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Cleveland DUI Defense Attorney

Every driver in Cleveland has a legal responsibility to operate their vehicle safely and to refrain from consuming drugs or alcohol prior to operating their vehicle. If you or a family member has been charged with a violation of Ohio’s laws against intoxicated driving, it is vital to work with a Cleveland DUI defense lawyer. The right attorney can be an invaluable asset during the difficult legal proceedings ahead.

Alcohol-related traffic charges, such as driving under the influence (DUI) and operating a vehicle while under the influence (OVI) can result in serious and lifelong consequences. Accordingly, it is important to consult with an experienced Ohio DUI defense attorney in order to learn your legal options and to protect your legal rights.

Ohio DUI Laws

In Ohio, there are two legal limits for blood alcohol level (BAC) – 0.08 and 0.17. If a driver has a BAC of 0.08, he or she is deemed to be “per se intoxicated,” which means that no additional proof of driving impairment is required. Additionally, if a person is found to have a BAC of 0.17 or higher, he or she will be subject to enhanced penalties. Drivers under the age of 21 must not have a BAC of 0.02 or higher.

Police can conduct chemical tests to check for BAC using blood, breath, or urine samples. However, it is important for you to understand the difference between preliminary alcohol screenings or field sobriety tests and mandatory chemical testing under the state’s implied consent laws for drivers.

If a police officer suspects that a driver is intoxicated, they cannot force the driver to immediately take a chemical test for DUI. These chemical tests are covered by the state’s implied consent laws only after a lawful DUI arrest has been made. You have the right to refuse the officer’s request for you to perform a field sobriety test or preliminary alcohol screening, but if you are later convicted of DUI, you will face harsher sentencing due to your refusal.

Field sobriety tests can include standing on one leg, counting backward, following a light or the officer’s finger with your eyes, and many other tests of coordination and mental acuity. These tests can be difficult for a sober person to perform due to their medical status, stress level, and level of physical fitness. You must think carefully before agreeing or refusing to perform a field sobriety test.

If you fail a test, it could be used as probable cause by the officer to arrest you for suspected DUI, and then you will be compelled to provide a chemical testing sample under Ohio’s implied consent laws. If you refuse this test after a lawful arrest, you will face an automatic one-year administrative suspension of your driver’s license along with harsher penalties if you are later convicted of DUI in criminal court.

Ohio DUI Penalties

Ohio has some of the strictest penalties for DUI/OVI in the country. Penalties for DUI/OVI can be severe, even for a first offense. If convicted, you could face license suspension, hefty fines, vehicle disablement, required OVI offender license plates, ignition interlock, and mandatory jail time. If you test over the legal limit or fail to submit to a breath alcohol test you face a mandatory minimum Administrative License Suspension (ALS) unless you correctly appeal the suspension.

Aside from court-mandated penalties, your insurance premiums will likely increase, and drunk driving charges can do significant harm to your reputation. Court-imposed driving limitations may also impact your ability to get to and from work as well. Ultimately, the total penalties resulting from a DUI conviction can extend far beyond the sentence you receive from the judge. You could face years of financial hardship due to the total cost of the conviction.

State law assigns penalties for DUI based on multiple factors. Specifically, the number of past convictions a driver has, along with other aggravating factors in their case, have the potential to escalate their sentence significantly. If you have a second DUI conviction soon after the first, you should expect this repeat offense to be reflected in your sentencing for the second offense.

Penalties for a first DUI offense will generally include time in county jail, fines, and a driver’s license suspension. These penalties increase for a second conviction, meaning the defendant faces even more time in jail, larger fines, and a driver’s license suspension for a longer period of time.

If a driver is convicted of a DUI for a third time within 10 years, the penalties will be even more severe. In this case, the defendant will then face a felony charge for a subsequent fourth conviction. Felony DUI penalties include heavier fines, a longer license suspension, and incarceration in state prison rather than county jail.

A felony can also have more significant impacts on your life. You could lose your voting rights while incarcerated, and it may be more difficult to secure housing or employment due to background checks.

