Free case evaluation

Report looks at Ohio’s “look-back” clause regarding drunk drivers

A recent report from WKYC leads off with police officers patrolling Cleveland’s Glenville neighborhood and randomly pulling over cars at an OVI (operating a vehicle impaired) checkpoint.

That activity serves as the backdrop for a discussion of Ohio’s real and persistent problem with what are deemed “serial drunk drivers.” Those motorists, who are stopped and subsequently convicted multiple times on drunk driving charges, are hardly unique to Ohio. As the media report indicates, though, Ohio statutory law regarding the state’s so-called “look back” provision inadvertently plays a central role in enabling problem drivers with a demonstrated propensity for getting behind the wheel while inebriated to reoffend over and over again.

And that ability creates a dangerous and direct nexus to a heightened level of car accidents, particularly crashes with fatalities.

Chronic drunk drivers “are playing Russian Roulette with other people’s lives,” states the special coverage report from WKYC.

Relevant statistics seem to readily bear that out. The above-stated look-back rule enables a drunk driver to escape elevated criminal charges if a previous OVI offense occurred more than six years prior to the most recent offense. In such an event, the current offense looks like an initial encounter. Over time and a number of driving years, a problem driver might actually have a number of OVI offenses separated by sufficient time allowing for continued driving.

The media report notes a few of the state’s most exceptional cases. Many people in the state have OVI convictions in the double digits. One man, a Springfield resident, has reportedly been arrested 34 times on drinking charges.

Notes one county prosecutor: “This is a class of crime that, in my experience, we need to lock these people up to keep us safe.”

Source:, “Serial drunk drivers: Is the justice system too lenient?” Lynna Lai, July 9, 2013