Ohio's OVI offense database is error-ridden

From The Newark Advocate Ernest Kirk, of Ross County, doesn’t appear in a database created so the public can track habitually drunken drivers, despite facing his 11th operating a vehicle while under the influence charge after 10 convictions.

He’s not the only one. The registry doesn’t include Mark J. Welsh, a Licking County man serving five years for his ninth OVI, or Steven Cole, a Columbus man arrested last week on his eighth OVI.

The online registry of habitual OVI offenders was established by a 2008 law to inform the public about dangerous drivers — those convicted of at least five OVI offenses within 20 years. But in the five years since its inception, the database has become a clearinghouse of misinformation, according to a CentralOhio.com investigation.

Only 75 courts from 46 counties have submitted data to the habitual OVI offender registry in five years. The registry provided to CentralOhio.com includes 522 names, but 38 are duplicates and two individuals are listed three times.

Licking County Municipal Court clerks have submitted 18 names to the registry since 2008, and the most recent entry was in November 2012. Three names were listed twice on the registry and one woman was listed three times. Licking County Common Pleas Court, where Welsh was sentenced, has never submitted a name to the registry.

Municipal court Clerk Marcia Phelps said her staff marks case files of individuals facing their fifth OVI conviction and sends forms to the department of public safety if they are convicted of driving impaired.

Ohio law requires the state department of public safety to establish and maintain the registry, which includes individuals whose fifth or subsequent OVI conviction occurred after Sept. 30, 2008. A person with five OVI convictions before 2008 would not be listed on the registry.

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