How Your Cleveland DUI Defense Lawyer Can Help

When you are charged with any crime in Cleveland, the prosecution faces the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a high standard of proof that requires the prosecution to secure as much admissible evidence and witness testimony as possible, and they must leverage their evidence carefully to meet this high standard of proof. Your defense attorney can attempt to prevent them from meeting their burden of proof.

It is possible to form a solid defense against a DUI charge by proving that your arrest was unlawful, by proving that the police did not establish probable cause to conduct your traffic stop, or by proving that your chemical test was not administered properly, or your test sample was compromised in some way. You may have more defensive options available to you than you initially realize, and your Cleveland DUI defense lawyer can help capitalize on them.

If you did commit a DUI offense, all hope is not lost. Your defense team can still help you avoid the worst penalties that might be assigned to you through the plea bargaining process. During plea bargaining, the prosecution may offer to suspend a jail sentence, reduce charges, and offer other incentives in exchange for the defendant submitting a guilty plea. This conserves court resources and may work in a defendant’s favor in some cases.

Your Cleveland DUI defense lawyer can help determine whether accepting a plea deal would suit your interests or if you have more viable defenses available to you that could help you avoid conviction entirely. Prosecutors sometimes offer plea deals if they are unsure whether they have enough evidence to secure a conviction, hoping the defendant accepts the plea deal out of desperation.

What Happens After Someone is Arrested For DUI/OVI In Ohio?

How Public is A DUI Arrest?

What happens after someone is arrested for Dui/Ovi in Ohio? The records themselves are public so if anyone wanted to go look, they could see the records. There are some towns that have a local newspaper with a habit of reporting every DUI arrest so anyone who gets arrested is going to be in the next day’s newspaper with a picture and a report. Some towns do that, others do not. That is the risk of publicity there. It is not something that can be hidden intentionally, it cannot be sealed or hidden while the process is ongoing.

How Does A DUI Arrest Affect Your Employment, Friends, Family, Etc.?

With friends and family, it is potentially an embarrassment factor because those close to you will also have to manage dealing with your DUI arrest. Employment really depends on the employer. If it is a job that requires a lot of driving then they can certainly look poorly upon that and there could be some consequences just from getting charged, even if there is not an eventual guilty plea. That ultimately depends on every individual employer.

Are Commercial Driver’s License Holders Handled Any Different?

The DUI itself is handled the same way, but the penalties are much stiffer. They risk license suspension or sometimes life-time license suspension because of DUI. That is something you have to make sure they understand when they are talking about resolving the case in any way.

For obvious reasons, if their livelihood depends on driving and they have a license suspension or a suspension because of a refusal to take the breath test, that is one of the cases where the employer may very well not keep them on.

Is It True That Your CDL License Can Be Affected Whether Or Not You’re Driving Your Own Personal Vehicle And Are Charged With DUI Or Convicted Of DUI?

Yes it does not matter. If you are off the clock and driving your own car but you have a CDL on your license, it still affects the CDL. It does not matter if you are driving for work or not.

Is It Easier Or Harder To Defend A Client Who Has Declined The Field Sobriety Test As Well As The Portable Breath Test? Should People Decline Or Actually Go Through These Tests?

That is the question that everybody asks, “Should I blow, should I blow?” As far as being easier to defend, it is just like if someone makes a statement to the police. If you do not take the test, then the prosecutor will typically have less evidence against you.

Each person has to weigh how much they think they have been drinking and the reality that you risk a significant license suspension if you do refuse to take that test. In most cases, there are some courts that will do some stiffer penalties for refusing to take the test. There is no good answer to that question. It depends, every case is possibly different.

If you want to know the best way to start dealing with a DUI, call the Law Office of Matthew Bangerter for an initial consultation at (440) 306-3205 and get the information and legal answers you’re seeking.

What Should Someone Do After They Are Arrested For DUI/OVI In Ohio?

What Are Some Common Mistakes People Make When Someone Do After They Are Arrested For DUI/OVI In Ohio That Can Hurt Their Case?

