‘Best in the Midwest’ has become one of the slogans associated with the annual DUI/OVI seminar presented by the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (OACDL). A speaker from another state poked fun at the slogan by asking, “isn’t this the only DUI seminar in the Midwest?” I’m sure there are plenty of other DUI seminars in the Midwest, but this is the only one I know of which is nationally recognized and approved for credit from the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD) and the national DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DUIDLA). The seminar is two-and-a-half days and draws speakers and attendees from around the country. Whether it’s the best or not, the seminar held last week in Columbus was outstanding.
The seminar’s theme this year was ‘trying cases post-Ilg’. State v. Ilg is the breath-testing case decided recently by the Ohio Supreme Court. In that case, the Court reiterated a defendant in an OVI case has the right to challenge the accuracy of the specific breath test result in his or her case. Ilg clarified the holding of State v. Vega, which had been subject to misinterpretation for the last 30 years.
Thursday’s presentations focused on scientific issues in OVI cases. Thomas Workman from Massachusetts discussed breath test data, explaining what data is maintained, what data is not being provided to defendants, and what should be done about it. Pharmacologist/statistician Robert Belloto and attorney Andrew Bucher presented a scientific and statistical assessment of the Drug Recognition Evaluation program. There was also a panel of judges discussing State v. Ilg and breath test challenges at trial. It was interesting to hear the different interpretations of Ilg and various predictions about the future of breath-testing litigation in Ohio OVI cases.
Friday’s presentations focused on lawyering in OVI cases, with an emphasis on cross examination. Harley Wagner from West Virginia described MacCarthy-style cross, Frank Mungo from Kentucky discussed the soft cross, and Eric Sills from New York demonstrated a cross-examination with open-ended questions. Cross examination was also the theme for Saturday’s ‘Trial Skills Academy’.
I gave a presentation titled ‘Hunting For Treasure In O.D.H. Manuals’. These manuals published by the Alcohol & Drug Testing Program of the Ohio Department of Health (O.D.H.) are used in basic training for Ohio law enforcement officers. Content from those manuals can be used in cross-examining officers in OVI cases. That content is helpful for telling the story of the breath test in ‘chapters’ such as ‘how alcohol impairs driving’, ‘how alcohol is metabolized’, and ‘how the breath-testing machine works’. Although it’s preferable to use a defense expert to tell that story and explain how the machine may have produced an inaccurate result, using the manuals is helpful in a case where a defense expert is not retained.
This seminar has gotten bigger (and better, I think) each year. This year, it moved to the new venue of The Sheraton At Capitol Square, which proved to be a good location with good facilities and staff. While some lawyers seem to view continuing legal education as a necessary evil, I welcome this seminar every year. I always learn from the other speakers at the seminar, both in formal presentations and in our informal conversations. This year was no exception, and I’m looking forward to next year.