About 1,800 Ohioans have DUI arrests reaching double digits

COLUMBUS (AP) — About 1,800 Ohio residents have been arrested 10 or more times driving under the influence, state arrest data show.

About two-thirds of Ohioans arrested for drunken driving are only charged once, according to an analysis by The Columbus Dispatch.

Columbus defense lawyer Benjamin Luftman said about 90 percent of his drunken-driving clients are first-time offenders.

“They thought they were OK to drive, and they made a mistake,” he said.

The remaining one-third has multiple arrests and some have multiple convictions for drunken driving. The Dispatch analysis found 11 people who have 17 arrests, five who have 18, five with 19 and two people with 20 arrests, according to Ohio Department of Public Safety data.

A first-time conviction for driving while impaired carries either a mandatory three-day jail sentence or three days in a driver intervention program, plus a six-month license suspension.

Judges can dole out lifetime license suspensions for repeat offenders. The Dispatch found in 2014 that such suspensions are rare.

Drunken drivers often avoid jail time for early offenses because judges reserve stiff punishments for violent offenders, Lancaster Assistant Law Director Stephanie Hall said.

A recent state law gives judges the right to require convicted drunken drivers to install a device in their car that measures their blood-alcohol level before they can drive.

Under Ohio law, a driver is considered impaired with a blood-alcohol level of 0.08 percent or higher.

The number of crashes involving drunken drivers has increased in Ohio in recent years, according to the State Highway Patrol. In 2013, 350 people were killed in crashes that resulted in an OVI charge, and 8,140 were injured. Those figures rose to 430 killed and 8,672 injured in 2016.