Qualified Immunity, a defense used by police officers in civil rights lawsuits, is a topic not typically discussed in this blog. However, as a criminal defense lawyer, I have been asked about Qualified Immunity due to recent events in the United States. In addition, an individual who files a lawsuit based on a false OVI arrest may encounter this defense. Accordingly, I have asked attorney Eric Hollway to provide a guest article on Qualified Immunity. Mr. Holloway, a civil rights lawyer who represents clients in false arrest claims, prepared the remainder of this article.
A few days before the Kansas City Chiefs were to play in the Super Bowl, assistant coach Britt Reid (son of head coach Andy Reid) was involved in a three-car accident which left a five-year-old in critical condition. Earlier this month, Britt Reid was charged with the felony offense of ‘DWI-Serious Physical Injury’. While this incident occurred in Missouri, the investigation which led to the charge is essentially the same as a Vehicular Assault investigation in Ohio.
Many people charged with DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio), especially those charged with a first offense, feel like they are in the dark. They do not understand the elements and consequences of OVI, and they do not know what to expect in the court process. They also are uncertain about whether to hire a lawyer and how to find a good defense attorney. I recently published a new book, the Ohio DUI/OVI Guide, which answers most of the questions people ask in this situation. My hope is that those who read the guide will no longer be in the dark.
A police officer discarded evidence that a DUI suspect blew under the ‘legal limit’. According to WCNC, the suspect was involved in a one-car accident and pulled her vehicle into a gas station parking lot. An officer went to the gas station and had the suspect perform field sobriety tests. The officer took the suspect into custody and administered multiple breath tests. The officer obtained two evidence tickets with results from the breath tests. The officer threw-out the evidence ticket with a result ‘under the limit’, kept the evidence ticket with a result ‘over the limit’, and charged the suspect with DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio).
The reporting of Bruce Springsteen’s DUI arrest shows that, even if a person is presumed innocent in court, they can still be convicted in the press. In addition, Jeep’s publicized decision to pull The Boss’s Super Bowl commercial was an over-reaction. The media coverage and cancel culture are not the only problems. The evidence made public so far brings into question the propriety of Springsteen’s prosecution.
Imagine for a minute that your car is in the shop. You have some errands to run, so you borrow someone else’s car. A friend, a family member, a coworker, whomever. As you’re driving to the store, you see a police cruiser activate its lights and sirens to pull you over. You weren’t speeding, you didn’t drive over the lane line, you followed every traffic rule in the book. So why are you being pulled over? The officer walks up to your window and says you were stopped because the officer ran the car’s license plate and learned the registered owner of the car had their license revoked. The officer didn’t make any effort to determine whether that registered owner was actually driving the car: he just saw the revocation and pulled you over.
Is the officer allowed to do this?
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?
I recently had the pleasure of being interviewed by Grant Eagle on his podcast “5 Minute Legal Insights”. It actually lasted for ten minutes, and I was just getting warmed up! We discussed common misconceptions about DUI/OVI stops, arrests, and court cases. You can listen to the podcast here, and you can also find it on Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify and Stitcher.
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.
Some people can’t resist. After having drinks, they get a craving, and they have to satisfy it. For some, it’s tacos or wings. For others, it’s burgers and fries. It’s typically not broccoli and kale. And then they go to a drive-thru when perhaps they shouldn’t be driving, and they end-up arrested for DUI/OVI. Two recent news-making DUI arrests demonstrate the danger of caving to cravings and driving-thru instead of staying home.