Just like in a criminal case, people like to try to help themselves by trying to talk to the police. They will say, for example, “I only had a couple” or “I didn’t drink that many”, but what happens then is that statement “I only had a couple” comes into trial is they admitted to drinking.

It gets subtly shifted and it ends up hurting them. The best thing to do, just like in a criminal case, is just not make any statements without talking to an attorney.

When People Are Arrested For A DUI, Do They Just Assume The Should Plead Guilty, Get This Over With And Move On? Why Is That Not The Best Approach?

Pleading guilty is not the best approach because you always want to take the chance to try to get a better resolution. There are many cases where you can work out a reduced charge, or some lower punishment.

One common resolution to a case, if it is a first DUI with no prior criminal history, an attorney can have it reduced to reckless operation or called a physical control which is being in physical control of the vehicle under the influence but not actually driving which is no points on your license. It is not a moving violation and it does not affect insurance the same way. It has a much better result than a straight OVI. So you always want to at least take a chance to pursue those opportunities.

What happens from the Point of Being Pulled Over For Suspicion Of DUI To Being Arrested, Going to Court, Until You’re Released from Jail?

When they arrest you, they will take you to the jail. They will ask you if you want to take the breath test or they will ask you to blow into the machine. You can typically get out of jail within a few hours, but somebody will have to come and bail you out.

Your first court date will be a few days after that. That is called an arraignment where you will go in front of the judge, you’ will be informed of your rights in court, your right to an attorney, your right to have a trial, all of the things you might see on TV. If it is a client at the law firm of Bangerter, most likely than you will just plead not guilty and the case just starts from there.

Attorney Bangerter has represented people who go in and plead guilty at that point, but there is no advantage at all to doing that. From there, it will get set for a couple more court dates which will allow the defense attorney to work on the case and to negotiate with the prosecutor and try to resolve the case. If it does not resolve then it will be set for trial.

Most OVI cases are probably handled within two to three months but that varies based on how busy the court system is.

For Someone Who Has Declined The Breathalyzer, What Is The Time Frame They Have To File For The DMV?

There are ways to appeal the suspension but you have to have that appeal filed within thirty days of your arrest. That is one deadline that your attorney needs to know about. There are a couple of other ways to handle it as the case goes on.

One of them is you can ask the courts to stay the suspension, meaning just make it not effective, delay it for a while so you are not suspended at the moment but at some point they might impose that you have to serve the suspension.

The other way to deal with it, is just ask the court for driving privileges. If you need to drive to work, school, doctors’ appointments, things like that, the court will often just grant you privileges to do those things so you can still go about your life with the license suspension.

Depending on the exact statute that they suspended the license under or how many OVIs you have had, there could be a fifteen to thirty day hard time with that suspension where you cannot get any privileges until that time is up. So if you have thirty days of hard time for refusing to take a breath test, you cannot get those privileges for thirty days.

How Can An Attorney Help In Defending A DUI/OVI Case In Ohio?


Very often. Especially for first time OVIs, there are a number of other options to reduce the case. When addressed proactively, the attorney can get the client involved in some programs. They are very inclined to give them minimum penalties. How can an attorney help in defending a Dui/Ovi case in Ohio?

There is a minimum jail time on OVI, first time OVI is three days but there is a provision where you can attend a driver intervention program which is a weekend in a hotel listening to alcohol awareness classes. That can substitute for jail time, so most often, a first time offender will spend a weekend in a hotel rather than in jail, other than the time they were there when they first got picked up.

There are cases where the law office of Bangerter has been able to negotiate even shorter suspensions or even eliminate that from the final agreement.

Why Is It Important To Hire An Attorney To Represent You In Such A DUI Case? Why Is It Important Versus A Public Defender Or Defending Yourself?

If you defend yourself, you do not have the experience to execute a strong DUI defense, for example, you’re likely not certified in administering the field sobriety test. An attorney can watch the video and see the things that the police officer did wrong administering all those tests. Even if they do them out of compliance with the regulation, then they should not even be able to come in as evidence.

