Just as Hollywood has produced some good movies in trilogies, the United States Supreme Court has produced some good case law in trilogies. The Court addressed the right to confront crime lab analysts with the trinity of Bullcoming, Melendez-Diaz and Williams. On the issue of the need for a warrant to draw blood from a DUI suspect, two-thirds of the triad have been completed: McNeely and Birchfield. The triumvirate is about to be consummated with Mitchell v. Wisconsin.
I thought it was dead. In the jurisdictions where I handle OVI cases, I had not seen the Intoxilyzer 8000 used for years. To my surprise, I recently received discovery materials which showed my client’s breath test was done on an I-8000. Given the challenges faced by this machine when it was first brought to life in Ohio, I thought the State may let it rest in peace.
The last post in this blog described how crime lab reports are used in Ohio DUI / OVI cases. In a nutshell: a lab technician issues a report identifying the quantity of alcohol or drugs in a person’s blood or urine, and that report is given to the prosecutor. Ohio legislation requires the prosecutor to provide the report to the defense attorney. Ohio legislation, however, is not the only law impacting the use of these reports. The Constitutions of Ohio and the United States also provide limitations on the use of crime lab reports in Ohio DUI / OVI cases.
Although Ohio courtrooms may not seem as dramatic and intriguing as those on C.S.I., crime laboratory tests are regularly a part of Ohio criminal cases. In Ohio DUI / OVI cases, and in drug-related cases, crime lab technicians use scientific tests to identify drugs. The lab techs write reports about the analyses and sometimes testify at trial about the tests. A recent case in an Ohio appellate court discusses the detailed procedure for using crime lab reports in Ohio DUI / OVI and criminal trials.
Most police officers probably do not go to work hoping to witness a suspect provide a urine sample. It’s likely not one of those things they go home and share with their family and friends. But it’s one of those things Ohio law requires in OVI cases. If a suspect is arrested and asked to provide a urine sample, an Ohio Department of Health regulation states, “The collection of the urine specimen must be witnessed”. The precise meaning of “witnessed” was the subject of a recent case in an Ohio court of appeals.
Clean hands is an obsession for some people. In addition to frequent hand-washing, many people also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Aside from the potential issues with dry skin and weakened immune system (not to mention OCD!), use of hand sanitizers can also affect the results of a breath alcohol test.
When a machine is given the power to convict a person of a crime, we should be absolutely certain the machine is working properly. In Ohio, machines are used to measure the concentration of alcohol in the breath of drivers. A driver who operates a vehicle with a breath alcohol concentration of .080 or more is guilty of OVI, even if that person’s ability to drive was not impaired by the alcohol. As breath-testing machines have that much power, the accuracy and precision of the machines is critical, so they are subjected to a weekly instrument check. A recent case by an Ohio appellate court downplays the importance of those weekly instrument checks.
Joe was arrested for DUI / OVI, and the officer had Joe take a breath test and a urine test. The breath test showed an alcohol level under Ohio’s limit, and the urine test showed an alcohol level over Ohio’s limit. Based on the urine test result, Joe was prosecuted for operating a vehicle with a prohibited concentration of alcohol in his system. Should Joe be found guilty of OVI?
A smartphone app for breath-alcohol-testing was so promising that all five investors on Shark Tank collaborated on a deal for the first time. In 2013, Charles Yim went on the show and pitched his app to the Sharks. The Sharks collectively invested $1 million in Yim’s company Breathometer, Inc. for 30% of the company’s equity. Three years later, the company was the subject of an FTC complaint, and the complaint was recently settled.
Over 20,000 DWI cases in New Jersey are being called into question due to problems with the recalibration of breath-testing machines. According to New Jersey 101.5, Sgt. Marc Dennis skipped a critical step each time he recalibrated the machines. Plaintiffs in a class-action lawsuit now seek to vacate thousands of convictions in which evidence was produced by those breath-testing machines. Although this debacle occurred in New Jersey, it illustrates the importance of properly maintaining breath-testing machines in Ohio DUI/OVI cases.