Ohio O.V.I. And Child Endangering

In July of 2011, state Representative Jarrod Martin was driving his children in his pickup truck in Jackson County, Ohio. He was pulled over by a state trooper for a marked lanes violation after his truck drifted left of center. The trooper asked Martin to perform field sobriety tests, and Martin declined. Martin also declined a breath test, which resulted in a one-year license suspension. Martin was charged with O.V.I. and Child Endangering in the Jackson County Municipal Court. He hired an attorney and pled Not Guilty. Six months later, the charges of O.V.I. and Child Endangering are being dismissed, and Martin is pleading guilty to the Marked Lanes violation, according to the Dayton Daily News.

In Martin’s case, the trooper added the charge of Child Endangering to the charge of O.V.I., which is common for officers to do when a driver is charged with O.V.I. and has a child in the car. Ohio’s Child Endangering statute specifically prohibits operating a vehicle under the influence (or over the limit) with one or more children in the vehicle. A driver who operates a vehicle under the influence (or over the limit) and has a child in the car necessarily commits the offense of Child Endangering simultaneously with the offense of O.V.I.

Although the two offenses are committed simultaneously, the Ohio Child Endangering statute say a person can be convicted of both O.V.I. and Child Endangering out of the same incident. The sentence for an O.V.I. includes a jail term, a license suspension, a fine, and probation, as well as possible yellow license plates and ignition interlock. For this type of Child Endangering conviction, the sentence includes a possible jail term, license suspension, fine, and probation.

Although the Child Endangering statute says a person can be convicted off both O.V.I. and Child Endangering out of the same act, it is questionable whether sentencing a defendant for both offenses would be upheld in court. The case of State v. Johnson held that, if the two offenses are committed by the same conduct, the offenses merge for sentencing.

In Representative Martin’s case, sentence merger is not an issue because both charges are being dismissed. He does, however, still have an Administrative License Suspension (with limited driving privileges) for refusing the breath test.