Motions To Suppress In Ohio DUI / OVI Cases

Lawyers-speaking-with-judge-at-bench-300x200In 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.

The Judge Agreed With The Prosecutor
The recent case is State v. Williams. David Williams was arrested for OVI, and his attorney filed a motion to suppress evidence. At the motion hearing, the lawyers for the State and the defendant narrowed the issue to whether the arret was justified by probable cause to believe the defendant committed a crime. Both lawyers elected to introduce no evidence. The judge concluded the defendant had the burden of going forward on his motion to suppress. Because the defendant did not introduce any evidence, the judge overruled the motion to suppress.

The Court Of Appeals Analyzed It differently
The appellate court clarified the responsibilities of the parties. A defendant who desires for evidence to be excluded from trial must file a motion to suppress the evidence.  As the Ohio Supreme Court previously stated in State v. Schindler, “[I]n order to require a hearing on a motion to suppress evidence, the defendant must state the motion’s legal and factual bases with sufficient particularity to place the prosecutor and court on notice of the issues to be decided.”

The prosecutor apparently believed the defendant’s motion was not particular enough to warrant a hearing. The Court of Appeals disagreed, stating, “Appellant stated these allegations with sufficient particularity to put the State on notice that he was asserting that the deputy had no probable cause to detain or arrest him ***. These alleged facts shifted the burden to the state to put forth evidence of probable cause to arrest for OVI.”

The Burden Of Proof Was Not Met
Based on the mistaken belief the motion to suppress was not particular enough, the prosecutor decided to introduce no evidence. The prosecutor initially said he was going to play the arresting officer’s body camera video but later said he would not play the video after all.

Because the motion was sufficiently particular, not only did it justify a motion hearing, it also shifted the burden of proof to the prosecutor. When an arrest is made without an arrest warrant, the prosecution always has the burden of proving there was an applicable exception to the warrant requirement. And, as the Ohio Supreme Court stated in State v. Codeluppi, “[t]he motion to suppress is merely a procedural vehicle to ‘put the ball in play’ and serve notice that the defendant intends to have the state meet is legislatively mandated burden of demonstrating compliance with any and all challenged regulations and requirements.” Because the prosecutor did not introduce any evidence, the State did not meet its burden of proof. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the judge’s decision, so the defendant’s motion to suppress gets granted.

The Irony Of ‘Not Particularized’ Claims
I have experiences with prosecutors making the ‘not particularized’ argument, none of which had any validity.  In these experiences, I have observed a fantastic irony. The lawyers and judges all know the recurring issues in Ohio OVI cases. A prosecutor will never be surprised that a defendant is challenging the justification for the stop or arrest. It will never come as a shock when a defendant wants to exclude the field sobriety tests or the blood/breath/urine test. What makes the irony fantastic is the prosecutors then often follow a written script when conducting the direct examination of the arresting officer, and the script asks questions which are not particularized and clearly inapplicable to the case being litigated.