Columbus OVI/DUI Attorney Blog

Articles Posted in DUI/OVI enforcement

In September of 2014, CW was driving his motorcycle in northwestern New York and collided with another motorcycle. A police officer responded to the accident scene and reportedly noticed the odor of alcohol on CW. The officer asked CW to take a breath test, and CW refused. The officer ultimately obtained a blood sample from CW and charged him with DWI (known as OVI in Ohio). The officer then sent the blood sample to be tested. The test revealed a blood alcohol content of 0.00. Last week, five months after CW was charged with DWI, the case was finally dismissed, as reported by the Genesee Sun.

Blood draw

If this case occurred in Ohio, it would have likely gone through the same process. When an officer in Ohio suspects a driver is under the influence, the officer requests a breath test, blood test, or urine test. In cases where a blood test or urine test is used, the results of the test are not immediately known to the officer. Despite not having the test results, officers routinely charge people with OVI immediately after the blood or urine sample is obtained. The blood or urine sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis, and the analysis typically is not completed until weeks or months after the person is charged.

In cases involving blood/urine tests, there are two types of OVI charges which may be filed. First, the suspect is charged with OVI ‘impaired’. The ‘impaired’ charge accuses the suspect of operating a vehicle with driving ability impaired by alcohol and/or drugs. The ‘impaired’ charge is not dependent on the results of a blood/urine/breath test. Second, if the test results show an alcohol or drug level at or above the prohibited concentration (the ‘legal limit’), the suspect is charged with OVI ‘per se’. The ‘per se’ charge accuses the suspect of operating a vehicle with a prohibited alcohol or drug level. The ‘per se’ charge does not depend on whether suspect’s ability to drive was impaired.

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Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) recently released its “2015 Report To The Nation”. The report rates the efforts of each of the 50 states to prevent drunk driving. In the report, MADD uses a five-star system of measures which can be undertaken to prevent drunk driving fatalities. Ohio receives four stars.

1. Ignition Interlock Devices. MADD recommends the use of ignition interlock devices (IID). If a vehicle is equipped with an IID, the driver must blow into the IID before starting the car, and the car will only start if the alcohol concentration in the driver’s breath is below a predetermined limit. The MADD report indicates “Ohio has the opportunity to stop drunk driving. In 2014, Annie’s Law requiring ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers was introduced. The legislation ran out of time and faced opposition from a fringe group of judges.” Although Ohio does not have mandatory ignition interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers, Ohio does use ignition interlock devices in two ways. First, ignition interlock may be required as a condition of limited driving privileges on an Administrative License Suspension, and its use is mandatory on a third or subsequent offense. Second, ignition interlock may be required as part of a defendant’s sentence on a first conviction and is a mandatory part of the sentence on a second or subsequent conviction.

2. License Revocation. MADD endorses the implementation of the administrative license suspension: “a swift punishment for drunk driving through the immediate confiscation of an offender’s driver’s license by the arresting officer.” Ohio imposes immediate administrative license suspensions whenever an OVI suspect refuses a chemical test or submits to a chemical test and produces a result over .08. Administrative license suspensions for a first offender are 90 days (test over limit) or one year (test refusal). For subsequent administrative license suspensions, the duration of the suspension increases, up to five years.

3. Child Endangerment Laws. MADD suggests legislation crating child endangerment laws and views drunk driving with a child passenger as a form of child abuse. Ohio’s child endangerment law makes it illegal to operate a vehicle under the influence or over the limit with a child under 18 in the vehicle. That Ohio law is punishable by up to six months in jail and a license suspension for up to one year. If violation of that law results in serious physical harm to the child, or if the offender has a prior OVI conviction, violation of the law is a felony.

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It won’t win a Pulitzer Prize, it will not be mentioned with the New York Times best sellers, and it will not be at the top of readers’ ‘wish lists’. In fact, most people may not find it very interesting. If you are charged with a DUI/OVI in Ohio, however, this book suddenly becomes a must-read. I’m talking about the new book: I Was Charged With DUI/OVI, Now What?!

I wrote the book to answer the questions most commonly asked by people charged with OVI.Cover image from book.jpg After answering those questions for 17 years, I recently came to the realization there was not a published book designed for individuals charged with OVI in Ohio. I thought it would be helpful to create a book which explains ‘what you need to know before going to court and before hiring an attorney for DUI/OVI in Ohio‘.

The book, published a couple weeks ago, is divided into four parts. The first part reveals what prosecutors need to prove for a person to be found guilty of OVI and outlines the potential consequences of an OVI conviction. The second part addresses the evidence used in OVI cases, including field sobriety tests and blood/breath/urine tests. The third part discusses the court process and its various stages. The fourth part addresses how to find a good OVI lawyer.

The book is available online through Amazon and Barnes & Noble. The suggested retail price of the paperback is $9.95, and the e-book costs about half that. With the percentage I receive in royalties, I may buy a few cups of coffee…. The book is obviously not designed to be a money-maker for me. In fact, I will email a pdf version of the book to anyone who requests it, and I intend to make the paperback available in central Ohio libraries.

