Articles Tagged with Ohio DUI/OVI

Clean hands is an obsession for some people.  In addition to frequent hand-washing, many people also use alcohol-based hand sanitizers. Aside from the potential issues with dry skin and weakened immune system (not to mention OCD!), use of hand sanitizers can also affect the results of a breath alcohol test.

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The impact of hand sanitizers on breath testing was the subject of a recent article in the Journal Of Forensic Sciences. A previous study concluded the absorption of alcohol from hand sanitizers has virtually no effect on blood alcohol concentration. The current study answered a different question: what if the hand sanitizer is on the hands of the breath test operator?

To answer the question, the researchers had breath test operators apply hand sanitizer, rub their hands until dry, and then administer breath tests to subjects who had consumed no alcohol. Part of administering the breath test is removing the disposable mouthpiece from its package and inserting it in the breath tube for the test.

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The abominable snowman was arrested for drunk driving. The ‘arrest’ of the snowman was part of a campaign by the St. Helens Police Department to crackdown on drunk driving during the holidays. Although the arrest was fake, the message was real: DUI/OVI enforcement is increased during the holiday season.

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The holidays bring an increased volume of driving. According to AAA, holiday travel has increased consistently over the last nine years, and this year looks to be record-setting. In Ohio, nearly 4.5 million people are traveling for the holidays, and 90% of those are driving.

The holidays also bring an increase in accidents related to operating under the influence. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports that, over the last five years, an average of 300 people died in drunk driving crashes during the week between Christmas and New Year’s Day. In Ohio last year, ten OVI-related crashes resulted in 13 deaths during the Christmas holiday, according to the Ohio State Highway Patrol.

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During a recent OVI jury trial, the judge and I disagreed about the function of standardized field sobriety tests (SFSTs). During a sidebar, I argued the tests do not measure driving impairment; they predict blood alcohol concentration (BAC). The judge’s opinion was SFSTs measure impairment of driving ability. The judge’s opinion prevailed, despite being wrong, because the judge’s opinion always prevails in the judge’s courtroom (unless and until an appellate court says otherwise). This particular judge is intelligent, well-intentioned, and better educated on DUI/OVI issues than most judges and lawyers. If this judge misunderstands the purpose of SFSTs, it’s a topic worth addressing.

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A Very Brief History Of Standardized Field Sobriety Testing
Before the introduction of SFSTs, law enforcement officers used a variety of non-standardized tests to help them decide whether to arrest a person for drunk driving. Beginning in 1975, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), sponsored research which resulted in the development of standardized field sobriety tests. That research also led to the NHTSA manual: “DWI Detection And Standardized Field Sobriety Testing”.

Subsequent to the original publication of the manual, NHTSA conducted multiple validation studies. Those studies have evaluated the SFSTs in various environments and have examined multiple factors affecting the tests. The reports from the studies are clear: what’s being evaluated is the effectiveness of the SFSTs to predict BAC, not driving impairment.

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Vegas-2017-strip-closed-300x201A few hours before the Las Vegas shooting, I checked-in at the Monte Carlo, four ‘doors’ down from Mandalay Bay. I was there to attend the DUI defense seminar presented by the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD). The desk clerk said the Monte Carlo was being renovated (no pool, no spa, nearly no restaurants), and she offered to move me to Mandalay Bay. I decided to stay at the Monte Carlo and just use the pool at Mandalay Bay. My body was still on Ohio time, so I was going to bed when the shooting started. I was aware there was a lot of noise (apparently, the Monte Carlo was locked-down), so I put in earplugs and went to sleep.

Vegas-2017-news-reporter-300x225The next morning, I woke up and learned the nation’s largest mass shooting took place just down the Strip. Still on Ohio time, and traveling with an Ohio police officer, I walked down to the area. Witnesses were returning from police interviews: draped in hotel towels, crying, and wearing outfits obviously selected for a country music concert. News reporters, like the one pictured here, were reporting on the incident from every angle.

 

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And then there was the police presence. Law enforcement had Las Vegas Boulevard shut down south of Tropicana Avenue. Police cruisers and motorcycles lined Las Vegas Blvd. from one end of the Strip to the other. Groups of officers were stationed outside each resort.

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Lawyers disagree on what part of a trial is the most important. Some lawyers say the closing argument is the most important part because that’s when we tie everything together and persuade. Others say the closing doesn’t matter much: trials are lost or won during jury selection. Still others say the most critical phase of a trial is cross-examination.

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Cross-examination was the subject of a recent workshop in Charleston, South Carolina (a couple days after Hurricane Irma hit!), and I was part of the faculty for the workshop. The workshop was part of a three-day seminar presented by the DUI Defense Lawyers Association (DUIDLA), and first two days of the seminar were lectures on various DUI/OVI topics. The third day was a trial skills workshop focused on improving the attendees’ cross examination skills.

 

In DUI/OVI cases, cross examination is very important. In all OVI trials, the defense attorney cross-examines the prosecution witnesses. In many OVI trials, there are no defense witnesses testifying, so all of the testimony comes from the prosecution witnesses. Therefore, it is critical for those prosecution witnesses to be effectively cross-examined.

