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Belmont County

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Target 9 investigation: Why are there so many repeat OVI arrests?

Updated: Tuesday, April 29 2014, 11:48 AM EDT
BELMONT COUNTY, Ohio - OVI drivers are dangerous and put you and your family's lives at stake when they get behind the wheel. So why do some of these offenders continue to break the law?
We've all heard about it -- in some cases, we've even witnessed it -- the same people picked up time and time again for driving under the influence.
"We've seen a huge increase in OVI arrests in Belmont County,"
Lt. James Faunda of the Ohio State Highway Patrol said.
The St. Clairsville Post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol averages 450 OVI arrests each year.
OVI doesn't just constitute driving while intoxicated with alcohol. It can be any substance that puts a driver under the influence.
"Four years ago, I would have told you that most of our impaired driving arrests involved the use of alcohol; that's not the case," Faunda said.
"We're seeing a huge increase in impaired drivers that are under the influence of either illegal narcotics or prescription medication."
There are two types of people who end up in cuffs for intoxication: First time offenders who learn their lesson. And repeat offenders who troopers arrest over and over again.
"Repeat offenders don't need another chance," Faunda said. "They've already been through the court system once or twice and now it's time to make them pay for the crime that they've committed.
"Someone under the influence could wipe out five kids waiting at a bus stop," Belmont County Judge Frank Fregiato said. "They could plow through individuals at a festival and kill 10, 20, 30, or maim or seriously injure them."
So, how exactly do the laws work for these repeat OVI offenders? Perhaps there's no better place to find answers than with a judge.
"They go to jail for DUI," Fregiato said. "I hear it all the time where they don't. And that's just not true."
Fregiato sat to explain the law in its simplest format in order of offenses.
The first three OVI offenses within a six-year period are misdemeanors of the first degree.
Penalties for these offenses range from a minimum of 3 days in jail and a 6-month driver's license suspension to 30 days in jail and a driver's license suspension of 2-10 years.
"All those are misdemeanors of the first degree," Fregiato said. "They're misdeameanors, but the highest misdemeanor that there is."
If your blood alcohol content is above .17, the penalties increase, even on a first offense.
"Now when you get above this in terms of the number of offenses, for example, a fourth or fifth offense in prior six years, or a sixth offense in 20 years, now you're in the felony level," Fregiato said. "That's a felony of the fourth degree."
A second felony charge over the course of a driver's history is a Felony 3, punishable by three years in prison and a lifetime driver's suspension.
"When you get up into the felony level, you got a serious problem," Fregiato said.

The Breakdown
1st offense within 6 six years: Minimum 3 days in jail or a locked down residential driver intervention program, fine, driver's license suspension six months to three years
2nd offense: Minimum 10 days in jail to six months in jail. Minimum 1 year license suspension maximum 5 year
3rd offense: Minimum 30 days in jail to 1 year. Driver's license suspension 2-10 years (1-3 are misdemeanors of the first degree -- the highest misdemeanor that there is. If your breath alcohol level is above .17, these penalties increase, doubled, even on a first offense).
*4th offense -- in prior 6 years
*5th offense -- in prior 6 years
*6th offense in 20 years
*These three are felonies of the fourth degree.
A second felony lifetime charge is a Felony 3, punishable by three years in prison and a lifetime driver's license suspension.

Target 9 investigation: Why are there so many repeat OVI arrests?

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