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Legal Driving Limit in Ohio

One of the ways you can be charged with operating a vehicle while impaired in Ohio is by having a quantity of alcohol or drugs in your body that exceeds the legal driving limit in Ohio under state law. When you’re charged with OVI for exceeding the legal limit, that’s called OVI per se. In essence, the charge is that the presence of alcohol or drugs in your blood that exceeds the legal limit is evidence in and of itself that you drove under the influence.

Typically, an OVI per se charge is based on some form of chemical test. If the charge is alcohol-related, then your charge most likely is based on the results of a breath or blood test. A drug-related OVI per se charge typically is based on a blood or urine test.

Need help to fight your Ohio DUI? Call Cincinnati DUI lawyer Brad Groene at for a free consultation. We’re here 24/7. You can also find your specific charge below for more information.

An OVI per se charge is a serious legal matter, and if you’re convicted you may experience long-term negative consequences such as:

  • A jail sentence
  • Expensive fines or court fees
  • Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license
  • Points on your driver’s license
  • Loss of your commercial driver’s license
  • Suspension or revocation of a professional license to work in your career, such as law, medicine, teaching, pharmacy, or nursing
  • A permanent criminal record that can lead to being denied employment or rental housing

However, even when you’re charged with an Ohio OVI for being over the legal limit, you may have options for fighting your charge by challenging the test results. An experienced Cincinnati OVI defense lawyer can help you better understand how the legal limit applies to your case — and your options for a defense strategy.

It’s also important to understand that you can still be charged with OVI or DUI in Ohio even if you’re not over the legal limit. All a prosecutor needs is evidence that your driving was impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs in order to charge you with what’s commonly known as OVI impaired.

Ohio’s legal limits for alcohol and drugs are set in Ohio Rev. Code 4511.19, and break down into a few categories. Those include:

Alcohol Driving Limit For Adults

The Ohio legal limit for blood alcohol concentration for adults is probably the one most people are familiar with, although they may not realize there are actually two tiers to the limit, or that the legal limit is affected by what kind of sample was taken for a chemical test.

  • OVI Per Se — The basic legal limit for adults is a BAC of .08 as determined in a breath test or whole blood test. However, when the test is performed on blood serum or plasma, the legal limit for charging OVI per se is .096, and when the test is performed on a urine sample the legal limit is .11.
  • “High Test” OVI — When your blood alcohol concentration exceeds .17 in a breath or whole blood test, you can be charged with a “high test” OVI offense for having a BAC that is significantly over the limit. The penalties for a high test OVI are more severe than for an OVI impaired or OVI per se. The high test limit for a blood serum or plasma sample is .204, and for a urine sample it’s .238.

The following chart and table provides additional information on whether your blood, breath or urine is below or above the Ohio legal limit.

Operation with concentration of alcohol specified below

Alcohol Driving Limit Under 21

The legal limit for people under 21 — who aren’t legally allowed to consume alcohol — is much lower than for older adults in Ohio. The legal limit for a driver under age 21 is a BAC of .02 in a breath or whole blood test, .03 in a blood serum or plasma test, and .028 in a urine test.

If you are under 21, the following chart and table provides additional information on whether your blood, breath or urine is below or above the Ohio legal limit.

Operation by person under age 21

Drug Limits

The legal limit for controlled substances depends on the drug you were alleged to have taken and the type of sample, whether it’s urine or blood. For purposes of the legal limit for drugs, there’s no differentiation between whole blood or blood serum or plasma under Ohio law.

  • Amphetamine — The legal limit for amphetamine in your blood is 100 nanograms per milliliter. In a urine test, the limit is 500 nanograms per milliliter.
  • Cocaine or Cocaine Metabolite — The legal limit for cocaine or a cocaine metabolite is 150 nanograms per milliliter of blood, or 50 nanograms per milliliter of urine.
  • Heroin — The legal limit for heroin is 2,000 nanograms per milliliter of blood, or 50 nanograms per milliliter of urine.
  • Heroin Metabolite — The legal limit for a heroin metabolite such as morphine is 10 nanograms per milliliter of blood, or 50 nanograms per milliliter of urine.
  • Marijuana — The legal limit for marijuana is 10 nanograms per milliliter of blood, or 2 nanograms per milliliter of urine.
  • Marijuana Metabolite — The legal limit for a marijuana metabolite alone is 35 nanograms per milliliter of blood, or 50 nanograms per milliliter of urine.
  • Marijuana Metabolite plus Alcohol — When you have a marijuana metabolite and alcohol in your system, the legal limit for the marijuana metabolite is lower than for a marijuana metabolite alone. The legal limit for a marijuana metabolite when you also are under the influence of alcohol is 15 nanograms per milliliter of blood, or 5 nanograms per milliliter of urine.
  • Methamphetamine — The legal limit for methamphetamine is 500 nanograms per milliliter of blood, or 100 nanograms per milliliter of urine.

Facing an Ohio DUI? Contact Cincinnati DUI Lawyers with LHA.

If you have been pulled over for an OVI, whether it’s your first time or a subsequent time, you’re likely stressed, angry, and worried about your future. The best thing to do is to call the experienced Cincinnati DUI lawyers with Luftman, Heck & Associates. In Cincinnati, attorney Brad Groene can walk you through your legal options and begin building a defense to reduce the penalties you face. Get the justice you deserve. Don’t hesitate to contact us today at or email us at advice@cincinnaticriminalattorney.com. We are available 24/7.
Cincinnati DUI Lawyer Brad Groene | Luftman, Heck & Associates