Articles Posted in DUI/OVI field sobriety tests

Suddenly, there are flashing lights in your rear-view mirror. ‘What did I do?’ The officer slowly approaches your window. “Good evening. I noticed you had some trouble staying in your lane back there. I need to see your license, registration, and proof of insurance.” The nervousness makes it nearly impossible to get that stupid license out of your wallet. Where is the registration? You finally give the officer the documents. “Just sit tight”, he says, “I’ll be ‘right back.”

After what seems like forever, he returns. “I smell the odor of alcohol. I’ll need you to get out to make sure you’re okay.” Your mind races. ‘Is that glass of wine I had with dinner going to be a problem?’ You find the door handle, open the door, and get out. “Just stand on the spot where I’m shining my flashlight.” “I’m going to give you a few field sobriety tests to see if you are under the influence.”

‘Time out. Can I talk with an attorney first?’

Standardized field sobriety tests are administered in nearly every OVI (DUI) case in central Ohio. But what it the standard for admitting the field sobriety tests as evidence in an OVI (DUI) trial? To answer this question, we must look at decisions by the Ohio Supreme Court, legislation by the Ohio General Assembly, and the manual published by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration.

What has the Ohio Supreme Court said? In 2000, the Ohio Supreme Court held that, for the results of field sobriety tests to serve as probable cause to justify an arrest, the tests must be administered in strict compliance with standardized testing procedures. State v. Homan. The Court stated, “When field sobriety testing is conducted in a manner that departs from established methods and procedures, the results are inherently unreliable.” In 2004, the Ohio Supreme Court held that, for the results of field sobriety tests to be admissible at trial, the tests must be administered in compliance with standardized testing procedures. State v. Schmitt.

What has the Ohio legislature said? The legislature apparently did not approve of the result in Homan. In 2002, the Ohio General Assembly amended Ohio Revised Code section 4511.19(D). The amended statute provides that, if the prosecution demonstrates by clear and convincing evidence that the tests were administered in substantial compliance with testing standards, then: (1) the officer may testify concerning the results of the tests; (2) the prosecution may introduce the results of the tests; and (3) the Court shall admit such evidence if it is admissible under the Rules of Evidence. R.C. 4511.19(D)(4)(b).