Even if there are other mistakes, you can point those out to the jury and show the jury why the test was invalid because the officer did them wrong. The person defending themselves is not likely to know those details. It also comes with an understanding of the signs behind breath testing itself and there are a number of state mandated procedures that an officer has to follow in order to have a valid test.

Taking another example, the law officer of Bangerter had a case recently where this young lady blew a 0.14%, but one of the regulations is that the officer has to observe the person for twenty minutes before they blow into the machine. Because if they put anything else into their mouth or regurgitate a little or anything like that, it could affect the alcohol level and that throws off the reading in the machine.

They did not do that, they had her sit there for about five minutes then blow into the machine which invalidates the whole test. Because of that, the attorneys got a significant reduction on the case because the breathalyzer test was no good. That is another thing you typically will not be able to when representing yourself.

Do Most OVI Cases Actually Settle Out Of Court Or Do Some Of Them Tend To Go To Trial?

The vast majority settles out of court, and that is true in any area of the law. Only about 5% of cases actually go to trial.

What Tests Are Carried Out When Someone Is Stopped For DUI/OVI In Ohio?


Tests carried out when someone is stopped for Dui/Ovi in Ohio, like these are designed to detect impairment, impaired driving due to alcohol. There are three of them that are standardized in Ohio: the first one is called the HGN, which stands for Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus.

The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus is the one where the police officer moves a fingertip or pencil in front of your eyes. They are checking for involuntary jerking movements of the eyes that can occur if a person is intoxicated. The problem with that is, one, that those jerking movements can occur for any number of reasons and most of them are not alcohol related.

The other issue with that particular test is that very rarely does an officer perform it correctly. Attorney Bangerter has actually been certified with the same training that officers get to administer those tests and it takes three full days of training to learn to do it right, and the officers often do not.

The other two standardized DUI tests are called the walk and turn and the one legged stand. Walk and turn is the one where they have a person basically walk a line and the one legged stand is where they stand on one leg for thirty seconds. There are a lot more technical elements to both of those and again the officers learn how to do those over an entire weekend or three days of training, and practice them.

Almost everybody who gets pulled out of their car to take those tests have never seen them before and have never done them before. They are expected to instantly remember all those details as soon as they are told by the police officer and then perform it correctly regardless of whether they have been drinking or not and it is very difficult to do that.

Can Someone Refuse To Do a DUI Test? Are There Any Consequences?

Yes they can. It is just like speaking with the police. You can decline to take those field tests that are a little known so you do not see it very often. As a practical matter, the police officer may decide that he wants to arrest you just based on whatever else he sees. If he smells alcohol or something like that, but you certainly are well within your rights to decline to take those tests.

Are Those Tests Actually Admissible In Court As Evidence?

Yes they are. In trial, the prosecutor will typically play the dash cam video of the stop. They will show all of the tests, and they will show the officer doing the tests. They will show the client trying to perform the tests. The thing that is not admissible is the portable breath test.

For the breath test, the officer will take you back to the station and have you blow into the machine that is admissible. But if they give you a portable breath test on the side of the road, that is not admissible in court.

Can Someone Refuse To Do The Portable Breath Test And Are There Consequences To Doing So?

For the portable breath test no. If someone refuses to take the actual breath test back at the station, Ohio has what is called the “implied consent law”, which means by getting your driver’s license, you consent to take these breath tests if the police officers ask.

So if they ask and you refuse to take the test, your license will get automatically suspended for a year. Under the law, if you get a DUI and you refuse the breath test, you get the year of suspension but then you take the case to trial and you should win, you still have the suspension for refusing the test.

Things To Know After Facing A DUI/OVI In Ohio


Yes! However, it is ultimately up to the judge or the court that you are in, whether he grants that but the office of Bangerter will routinely ask for privileges to drive to certain places while you are under suspension and it is a pretty standard thing that they grant. Some things to know after facing a Dui/Ovi in Ohio.

As mentioned earlier, some courts frown on refusing breath tests and one of the ways they try to be hard on that is by refusing to grant privileges at all under a refusal suspension.

