Though consuming alcohol while under the age of 21 is illegal, it is a well-known fact that it happens every day around the country. Underage drinking becomes much more serious when it is coupled with driving. As a result, Ohio (like many states) treats underage drinking and driving differently than adult drinking and driving. It is important for drivers under 21 to be aware of the potential consequences.


Under Ohio law, a person under 21 will be charged with operating a vehicle after underage consumption (OVAUC) if he or she is over the limit of 0.02% for blood or breath, 0.03% for blood serum or plasma, or 0.028% for urine. This is considered a “zero-tolerance” policy because even a very small amount of alcohol consumption can lead to testing over the legal limit. Critically, if the person is over the adult legal limits, the charge will change to operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI).

Potential Penalties

A person over 18 years of age will be tried in adult, as opposed to juvenile, court. A conviction of OVAUC in adult court is a fourth degree misdemeanor, with the potential for the following penalties:

  1. license suspension from 90 days up to two years;
  2. having to take a remedial driving class;
  3. having to re-take the license examination;
  4. having four points added to their license; and
  5. having to pay a license reinstatement fee.

Additionally, it is possible the court will order a convicted person to a 30-day jail sentence and a $250 fine. A second offense is a third degree misdemeanor with a license suspension of one to five years, a possible jail sentence of 60 days, and a possible fine of up to $500.

Pursuant to §4510.021, it is possible to appeal a license suspension issued by the court to obtain limited driving privileges. If granted, the court will specify the purposes, times, and places that the person may drive. A person may ask for limited driving privileges for:

  1. work, education, or medical purposes;
  2. taking the driver’s or commercial driver’s examination; or
  3. attending court-ordered treatment.

A person convicted of OVI faces a mandatory three consecutive days in jail. In addition, the court may sentence an additional jail term that, together with the three days, cannot exceed six months. The offender will also face potential fines of anywhere between $375 and $1,075 and a license suspension of six months to three years. It is important to remember that a person under 21 will be charged with OVI if they are over the adult legal limit.

Contact Suhre & Associates, LLC

Any offense related to drinking and driving is serious. For a young person, it is likely the first time he or she has been in any sort of trouble with the law. The thought of having to appear before a judge may seem intimidating. If you are in this position, you should contact the experienced attorneys at Suhre & Associates, LLC and allow us to help you.