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.
A semi rolled-over and spilled about 11,000 salmon onto the highway. As the fish flopped around on the road, the truck driver was charged with DUI. But it turned-out he had ‘auto-brewery syndrome’, a condition in which his body makes its own alcohol. This condition is rare but has been identified many times. For a person charged with DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio) who drank no alcohol, auto-brewery syndrome may be responsible.
In Ohio DUI/OVI cases, the prosecution sometimes introduces expert testimony. If a prosecutor intends to do so, the prosecutor must provide the defense attorney with a written report summarizing the expert’s testimony. According to the Ohio discovery rules, the report must be disclosed to defense counsel at least 21 days prior to trial. What happens when the report does not contain all the expert’s testimony or isn’t provided timely? A recent decision from the Ohio Supreme Court answers that question.
OVI trials sometimes involve testimony from expert witnesses. Those witnesses include pharmacologists who testify about the accuracy of the defendant’s breath test result. A recent decision from an Ohio Court of Appeals demonstrates the importance of assessing the quality of the expert witness report and evaluating the utility of anticipated expert testimony.
It makes the roads safer, except when it makes the roads more dangerous. It’s a fair consequence for a person convicted of DUI/OVI, except when it’s unfair. The ignition interlock device has been used increasingly by Ohio and most other states to prevent drunk driving. As illustrated by a recent article in The New York Times, the device intended to encourage safe roads and fair punishment has actually caused accidents and unjust punishments. What should Ohio do?
Defense attorneys and forensic experts have claimed for years breath-testing machines are unreliable. Those claims tend to fall on deaf ears due to the inherent bias of the source: defense attorneys are advocates for clients accused of crimes based on the results of the machines. Recently, however, more objective sources investigated the reliability of alcohol breath testers and concluded they are often unreliable.
The ever-growing number of states which have legalized either medical marijuana or recreational marijuana has created a number of issues for law enforcement and the justice system. Chief among those issues is the challenge of enforcing laws against operating a vehicle under the influence of marijuana. In an effort to overcome this challenge, the Norwegian company Drauger developed the DrugTest 5000. This system uses a mouth swab, taken roadside, to help determine if a driver is under the influence of marijuana or other drugs. The DrugTest 5000 has been in use in Norway since 2015 and has seen growing use in the United States. This test, however, is probably not the solution for law enforcement’s problems.
As discussed previously in this space, we have been eagerly awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision in Mitchell v. Wisconsin. The Court set out to determine whether Wisconsin’s Implied Consent statute requires police to obtain a search warrant before getting a blood sample from an unconscious DUI suspect. The state of Wisconsin argued that Mitchell, through the state’s Implied Consent statute, had already consented to the blood draw, thereby removing the requirement for a warrant. Alternatively, they argued this should simply be viewed as an exercise of the State’s power to imposes conditions on a person’s privilege to operate a vehicle on Wisconsin’s roads.
Ohio and Pennsylvania are two states which still prosecute drivers for DUI / OVI marijuana, even if the marijuana metabolites in the driver’s system are not affecting the person’s ability to drive. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s office recently announced it will not prosecute cannabis DUIs unless the driver has amounts of psychoactive THC which affect driving. Ohio prosecutors should consider implementing this policy.
The United States Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the case of Mitchell v. Wisconsin. As this blog discussed previously, this the third case in a series of cases dealing with whether the police can take a DUI/OVI suspect’s blood without a search warrant. The questions and statements from the bench during the oral argument may telegraph how each justice views the issue. However, in our experience, it is difficult to predict the outcome of a case based on the oral arguments.