The book is designed to help people charged with OVI. People in that position need help, and one way I can help is providing this book. I can’t represent every person who contacts me after being charged with OVI: I typically only accept one new client per week. I certainly can’t field calls from every person who has questions about Ohio OVI laws. I can, however, answer those questions in the form of this low-cost book. I hope the book provides valuable information which is helpful to many people charged with DUI/OVI in Ohio.

This is Memorial Day Weekend, the unofficial beginning of summer. A lot of people will be on the road: visiting friends, attending parades, and going to cookouts. Some unlucky people on the road will find themselves stopped at DUI/OVI roadblocks. Although they do nothing wrong, they will have to stop, wait, wait some more, produce identification, and answer questions. They aren’t suspected of doing anything illegal, but they are seized.

Sobriety checkpoint ahead.jpgAlthough this situation seems at odds with our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, sobriety checkpoints can be Constitutional if they are done correctly. How to do them correctly is not a mystery. The United States Supreme Court gave clear criteria in Michigan v. Sitz, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issues a publication with procedures to follow.

Recent cases in New York illustrate what procedures not to follow. In Queens, New York, five cases of drunk driving were thrown out because they originated with illegal checkpoints, according to Each of the cases involved the same group of highway patrol officers. The officers routinely went to the same location, a service road connecting two highways, to conduct DUI enforcement. The officers called this type of enforcement “step out” surveillance because they waited for cars to approach their location, then stepped out and signaled for the driver to slow down or stop. The officers then looked for a reason to detain the driver, usually items hanging from a rearview mirror. If the officers observed something illegal, they detained the driver for a DUI investigation, including breath testing and field sobriety testing. It is estimated the officers arrested about 150 people using this method of DUI enforcement.

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Someone who has multiple conviction for DUI (called OVI in Ohio) faces increasingly severe consequences with each conviction. For example, while a first OVI typically results in three days in a hotel at a driver intervention program, a third offense with a high test or test refusal is a mandatory minimum of 60 days in jail. Ohio’s OVI sentencing law recognizes that a first offense may be an isolated incident, but a third offense is something more. If a person gets to the point of having five OVI convictions, that person is supposed to be listed in a registry of habitual OVI offenders.

Scarlet letter.jpgOhio’s habitual OVI offender registry is maintained by the Ohio Department of Public Safety (ODPS). It is mandatory for courts to send the Department of Public Safety information about DUI / OVI offenders including the number of times these individuals have been convicted of these specific crimes in the last two decades. If someone is convicted of OVI, Physical Control Under The Influence, Boating Under The Influence, or a similar offense five times in 20 years, that person is to be placed in the registry of habitual offenders. This searchable internet database includes a lot of personal information about the individual, including the offender’s name, birth date, number of convictions within 20 years, and the person’s physical address.

The Ohio Department of Public Safety recently announced that a recent update to the registry added significantly more people to the registry. The total number of people on the registry now stands at 5,331; a stark contrast to fewer than 400 before the recent update. According to those responsible, they managed to improve the system by compiling information from computerized court records instead of waiting on the submission of paper forms. Franklin County now has 389 repeat offenders listed in the registry, a huge increase from the 15 people on the list just two months ago.

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It’s January in central Ohio, and the temperature is slightly above zero. It’s not exactly golfing weather, and at this time of year, I begin to wonder if we will ever see golfing weather again. It’s not the time of year we think about using golf carts, and most of us are not pondering whether people should be convicted of DUI/OVI for driving a golf cart under the influence. I am, because I recently resolved a case where my client was charged with a golf cart OVI in Columbus, Ohio.

My client was not golfing. She was doing work at the Ohio State Fair. Her work required her to stay at the fairgrounds in a camper. After her work day ended, she retired to the camper and had a few drinks. Late in the night, she was alerted by a ‘neighbor’ about an emergency with their work. They got in the golf cart, and my client drove toward the worksite. As they drove, the ‘neighbor’ was yelling at somebody, and this caught the attention of a law enforcement officer. The officer stopped them and observed that my client smelled like alcohol and had bloodshot eyes. There was a beer can in the cup holder, and my client acknowledged she had been drinking, so the officer administered field sobriety tests and a breath test. The breath test result was twice the legal limit, so the officer charged my client with OVI.

Golf cart inside driver view.jpgUnder Ohio law, a person can be convicted of OVI on a golf cart. OVI stands for Operating a Vehicle under the Influence, and the definition of vehicle includes a golf cart. This application of the law has been challenged a couple times. In both State v. Tramonte and State v. Sanchez, the court of appeals said the OVI law does apply to golf carts.

Even if the law technically applies to golf carts, the question is whether we want to go after people that drive golf carts under the influence. There are uncountable instances that laws are broken and those responsible are not prosecuted. Both police officers and prosecuting attorneys are given discretion in enforcing the law. An officer can choose not to write a ticket, and a prosecutor can choose to dismiss or reduce charges.

