Technological devices are used to measure both speed and breath alcohol concentration. In court, the results of those devices are introduced to prove defendants are guilty of speeding or DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio). As the government has the burden of proving a defendant’s guilt, one would expect the government would have the obligation to prove the measurement device produced an accurate result. A recent decision of the Ohio Supreme Court permits judges and juries to presume the measurement devices are accurate.
Updated April 10, 2020
The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had a profound effect on nearly every aspect of American society. From closing schools, bars and restaurants to banning public gatherings over a certain size, Ohio has followed expert advice to keep people physically separated as much as possible. To reflect this new reality, and to encourage social distancing, most courts in central Ohio are implementing changes, including limitations on court appearances. Below are the specific changes being implemented by the central Ohio courts in which the Dominy Law Firm practices.
OVI trials sometimes involve testimony from expert witnesses. Those witnesses include pharmacologists who testify about the accuracy of the defendant’s breath test result. A recent decision from an Ohio Court of Appeals demonstrates the importance of assessing the quality of the expert witness report and evaluating the utility of anticipated expert testimony.
Destruction of evidence by the government can violate a defendant’s right to due process of law. Due process violations often lead to cases being dismissed. Using dismissal as a remedy is based on the principle that denying a defendant access to evidence can make a trial unfair. This is particularly true when the evidence is ‘exculpatory’: it tends to disprove guilt or is otherwise favorable to the defendant. In DUI cases (called “OVI” cases in Ohio), the evidence often includes video from a police cruiser, a body camera, or a police station. When such a video is destroyed by the government, does the case get dismissed? Like so many questions in the legal world, the answer is:
In 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.
Raymond Wells walked out of court thinking he knew his sentence and was probably surprised when he later learned it included more than what the judge told him in the courtroom. There is a common saying in the law that “the court speaks through its entries”. What happens if the judge says one thing in open court but another in the sentence entry? A recent case from the Sixth District Court of Appeals gives us an answer.
You may be more of a target than you think. When you think about people arrested for drunk driving, do you picture a car driving erratically all over the road? That’s a common misconception. Most stops resulting in DUI/OVI charges are for minor offenses: failing to signal, driving a little over the speed limit, crossing a lane line one time. Some are even for non-moving violations: burned-out headlight, no license plate light, expired registration. A case decided last week by the Ohio Supreme Court illustrates how a minor violation can lead to more serious charges.
Brynn Campbell was involved in a head on-crash which killed the 83-year-old woman driving the other car. Campbell was taken to the hospital, and hospital staff performed a urine test. Although Campbell showed no obvious signs of impairment, a police officer went to the hospital and asked the nurse for the urine test results. The results showed Campbell’s alcohol level was well over the limit, according to the Global News. The officer then obtained a search warrant to obtain Campbell’s urine samples and have them tested. Campbell was charged with vehicular homicide. She was acquitted by the trial court, and the prosecution appealed.
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.
The credibility of a law enforcement officer makes a difference in court. Judges seem to presume officers are credible. Officers, however, can ruin their credibility with unprofessional conduct, uncorroborated claims, and unconfirmed clues. The trooper in a recent Franklin County case did just that, and it resulted in the court of appeals concluding the trooper’s arrest of the defendant was unlawful.