Does Ohio Have The Ignition Interlock Devices? Who Has To Have That Installed And For How Long?

They are typically six months to a year when someone is on probation. Some courts order them installed in order to get driving privileges while the case is still pending. After a couple of DUIs they can be mandatory, for the first DUI they are optional. The court can impose them at its discretion, but one thing the law office of Bangerter will work out, is that the person is not going to have to have that interlock.

Is Having An Interlock Device Installed Quite Expensive?

Yes. The client will typically have to pay for those. There is an installation fee and a monthly fee. It is another expense and another hoop to jump through to get that installed and get that properly working.

Are There Any First Time Offender Programs For OVIs In Ohio?

Typically not, but some courts have tried them. One of the issues with OVIs is that it is such a political topic. There is Mothers Against Drunk Driving and you have newspaper and media coverage. No judge wants to be the one who let the guy off and dismissed this case and then he goes off and kills somebody by driving drunk again. There have been some good programs in the past but right now there are none in Ohio for OVI cases.

Would A Typical Provision Be Probation For X Amount Of Months Or Years?

Yes. For a first time OVI, it is typically about $400 dollars fine plus court costs, driver intervention program, often some community service, probation from six months to a year, driver’s license suspension from six months to a year.

Those are some of the standard first time penalties, and if you have a strong case, those can go down, perhaps with negotiation. They can go up if it is an extreme case the other way. But those are typical.

Factors That Can Affect A DUI/OVI Charge In Ohio


The most common one is successive OVIs. Every OVI a person gets is added onto the last one. There is enhanced penalties for multiple OVIs within six years, also multiple OVIs within twenty years and at some point there are enhanced penalties for getting several OVIs in your lifetime. Here are some factors that can affect a dui/ovi charge in ohio.

They get more and more serious under the law, and even with an individual judge if you see that you are getting more OVIs, he is likely to give you a stiffer sentence than the minimum required by law.

Are There Laws That Address Having An Extremely High Blood Alcohol Content Level?

Yes. There is actually what is called a low tier and high tier alcohol level. Low tier in Ohio is 0.08 up to 0.17 and then 0.17 or higher is called a higher tier and the penalties are enhanced for that level.

How Is Having Minors In Your Car Addressed By the law?

The office of Bangerter has had cases where the driver got a DUI with two small children in the car and she got charged with child endangering so that could add another serious charge. It is very difficult to fight, if you have an OVI you end up pleading you are being found guilty to an OVI and the kids are in the car. The child endangering is going to make that worse.

Do Accidents That Involve Injury Have Stiffer Penalties?

The Ohio law allows in some cases, specifically orders that penalties for the OVI run consecutive to penalties for the underlying accident whether it is aggravated vehicular assault or God forbid, homicide. Having the OVI will make it worse, both under the law and in the eyes of the judge that is actually handing out the sentence.

Can Someone Receive An OVI For Having Blood Alcohol Content Below 0.08%?

Yes they can. There are a couple of basic OVIs, one is for having a blood alcohol level below 0.08 or 0.17 and that is determined by a chemical test. If an officer believes that the person is impaired even without that reading, he can charge them with an OVI even if they blew a 0.06 or 0.05 just because he says they are impaired, even though that is a lower limit.

As mentioned earlier, alcohol affects everybody differently, some people may have a low level and feel it more, and some people may have a high level and think that they’re fine. So yes, there are spots where they will get an OVI with less than 0.08.

In Ohio, Are There A Lot Of Cases Involving Illegal Or Prescription Drugs?

Yes they do come up. The office of Bangerter has not had too many, but marijuana is the most common. People have marijuana metabolites, in their blood. The issue with that especially is that marijuana will stay in your system for weeks after you smoke it. So a person could be driving weeks after they smoked marijuana, get charged with an OVI even though there is absolutely no chance that they were under any effects of the drug at the time.

How Are Drug OVI Cases Handled In Terms Of The Sentencing And Penalty? Are They Handled Similar To an Alcohol DUI or OVI?

Typically the penalties are the same. There might be an underlying drug charge too if they find drugs in the car. There might be some additional charges to deal it.

