Seminar: The Science, The Law And The Litigation In Ohio DUI/OVI Cases

Lawyers sometimes learn through trial and error;  literally.  Education at the school of hard knocks can be valuable, but learning from the experience of others has its own value.  One way attorneys can shorten the learning curve is by attending high quality continuing education seminars.  One outstanding annual seminar for DUI/OVI lawyers is ‘The Premiere Ohio DUI Defense Seminar’ sponsored by the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (OACDL).

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The focus of this year’s seminar, held last week, was drugged driving.  Ohio has seen an increase in the number of drivers charged with OVI for being under the influence of drugs.  With medical marijuana on the horizon, it’s likely the numbers of drugged driving cases will continue to increase.  With that in mind, the presentations addressed the science, the law and the litigation involved in drugged driving cases.

The Science Of Drugged Driving
Pharmacologist James O’Donnel taught the basics of pharmacokinetics.  He described, in terms understandable by non-scientists, the absorption, distribution and elimination of drugs in the human body.  Interestingly, he explained why retrograde extrapolation cannot accurately calculate the concentration of a drug in a person’s system at a particular point in the past;  like when the person was operating the vehicle.

Sgt. Adam Burkhart gave a presentation about DRE:  Drug Recognition Evaluations.  Sgt. Burkhart is Ohio’s state coordinator for the DRE program operated by the International Association of Chiefs of Police.  When Sgt. Burkhart spoke to a room full of defense lawyers, I’m not sure if he was like a sheep in a den of wolves or a fox in the hen house.  Either way, Sgt. Burkhart should be commended for his willingness to speak in this environment and his articulate description of Ohio’s DRE program.

DRE was also the subject of a presentation by Dr. Lance Platt and Fran Gengo, Pharm.D.  Their discussion focused on studies evaluating the effectiveness of the DRE program.  Platt and Gengo illuminated the statistical interpretation of the studies and ultimately concluded a drug recognition evaluation is approximately as accurate as a coin flip.

Law And Litigation In Ohio Drugged Driving Cases
There is a limited body of Ohio case law specific to operating under the influence of drugs.  An overview of those cases was presented by attorney Andrew Bucher from Toledo, and a discussion of the most recent decisions in this area was given by lawyer Tim Huey of Columbus.  The most significant decisions have been discussed recently in this blog.

My favorite presentations were those related to litigation in OVI cases.  Deandra Grant from Texas demonstrated her jury selection technique, Matthew Dodd from Montana taught his tried-and-true method of cross examination, and Shaun Kent from South Carolina shared his dramatic approach to closing arguments.  Tying it all together, Sarah Schielke from Colorado explained how she tries cases involving driving under the influence of marijuana.

I had the privilege of co-chairing this year’s seminar for the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (OACDL).  I have been involved with the OACDL for nearly 20 years, and it feels good to give back to an organization which has been instrumental to my career.  I hope this seminar shortened learning curve for all the attendees.