Now that I can buy three takeout margaritas with my enchiladas to-go, can I sip one on the way home? If not, can my passenger drink it? And if that’s not allowed, where am I supposed to put the drinks while I drive? I don’t want to get charged with ‘Open Container’, or any other Ohio alcohol-related offenses for that matter.
We’ve used this space in the past to discuss how the nationwide trend in marijuana legalization has impacted the enforcement of DUI laws (called ‘OVI in Ohio’). After last week’s election, 37 states plus Washington D.C. have now legalized marijuana in some fashion. While recreational use of marijuana has been decriminalized (but not legalized) in Ohio, medical marijuana has been legal here since 2016. What does this mean for marijuana DUI charges? Could changes to Ohio’s OVI laws be on the horizon?
Technological advances in law enforcement must be reconciled with an individual’s right to due process of law. In DUI cases (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio), technology is used to determine the level of alcohol in a person’s breath. In other traffic cases, video cameras are used to determine speed limit violations. The fairness of the speed camera citation process was an abstract idea for me…until I received a citation. I learned that, if I wanted to appeal the citation, my appeal would be heard by a hearing officer from the city police department and not a judicial officer. The legality of this process was recently addressed by the Ohio Supreme Court and is now being challenged again.
Most states now have some form of legalized marijuana. Thirty-four states (as well as D.C., Guam and Puerto Rico) have medical marijuana programs, and ten states permit recreational marijuana use. The states with recreational marijuana have questioned whether marijuana legalization results in more traffic accidents. According to a recent article in the USA Today, the answer seems to be ‘no’. Nevertheless, Ohio aggressively enforces a flawed marijuana DUI law (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio).
We here at the Dominy Law Firm are big fans of the classic game show “Jeopardy”. With the fast-paced trivia challenge and Alex Trebek’s unmatched gravitas, there is little not to like. We are also big fans of the Constitutional protection against Double Jeopardy. This protection is enshrined in the 5th and 14th Amendments to the United States Constitution, as well as Article I, section 10 of the Ohio Constitution. It prevents people from being prosecuted for a crime more than once or being punished multiple times for the same conduct. The protection against double jeopardy occasionally is used as a defense in DUI cases (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio).
There is a difference between what generally ‘makes sense’ and what is sufficient evidence in court. In a recent Ohio DUI/OVI case, the prosecution’s failure to prove all the elements of an offense resulted in one conviction being reversed and probably should have resulted in a second conviction being reversed as well. This case from an Ohio court of appeals also illustrates important lessons for litigating DUI/OVI cases involving drugs.
In my experience as a criminal defense attorney, I have seen countless cases which began as simple traffic stops but escalated quickly into something far more complicated. Those more complicated cases often result from the officer searching my client’s vehicle and finding something illegal. Frequently, the officer’s search is based on the driver’s consent to the search. But what if the officer asks to search the vehicle and the driver doesn’t explicitly say yes or no? This question was answered in a recent appellate decision, and the answer can impact Ohio DUI/OVI cases.
Almost everyone will be involved in a car accident at some point in their lives. When a collision occurs, your first concern is probably safety. The last thing going through your mind is what exactly the law requires you to do after the accident. Failing to take the many steps required by Ohio law can result in a charge of leaving the scene of an accident, more commonly referred to as hit-skip. These charges can result in a license suspension, a jail term, driver license points, and a hefty fine. The penalties are so harsh partly because prosecutors and judges assume a hit-skip driver was probably guilty of drunk driving (called OVI in Ohio). So how strictly must the law be followed? The Ohio Supreme Court recently issued a decision which addresses this question.
Technological devices are used to measure both speed and breath alcohol concentration. In court, the results of those devices are introduced to prove defendants are guilty of speeding or DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio). As the government has the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt, one would expect the government would have the obligation to prove the measurement device produced an accurate result. A recent decision of the Ohio Supreme Court permits judges and juries to presume the measurement devices are accurate.
If another driver becomes angry with you, that driver can easily call the police and report you as a drunk driver. The driver doesn’t have to give a statement to the police. In fact, the allegation can be completely anonymous.
Should police officers be permitted to stop you based only on another person’s anonymous tip? That question will be answered by the Ohio Supreme Court, as it recently agreed to hear the case of State v. Tidwell. The case could have broad implications, not for not just OVI cases, but for individuals’ Fourth Amendment protections in general.