There has not been a live DUI defense seminar in Ohio for over a year. The Premier Ohio DUI Defense Seminar, hosted by the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (OACDL) is typically held in March. This year, with the hope of having participants present in-person, the seminar was postponed until June. The postponement paid-off, and the 20th annual seminar was not only live (with reduced capacity), but was also live-streamed to lawyers across the state. It wasn’t held at the usual time, but it had the usual high quality.
The impact of COVID-19 on DUI cases (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio) was addressed in two presentations. First, April Campbell spoke about post-pandemic trials. She described the effects of the pandemic on the process for jury trials and how to successfully deal with those effects. Second, Chuck Rathburn and Dr. Al Staubus discussed how COVID-19 has affected breath alcohol testing. It was great to hear from these two breath-testing experts.
Connect the Dots
I gave a presentation about marijuana-related OVI called Connect the Dots: FSTs, THC, & OVI. Law enforcement officers use field sobriety tests (FSTs) to help them determine whether a driver is under the influence of marijuana. However, the FSTs were designed to predict alcohol concentration and were never intended to measure marijuana impairment. A recent report from the U.S. Department of Justice concluded FST results are not correlated with marijuana impairment.
Marijuana impairment is also not closely correlated with THC levels. The 2017 ‘Marijuana-Impaired Driving: A Report to Congress’ by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration concluded, “Peak THC level can occur when low impairment is measured, and high impairment can be measured when THC level is low.” More recently, the 2021 report from the U.S. Department of Justice concluded, “THC is not a reliable marker of cannabis impairment.”
My presentation dove-tailed nicely with a demonstration by attorney Brock Schoenlein and FST expert Josh Ott. The focus of the demonstration was how to cross-examine a police officer who believes FSTs measure impairment. Dan Sabol then tied it all together with his ‘Common Sense Cross’ presentation.
There were some excellent presentations by lawyers who were first-time speakers at this seminar. Beau Cross offered a ‘New Lawyers Survival Kit’, and Tad Brittingham gave ‘Tips and Tricks for Common Situations’. ‘Overcoming Nerves and Establishing Control’ was discussed by Charles Rowland, ‘Selling Storyline’ was illustrated by Jeff Kakish, and ‘Collateral Consequences of OVI Convictions’ were explained by Leslie Johns.
Last year’s three-day seminar was canceled after the first day, and I had the displeasure of announcing the cancellation to the attendees. After having that experience, combined with the lack of live seminars for over a year, it was great to be with my colleagues in-person again. Even though I have focused my practice on DUI/OVI defense and serious vehicular crimes defense for two decades, I learn something new at this seminar every year. I’m looking forward to next year’s OACDL seminar at the regular time and at full capacity.