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.
DUI cases (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio) are some of the most complicated cases filed in Ohio courts. From field sobriety tests to breath/blood/urine tests, there are many minute and highly technical details that can make or break an OVI defense in court. Often, a seemingly simple but no less important detail can get lost under the mountain of specialized evidence in OVI cases: why did the person get pulled over in the first place? And, more importantly for OVI defense: what degree of evidence does the prosecution need to present to justify that traffic stop?
“U Can’t Touch This” – That’s what the trooper believed when he stopped Ryan Turner for touching the ‘fog line’ on Old State Route 74. Based on that belief, the trooper stopped Turner and ultimately charged him with ‘DUI’ (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio). Turner challenged the trooper’s decision, and the case made its way to the Ohio Supreme Court. The Court concluded “you can touch this”, as long as you don’t go over it.
The Michigan legislature recently passed a bill which would permit first-time DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio) offenders to have their records sealed (expunged). Michigan, like Ohio, currently permits record sealing for many criminal offenses but prohibits record sealing for DUI convictions. The Michigan bill passed with an overwhelming majority and is now waiting for the governor’s approval. The potential change in Michigan’s expungement law raises the question of whether first-offense OVI convictions in Ohio should be eligible for record sealing.
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.