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It’s July 4th weekend. With Independence Day falling on a Thursday, it’s an extra-long weekend. That means more cookouts, and it also means more police officers patrolling the roads of central Ohio on the lookout for drunk drivers. In central Ohio, the roads are patrolled by several different police departments. Some officers from those police departments are part of a special unit that enforces D.U.I./O.V.I. laws: the Franklin County DUI Task Force.

Over the limit Under Arrest.jpgThe Franklin County DUI Task Force was formed in 1993 and was the first county-wide DUI task force in Ohio. It was created to assess the drunk driving problem in Franklin County, Ohio and to develop an action plan to address the problem. The Franklin County DUI Task Force is comprised of officers from 31 law enforcement agencies. The officers participating in the Task Force are typically those officers with advanced training in D.U.I./O.V.I. enforcement beyond the basic D.U.I./O.V.I. course officers complete as part of their peace officer training.

The Task Force’s action plan to address the drunk driving problem incorporates both enforcement and education. The educational activities include mock crashes and checkpoints, awareness campaigns like “Over The Limit, Under Arrest“, and the Red Ribbon campaign. The enforcement activities include D.U.I. checkpoints and D.U.I. saturation patrols. According to the Task Force’s website, the number of D.U.I./O.V.I. arrests in Franklin County increased from about 6,700 in 2008 to about 7,300 in 2009 (the most recent years available). That website says the Task Force has received awards from MADD and the National Association of Chiefs of Police, and the success of the task force is largely due to the cooperation among the members of the Task Force.

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What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, but what happens near Vegas gets broadcast for the world to see. That’s what Erin Brockovich found out a few days ago when she was charged with Boating Under the Influence on Lake Mead, just outside Las Vegas, Nevada.

Map showing Las Vegas and Lake Mead.jpg After reading the news coverage of her case, I compared the B.U.I. laws of Ohio and Nevada and concluded Ohio has relatively tough sentences for boating under the influence.

According to the ‘Boating Crime Report‘ from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Brockovich and her husband attracted the attention of an officer at marina near Hoover Dam. They were arguing on their docked boat, she threw a cell phone into the water, and she appeared to slap him. Her husband apparently got off the boat, and she began to back the boat away from the dock when the officer stopped her. The officer observed beer on the boat and also observed that Brockovich was slurring her words when she spoke. The officer administered field sobriety tests and two portable breath tests. The officer arrested Brockovich and took her to a ranger station where she took two additional breath tests. The results of the tests were .160 and .163.

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William Strebler was lucky and unlucky. When he drove his car between two parked trucks, nobody was killed or injured. That’s pretty lucky. After he was found guilty of driving under the influence of his prescribed pain medicine, his conviction was affirmed by the court of appeals, and he had to serve two years in prison. That’s not-so-lucky. His case illustrates the importance of trial strategy in Ohio D.U.I./O.V.I. defense and also demonstrates the difficulty of enforcing D.U.I./O.V.I. laws when the substance in question is a prescription medication.

Pills with blue background.jpgThe case of State v. Strebler was decided earlier this month by the Court of Appeals for the Ninth District of Ohio. After the accident, police arrived and had Strebler write a statement about what happened. He wrote a statement that was “largely incomprehensible and ended with the word ‘bowflex'”. Field sobriety tests showed “several indicators of impairment”, so the police arrested him and took him to a police station. His breath test showed no alcohol in his breath, so he was given a blood test. That test showed oxycodone and tramadol in his blood. He told the police he was taking both pain relievers pursuant to a prescription. Strebler was charged with O.V.I.

At his bench trial, Strebler testified that he appeared to be under the influence of drugs because he hit his head in the accident and lacked sleep. The prosecution elicited expert testimony from a toxicologist about how the two prescription medications would affect driving ability. The toxicologist testified that it depends on the individual: one person with that level of those drugs in their blood may be completely normal, and another person may be passed out. The Court concluded that Strebler’s explanation the circumstances was not credible and found him guilty of O.V.I.

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The holiday season is at its climax. Some of us who would not ordinarily step foot in a mall battle huge crowds to buy last-minute gifts. Most of us attend more parties in two weeks than they we do the rest of the year. All of us are being told “drive sober or get pulled over”.
“Drive sober or get pulled over” is a campaign by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) aimed at raising awareness about drunk driving (called O.V.I. in Ohio). The campaign includes television commercials, radio advertising, and online videos. Although the campaign began earlier this year, efforts to implement the campaign and detect drunk drivers is being ramped-up for the holidays.
The holiday D.U.I./O.V.I. crackdown was the subject of a meeting earlier this month supported by NHTSA, MADD and the Governors Highway Safety Association. At that meeting, NHTSA released state by state drunk driving statistics for 2011 and reinforced the message that D.U.I. / O.V.I. enforcement will be increased significantly through New Year’s Day. U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood was quoted as saying, “The holiday season can be an especially dangerous time on our nation’s roadways due to drunk drivers – that’s why law enforcement officers will be out in full force”.
We know the officers are going to be out in full force during the holidays, so don’t go out and drink full force. With the money you save by not having to hire a good D.U.I./O.V.I. lawyer, you could buy a lot of last-minute gifts at the mall. Better yet, you could stay off the road entirely, order those gifts online, and give some of that saved money to charity!