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.
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?
Anyone who has been charged with an OVI / DUI in Ohio has had the pleasure of listening to an officer read several paragraphs from the back of a form provided by the Ohio BMV. This often droll recitation is required by Ohio’s implied consent law, which says that anyone who operates a vehicle in the state implicitly consents to takes a blood/breath/urine test for drugs and/or alcohol if arrested for OVI. An implied consent law similar to Ohio’s was recently found to be unconstitutional by the Georgia Supreme Court.
There are few instances when the government can take our property without first holding a hearing. An Ohio Administrative License Suspension (A.L.S.) is one of those instances. If a driver refuses a chemical test or tests ‘over the limit’, an officer takes the driver’s license on-the-spot. Accordingly, to protect drivers’ rights to due process of law, Ohio has rules which must be followed for an A.L.S to be imposed. A recent A.L.S. case in an Ohio Court of Appeals demonstrates what happens when the rules are not followed.
A few days ago, the state of Ohio began imposing increased penalties for DUI (known in Ohio as OVI). The increased penalties are part of House Bill 388, commonly known as “Annie’s Law”*. The legislation is not really one law but a revision of nearly 20 statutes and creation of one new one. Effective April 6, 2017, “Annie’s Law” provides for longer driver license suspensions, encourages increased use of ignition interlock devices, and results in more defendants being punished as ‘repeat offenders’.
Until a few days ago, the scope of driving privileges for Ohio DUI/OVI suspensions was very limited. A parent on limited driving privileges was not permitted to drive children for extra-curricular activities. A person on limited driving privileges was not allowed to drive to care for elderly parents. A person on limited driving privileges could not drive to AA or counseling unless it was court-ordered. That changed last week, when the state legislature revised Ohio law for limited driving privileges.
The last entry in this blog discussed lesson number one for appealing an Ohio Administrative License Suspension (A.L.S.). The lesson came from a recent appellate case. That lesson was for defense lawyers, and it was simple: file the appeal on time. This entry discusses lesson number two, which also comes from a recent appellate case. This lesson is for courts, and it is also simple: follow the law.
Practicing law is an art, not a science, and there are various methods to develop skill at the art of lawyering. One method is to learn the hard way. In a recent Ohio OVI case, the defense lawyer learned the hard way lesson number one for appealing an Administrative License Suspension (A.L.S.). Hopefully, others will learn from this example.
Ohio takes drivers’ licenses before a person is found guilty of DUI/OVI. If a person is arrested for DUI/OVI and tests over the limit, or refuses to test, that person’s license is suspended immediately. No judge reviews the circumstances beforehand to determine if the suspension should be imposed. Instead, the executive branch of the government takes the driver’s license automatically.
I’m traveling to another state for a seminar next week. It just so happens the state is Nevada, and the seminar is in Las Vegas. For me, there is no risk of being convicted of DUI in Nevada because the trip is all about education! Sometimes, however, an Ohio driver comes home with the unwanted souvenir of an out-of-state DUI conviction. When it comes to DUI, what happens in Vegas does not stay in Vegas: there are consequences in Ohio for a DUI conviction in another state.