In DUI cases (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio), a defendant is sometimes charged with two OVI charges. One charge is OVI ‘impaired’, based on operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. The other charge is OVI ‘per se’, based on operating a vehicle with a prohibited concentration of alcohol and/or drugs in the driver’s breath, blood, or urine. In cases involving blood and urine tests, the charge of OVI ‘per se’ is often filed weeks or months after the charge of OVI ‘impaired’ is filed, as law enforcement waits to file the ‘per se’ charge until after receiving the results of the blood/urine test.
In those cases, when does the speedy trial clock start for the later-filed charge of OVI ‘per se’? Is it when the original charge was filed, when the test results were received, or when the second charge is filed? That question was recently answered by the Ohio Supreme Court.
New Charges Filed
The case is State v. Sanford. Sanford hit and killed a motorcycle driver, then turned himself in to police officers and admitted he had consumed alcohol and smoked marijuana. Police officers arrested Sanford and had a sample of his blood drawn for testing. Sanford was arrested and charged with Failure to Stop After an Accident (Hit-Skip).
After the prosecution received the results of the blood test, Sanford was indicted for multiple offenses: Aggravated Vehicular Homicide based on OVI, Aggravated Vehicular Homicide based on driving recklessly, OVI ‘impaired’, OVI ‘per se’, Hit-Skip, Driving Under Suspension, and Driving with No Operator’s License. Sanford remained in jail.
After being held in jail for 95 days, Sanford filed a motion to dismiss the charges based on speedy trial grounds. The trial judge dismissed some, but not all, of the charges. Sanford entered a plea of No Contest and was convicted. Sanford appealed his conviction to the Court of Appeals and, ultimately, to the Ohio Supreme Court.
Supreme Court Analyzes Speedy Trial for New Charges
The Ohio Supreme Court summarized Ohio’s speedy trial law. Ohio law requires that Sanford’s case be brought to trial within 270 days of his arrest. A defendant is entitled to three days of credit for each day he is held in jail on the charges. Therefore, Sanford must be brought to trial within 90 days of his arrest. Sanford was held in jail for 95 days before filing the motion to dismiss.
The speedy trial analysis becomes complicated when new charges are filed subsequent to the original charges. In State v. Baker, the Ohio Supreme Court held: when additional criminal charges arise from facts distinct from those supporting an original charge, or the state was unaware of such facts at that time, the speedy trial clock starts when the new charges are filed.
In Sanford, the Ohio Supreme Court applied the rule from Baker to Sanford’s situation. For the charges of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide based on driving recklessly, OVI ‘impaired’, Hit-Skip, Driving Under Suspension, and Driving with No Operator’s License, the Court found the state was aware of all the necessary facts to prosecute those charges at the time Sanford was arrested. Therefore, the speedy trial clock started at the time of Sanford’s arrest. However, for the charge of Aggravated Vehicular Homicide based on OVI and the charge of OVI ‘per se’, the state was not aware of all the necessary facts to prosecute those charges at the time Sanford was arrested. The state became aware of necessary facts when the state received the blood test results. Therefore, the speedy trial clock started when the new charges were filed.
Supreme Court Decision Makes Statewide Law
The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in Sanford settled a split in Ohio appellate courts. Most appellate courts had decided this issue in the same way as the Ohio Supreme Court. However, at least one appellate court decided the speedy trial clock for the subsequent OVI ‘per se’ charge started when the defendant was arrested. As a result, the application of Ohio speedy trial law was dependent on the appellate district in which the case was brought. With the decision in Sanford, the speedy trial law for subsequently filed OVI charges is statewide.
The Decision Has One Problem
The Sanford decision does not address the timeliness of filing the subsequent charge. In Sanford, the defendant was arrested for Hit-Skip and indicted for additional charges about three months later. The decision does not say when the state received the blood test results. What if the state receives results from a blood test or urine test two months after the arrest but waits to file the new charges until 18 months after the arrest. According to the rationale of Sanford, the speedy trial clock for the new charges begins when the new charges are filed. That would be unfair to the defendant, and the defendant would have no recourse under Ohio law.