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In his book Good To Great, Jim Collins discusses ‘the hedgehog concept’. The concept is essentially this: although the fox is a cunning predator, the hedgehog always defeats the fox because the hedgehog focuses on doing one thing well – it rolls into a ball of spiky quills the fox cannot penetrate. The hedgehog concept applies to practicing law: focusing on one narrow area of law and doing it well leads to expertise and effectiveness. In the narrow area of DUI/OVI defense, one great way to learn is attending advanced level seminars like the summer session of the National College for DUI Defense (NCDD).

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I recently attended the NCDD summer session at Harvard Law School. Over the course of three days, some of the best DUI lawyers in the country discussed advanced topics in DUI defense. The seminar included lectures, demonstrations, and workshops. Additional learning took place informally each night as the lawyers exchanged ideas, tactics, and best practices.

While all the presentations were informative, there were two presentations which stood out to me: one about metrology, and one about pharmacology. The metrology presentation discussed the uncertainty involved in measurements and explained common failures in the measurement of blood alcohol concentration. The pharmacology presentation compared the work of law enforcement Drug Recognition Experts to that of pharmacologists in DUI/OVI cases involving drugs other than alcohol.

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This is the week of July 4th.  For some, that means celebrating our nation’s independence with burgers, beer and boats.  As alcohol is often mixed with boating, people are prosecuted and punished for boating under the influence (BUI).  But how do law enforcement officers determine if a person’s ability to operate a boat is impaired by alcohol?

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Standardized Sobriety Tests And Sea Legs
Law enforcement officers have historically investigated BUI using the same Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) as those used for DUI / OVI cases on land.  Those tests include the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN), the Walk And Turn (WAT) and the One Leg Stand (OLS) tests.

 

In 1990, the U.S. Coast Guard, in conjunction with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), conducted a study regarding the utility of the SFSTs in the marine environment.  The report from the study concludes the use of the SFSTs is effective for making the correct arrest decision, and the accuracy of the tests is not degraded in the marine environment.  The report was later criticized because it ignored the effect of ‘sea legs’ on test performance.

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After Tiger Woods’ recent DUI arrest, he issued a statement in which he said, “I want the public to know alcohol was not involved.  What happened was an unexpected reaction to prescribed medications.”  Prescription medications, as well as non-prescribed drugs, account for an increasing number of DUI/OVI cases in Ohio and throughout the United States.  Tiger’s situation very publicly spotlights the complicated problem of drugged driving.

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The Effects Of An Unexpected Reaction

At about 3:00 am on Memorial Day, a police officer found Tiger asleep at the wheel of his Mercedes.  The car was parked, partially on the road, and the engine was running.  The officer approached Tiger and woke him.  The officer noticed Tiger was sluggish and observed Tiger’s speech was slow and slurred.  When asked where he was going, Tiger said he was coming from L.A. and going to Orange County.  He was actually in Jupiter, Florida.

The last entry in this blog discussed the movement to decrease distracted driving in the United States.  Using cell phones while driving appears to be increasingly problematic.  In response, states are criminalizing the behavior, and groups like the Partnership For Distraction-Free Driving and the Distracted Driving Project are mounting campaigns which encourage drivers to not multi-task while driving.  Another idea to combat distracted driving is use of the ‘Textalyzer’.

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What Is A Textalyzer?
The Textalyzer is computer program developed by Cellebrite.  Cellebrite sells software which enables investigators to unlock digital evidence from cell phones and other devices.  The Textalyzer is a relatively lean application which analyzes cells phone and provides reports regarding how and when the phones were used.

The Textalyzer could be used in various traffic law enforcement scenarios.  For example, it may be used if an officer is dispatched to an accident scene, makes a traffic stop, or responds to a report of a reckless driver.  In any of those situations, the officer could obtain the cell phone(s) of the driver(s) involved.  The officer would then run a cable from the driver’s phone to the officer’s laptop.  The Textalyzer program on the officer’s laptop would then examine the cell phone on-the-spot and report the findings to the officer.

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How many times have you seen someone obviously texting while driving?  I recently drove by a guy who was operating his phone with both hands while he steered his car with his knees.  I’m sensitive to the danger posed by distracted driving, both as a lawyer who represents clients charged with traffic offenses and as a father of a child approaching driving age.  The more we learn about the danger of distracted driving, the more we understand it may be as hazardous as drunk driving.  Consequently, driving while texting may someday carry penalties like those for DUI (known as OVI in Ohio).

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Matt Richtel‘s recent article in the New York Times presents a good discussion of this issue.  According to the article, the problem of driving while distracted by a cell phone is getting worse.  Surveys show Americans not only continue to text but also take selfies, use Snapchat and post on Facebook while driving.  According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), 3,477 people in the United States were killed by distracted driving in 2015, and another 391,000 were injured.  NHSTA chief Mark Rosekind says it’s increasing, and “radical change requires radical ideas”.

The Movement To Decrease Distracted Driving
One idea for change comes from Candace Lightner, founder of Mother’s Against Drunk Driving.  Lightner has formed a new group:  Partnership For Distraction-Free Driving.  That group is gathering signatures on a petition for social media companies like Twitter and Facebook to discourage drivers from multi-tasking.

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