Although it is starting to look like it, this is not a blog about NFL players charged with DUI (called ‘OVI’ in Ohio). Recent articles discussed the cases of Henry Ruggs III and Geno Smith because those cases illustrated legal concepts related to DUI/OVI. The last article, about Geno Smith’s arrest, addressed what evidence indicates a driver may be under the influence before a traffic stop. In some DUI/OVI cases, traffic stops are not an issue, such as when the driver is in an accident or found passed-out behind the wheel. The legal concept at issue in those cases is when the driver is ‘seized’ and whether the seizure is legal. The case of Las Vegas Raiders cornerback Nate Hobbs illustrates that concept.
In my experience as a criminal defense attorney, I have seen countless cases which began as simple traffic stops but escalated quickly into something far more complicated. Those more complicated cases often result from the officer searching my client’s vehicle and finding something illegal. Frequently, the officer’s search is based on the driver’s consent to the search. But what if the officer asks to search the vehicle and the driver doesn’t explicitly say yes or no? This question was answered in a recent appellate decision, and the answer can impact Ohio DUI/OVI cases.
If another driver becomes angry with you, that driver can easily call the police and report you as a drunk driver. The driver doesn’t have to give a statement to the police. In fact, the allegation can be completely anonymous.
Should police officers be permitted to stop you based only on another person’s anonymous tip? That question will be answered by the Ohio Supreme Court, as it recently agreed to hear the case of State v. Tidwell. The case could have broad implications, not for not just OVI cases, but for individuals’ Fourth Amendment protections in general.
Imagine for a minute that your car is in the shop. You have some errands to run, so you borrow someone else’s car. A friend, a family member, a coworker, whomever. As you’re driving to the store, you see a police cruiser activate its lights and sirens to pull you over. You weren’t speeding, you didn’t drive over the lane line, you followed every traffic rule in the book. So why are you being pulled over? The officer walks up to your window and says you were stopped because the officer ran the car’s license plate and learned the registered owner of the car had their license revoked. The officer didn’t make any effort to determine whether that registered owner was actually driving the car: he just saw the revocation and pulled you over.
Is the officer allowed to do this?
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.
The United States Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments in the case of Mitchell v. Wisconsin. As this blog discussed previously, this the third case in a series of cases dealing with whether the police can take a DUI/OVI suspect’s blood without a search warrant. The questions and statements from the bench during the oral argument may telegraph how each justice views the issue. However, in our experience, it is difficult to predict the outcome of a case based on the oral arguments.
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.
Jamie was driving down the highway with her boyfriend when a police officer stopped Jamie for speeding. It turned out Jamie did not have a driver license, and there was an active warrant for her arrest. The officer put Jamie in the back of his cruiser and placed her under arrest.
In Ohio, and throughout the United States, we have a Constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. In Ohio OVI cases, that means an officer can only arrest a suspect if the officer has probable cause to believe the suspect operated a vehicle under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. In the recent case of State v. Bracken, the Court of Appeals concluded the arrest was not justified. Continue Reading
Last week, the United States Supreme Court released a decision in a trio of cases involving DUI refusal laws. A previous article in this blog gives a preview of the cases. To decide the outcomes of those cases, the court analyzes whether search warrants are required before law enforcement officers can administer breath tests and blood tests. Based on that analysis, the Court decides whether states can make it illegal to refuse chemical tests in DUI cases. The Court’s decision will impact Ohio DUI/OVI cases.