Qualified Immunity, a defense used by police officers in civil rights lawsuits, is a topic not typically discussed in this blog. However, as a criminal defense lawyer, I have been asked about Qualified Immunity due to recent events in the United States. In addition, an individual who files a lawsuit based on a false OVI arrest may encounter this defense. Accordingly, I have asked attorney Eric Hollway to provide a guest article on Qualified Immunity. Mr. Holloway, a civil rights lawyer who represents clients in false arrest claims, prepared the remainder of this article.
A few days before the Kansas City Chiefs were to play in the Super Bowl, assistant coach Britt Reid (son of head coach Andy Reid) was involved in a three-car accident which left a five-year-old in critical condition. Earlier this month, Britt Reid was charged with the felony offense of ‘DWI-Serious Physical Injury’. While this incident occurred in Missouri, the investigation which led to the charge is essentially the same as a Vehicular Assault investigation in Ohio.
Many people charged with DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio), especially those charged with a first offense, feel like they are in the dark. They do not understand the elements and consequences of OVI, and they do not know what to expect in the court process. They also are uncertain about whether to hire a lawyer and how to find a good defense attorney. I recently published a new book, the Ohio DUI/OVI Guide, which answers most of the questions people ask in this situation. My hope is that those who read the guide will no longer be in the dark.
When people think of a DUI charge (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio), most think of drunk driving. This is where the bulk of the money and effort have been concentrated to raise awareness: think of the “Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving” or “Over the Limit, Under Arrest” advertising campaigns. However, with more states legalizing marijuana for medical and recreational use, more people are finding themselves charged with OVI stemming from alleged marijuana impairment. This is a trend we have been following for some time. For people charged with a Marijuana OVI, a frequent question is: How long is THC detectable in your system?
A police officer discarded evidence that a DUI suspect blew under the ‘legal limit’. According to WCNC, the suspect was involved in a one-car accident and pulled her vehicle into a gas station parking lot. An officer went to the gas station and had the suspect perform field sobriety tests. The officer took the suspect into custody and administered multiple breath tests. The officer obtained two evidence tickets with results from the breath tests. The officer threw-out the evidence ticket with a result ‘under the limit’, kept the evidence ticket with a result ‘over the limit’, and charged the suspect with DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio).
The reporting of Bruce Springsteen’s DUI arrest shows that, even if a person is presumed innocent in court, they can still be convicted in the press. In addition, Jeep’s publicized decision to pull The Boss’s Super Bowl commercial was an over-reaction. The media coverage and cancel culture are not the only problems. The evidence made public so far brings into question the propriety of Springsteen’s prosecution.
Over the past couple of years, this blog has followed and discussed the United States Supreme Court’s decision in Mitchell v. Wisconsion. While Supreme Court decisions can seem like seismic shifts in the law when they are issued, the reality is it often takes time for their effects to be felt on a practical level. Such is the case with Mitchell. While it was decided over a year-and-a-half ago, it is just now being discussed by Ohio Appellate Courts.
DUI cases (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio) are some of the most complicated cases filed in Ohio courts. From field sobriety tests to breath/blood/urine tests, there are many minute and highly technical details that can make or break an OVI defense in court. Often, a seemingly simple but no less important detail can get lost under the mountain of specialized evidence in OVI cases: why did the person get pulled over in the first place? And, more importantly for OVI defense: what degree of evidence does the prosecution need to present to justify that traffic stop?
“U Can’t Touch This” – That’s what the trooper believed when he stopped Ryan Turner for touching the ‘fog line’ on Old State Route 74. Based on that belief, the trooper stopped Turner and ultimately charged him with ‘DUI’ (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio). Turner challenged the trooper’s decision, and the case made its way to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Court concluded “you can touch this”, as long as you don’t go over it.
The Michigan legislature recently passed a bill which would permit first-time DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio) offenders to have their records sealed (expunged). Michigan, like Ohio, currently permits record sealing for many criminal offenses but prohibits record sealing for DUI convictions. The Michigan bill passed with an overwhelming majority and is now waiting for the governor’s approval. The potential change in Michigan’s expungement law raises the question of whether first-offense OVI convictions in Ohio should be eligible for record sealing.