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.
In Ohio DUI/OVI cases, the prosecution sometimes introduces expert testimony. If a prosecutor intends to do so, the prosecutor must provide the defense attorney with a written report summarizing the expert’s testimony. According to the Ohio discovery rules, the report must be disclosed to defense counsel at least 21 days prior to trial. What happens when the report does not contain all the expert’s testimony or isn’t provided timely? A recent decision from the Ohio Supreme Court answers that question.
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?
OVI trials sometimes involve testimony from expert witnesses. Those witnesses include pharmacologists who testify about the accuracy of the defendant’s breath test result. A recent decision from an Ohio Court of Appeals demonstrates the importance of assessing the quality of the expert witness report and evaluating the utility of anticipated expert testimony.
As of January 1, 2020, 11 states and Washington D.C. have legalized recreational marijuana use. That number increases to 33 states when you include medical legalization. Several studies have been conducted to determine what effect this ever-growing legal access to marijuana has had on traffic and DUI/OVI statistics. While more data will be needed to ultimately determine the true effect of legalization, these studies indicate there has been an impact.
Destruction of evidence by the government can violate a defendant’s right to due process of law. Due process violations often lead to cases being dismissed. Using dismissal as a remedy is based on the principle that denying a defendant access to evidence can make a trial unfair. This is particularly true when the evidence is ‘exculpatory’: it tends to disprove guilt or is otherwise favorable to the defendant. In DUI cases (called “OVI” cases in Ohio), the evidence often includes video from a police cruiser, a body camera, or a police station. When such a video is destroyed by the government, does the case get dismissed? Like so many questions in the legal world, the answer is:
In an Ohio appellate case decided this month, the prosecutor assumed defense counsel’s motion was insufficient, and it did not end well for the prosecutor. Defense lawyers often file motions to suppress evidence in Ohio OVI cases. Occasionally, a prosecutor will claim the motion is not particular enough: it’s a ‘shotgun’ motion attacking all the evidence, or it’s a ‘boilerplate’ motion not sufficiently tailored to the defendant’s specific case. The recent case illustrates a prosecutor making that claim should still be prepared to meet their burden of proof.
Raymond Wells walked out of court thinking he knew his sentence and was probably surprised when he later learned it included more than what the judge told him in the courtroom. There is a common saying in the law that “the court speaks through its entries”. What happens if the judge says one thing in open court but another in the sentence entry? A recent case from the Sixth District Court of Appeals gives us an answer.