They study your eyes, your hands and your body movement. They listen for you to slur your words, observe the air for odors of alcohol, and test your balance and coordination.

However, none of these observations may carry as much weight as your blood alcohol concentration, which they obtain from a breath or blood test. This test measures whether the percentage of alcohol in your blood is higher than the legal limit. If your BAC is .08 percent or higher, police may need no more evidence to take to court.

A .08 BAC is enough

In Ohio and many other states, a BAC of .08 is the per se legal limit. Per se means “by itself,” which means police do not need any other evidence to charge you with OVI. This comes in handy for law enforcement, for example, if you refuse to participate in roadside sobriety tests, such as walking a straight line. Even if your alcohol consumption seemed to have no effect on your ability to safely operate your vehicle, police may arrest you solely based on your .08 BAC.

If you are under the age of 21, however, your per se level is much lower. In fact, some states have a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under 21, so if a BAC test shows any trace of alcohol, per se laws kick in. In Ohio, per se for underage drinkers is very low, but it is not zero.

Ohio also has per se laws that set limits for driving with certain drugs in your system. This is a complex matter, however, since there are countless combinations of drugs that can potentially be in a driver’s system, and many remain in one’s system long after they cease to impair the driver.

Per se is not a done deal

Per se laws make it easier for prosecutors to do their jobs when it comes to drunk driving cases. The law considers you intoxicated based on your BAC. However, if your BAC is .08 percent or higher, this does not necessarily mean you should accept a deal or plead guilty. In many cases throughout the country, the reliability of breath test machines and crimes labs testing blood samples is questionable.

Seeking legal advice when faced with an OVI charge is highly recommended. An attorney can advise you on the best course of action for defending against the charges and challenging the evidence, even if it is per se.