Once Someone Is Arrested, Does Their Car Become Available To Be Searched?

If they are going to tow the car, then they can search it. It is called an inventory search because they have to inventory everything that is in the car. Once that happens, then they will typically search the car and find whatever is in there.

Know Your Rights After DUI Arrest

Whenever any American citizen is arrested for a crime, they have the right to remain silent under the Fifth Amendment. This means you are not required to answer any questions from the arresting officers, nor are you required to sign any statements or act as a witness against yourself. Do not make the mistake of assuming that you remaining silent makes you look guilty; anything you say could be used against you, even if you are entirely innocent.

You also have the right to an attorney under the Sixth Amendment. After arrest and booking for DUI, you will be permitted to make phone calls. You can call your family to inform them of your situation and then reach out to an experienced Cleveland DUI defense lawyer. Your attorney can review the details of your arrest to determine whether it was lawful, and they will listen to your side of the story and explain how they can help in your situation.

The Fortress Law Group has years of experience defending Cleveland area clients in DUI cases, and our team knows the science behind DUI chemical testing that is often misapplied in these cases. We can examine all the details of your case and help formulate an effective defense. Our goal is to help you avoid conviction if possible or minimize your penalties if necessary.

Get The Legal Help You Need

The most common method for testing BAC is a breathalyzer machine, many of which pose significant reliability problems. As an Ohio DUI defense attorney, Matthew Bangerter handles all matters related to the defense of your drunk driving charge, including challenging the reliability of breathalyzer equipment used, appearing in criminal court as your advocate, and negotiating with the prosecution to obtain a reduced sentence.

As a skilled Ohio DUI attorney, Matthew Bangerter understands the Ohio drunk driving laws and he will strive to obtain a dismissal or reduction of charges against you, as well as the minimum available penalty. He understands that maintaining your driving privileges is of the utmost importance so he will seek to minimize or avoid any suspension or revocation of your driver’s license.

As a knowledgeable Ohio DUI attorney, Matthew Bangerter understands the importance of a close examination of the evidence and circumstances surrounding your DUI charge, including the circumstances of the traffic stop, any BAC testing equipment used, and the contact with law enforcement officers. He will closely examine the circumstances surrounding your DUI charges to determine whether the police had probable cause to pull you over and whether the field sobriety and breathalyzer tests were properly administered.


Q: Do I Need to Hire a Cleveland DUI Defense Lawyer?

A: You need to hire a Cleveland DUI defense lawyer if you want to have the greatest chance of avoiding conviction or at least minimizing your penalties if you are convicted of DUI. The right attorney can help build a solid defense, potentially enabling you to avoid conviction. However, if you did break the law and conviction is unavoidable, your attorney can still help you secure a lighter sentence than you could otherwise manage.

Q: Is a DUI a Misdemeanor or a Felony?

Q: How Can I Avoid Prison Time for a DUI Conviction?

Q: What Happens if I Caused an Accident While Intoxicated?

Q: How Much Does It Cost to Hire a Cleveland DUI Defense Lawyer?

Q: What Exactly Is A DUI According To State Law In Ohio?

Q: Do Most People Arrested For OVI Tend To Have High Blood Alcohol Level Or Do They Tend To Be Closer To The Legal Limit?

Q: Are People Usually Surprised At Either Their Level Of Being Intoxicated Or When They Are Being Questioned About Being Over The Legal Limit?

Q: Is There A Typical DUI Client Seen In Ohio Such As An Age Range And Gender?

Q: Is There A Typical DUI Story, Such As “I Just Had A Couple Of Beers”?

Q: Is Driving Under The Influence A Prevalent Problem In Ohio Counties?

Q: What Are Some Of The Misconceptions People Have About Being Arrested For A DUI?

Get The Best Defense For Your DUI Case

If you have been charged with DUI/OVI or other alcohol-related crime, contact the Ohio DUI/OVI defense lawyer of Matthew Bangerter at (440) 306-3205 to schedule a consultation to discuss your DUI case.