Ohio Appellate Court Case Clarifies OVI Sentencing

On September 30th, the Supreme of Ohio made a decision that clarifies how felony OVI sentencing works in harmony with repeat offender sentencing. Ultimately, the Court decided that while a repeat-offender specification should be considered along with the underlying OVI felony offense when determining sentencing, they should not be considered a “bundle” but, rather, two separate sentences.

The court was examining an appeal that was granted by the Ninth District Appellate Court. The initial case involved a man, Edward South, who was convicted of a third-degree felony for driving under the influence with a prior conviction. The sentence that was imposed for his conviction was a five-year mandatory prison term for the third-degree felony as well as a consecutive three-year mandatory prison term for the repeat-offense, a total of an 8-year mandatory prison sentence.

The Ninth District decided that the sentence was unlawful, as Ohio law states the following:

  • A third-degree felony OVI is punishable by a discretionary prison term of 9-36 months
  • A repeat-offender specification is punishable by a 1-5 year mandatory prison term

The conflict lies in whether or not the penalty for the specification changes the maximum sentence for the underlying felony. While the initial court decision concluded that it does, the Ninth District concluded that it does not, and overturned the entire 8-year sentence and sent the case back to the trial court for re-sentencing.

The Ohio Supreme Court disagreed with the Ninth District’s ruling. While they agreed that the five-year mandatory sentence for the third-degree felony was unlawful, they considered the three-year mandatory sentence to be justified by the laws of sentencing regarding repeat-offender specifications. Therefore, they re-instated the three-year mandatory sentence and sent the case of the third-degree felony back to trial for re-sentencing.

What does this all mean?

There were two mistakes made in these proceedings. The first mistake was the trial court misinterpreting the statutes to mean that one provision and its sentencing affects another. The second mistake was the Ninth District assuming that the two sentences were a “bundle” and overturning the whole thing, when only a portion of it was unlawful.

Essentially, this means that the penalty for an OVI felony and a penalty for a repeat offense are considered two separate sentences and one should not affect the other. To learn how this might affect your case, contact our team of Delaware OVI defense attorneys today.