OVI charges begin with a traffic stop and often proceed through roadside sobriety tests, breath tests, arraignments, motion hearings, and may culminate in a jury trial. The DUI defense attorneys of Smith's Law Offices provide an overview of those steps here.
The police may stop you either through a reasonable suspicion stop or at a checkpoint. At checkpoints, the police may regularly stop cars that pass and need not have any suspicions, though there are strict restrictions on how they choose who they stop. Reasonable suspicion stops are those where the police must either see a problem with your vehicle, such as burnt out lights, or have a reasonable suspicion that you are breaking the law. These reasonable suspicions often include crossing lines, swerving, speeding, driving with headlights off at night, failing to signal a lane change, running a red light, and such. An experienced DUI attorney such as the those at Smith's Law Offices can put the State to the test – because if the police did not have sufficient reason to stop you in the first place, anything they found after, including the results of breath tests, may become inadmissible.
During the traffic stop, the police officer will make observations that may lead him to suspect you are under the influence. He will use these observations to move forward with the OVI/DUI arrest and the prosecutor will use his observations during pretrials and trial. The police will look for things such as bloodshot eyes, alcohol containers, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol or drugs, and of course what the driver and passengers say to him.
Your job during the traffic stop is to be polite, minimize conversation, never lie, but do not answer questions that would be incriminating. If you do not want to answer a question, you might first attempt to change the conversation, such as asking the officer what you did wrong or how long you will be stopped. If it becomes clear that the officer suspects you are intoxicated, tell him that you want to speak to an attorney before answering more questions. Do not argue, as both prosecutors and juries will have little sympathy for an argumentative and disrespectful citizen.
If the officer suspects that you have been drinking and are under the influence, he will ask you to get out of the vehicle and perform sobriety tests. You should politely refuse to take the tests. The officer asking you to take the test is doing so because he already decided you are under the influence. So guess how he is likely to score you? Most likely not well. His report, and perhaps video of you stumbling, may not be helpful at trial either. You do not have to take a field sobriety test, it is a losing game, so why help the officer build a case against you? Do not argue - but do politely refuse.
These sobriety tests may include various standardized tests and non-standardized tests. These tests are scored, but they are subjective and subject to weather conditions, the road conditions, and your own physical, mental, and coordination abilities. The standardized tests may include the Horizontal Gaze Nysagmus, where the officer holds a pen or finger in front of your eyes as he watches for involuntary movement of the eye. Another standardized test is the One Leg Stand Test, where the officer will ask you to stand on one leg and count as the other leg is raised about 6 inches off the ground. The Walk and Turn Test involves walking nine steps, heal to toe, counting each step, turning and walking back in the same manner. Each of these tests has rules for the officer as well as for you, are valid only when certain circumstances are met, and have rules with regard to how the instructions are given to you. The OVI / DUI attorneys at Smith's Law Offices take the time to investigate how the tests were given to exclude any faulty test results from being used against you.
There are also various non-standardized test whose accuracy have not been determined to be sufficiently related to alcohol impairment, but the police officer may still ask you to complete some of them. If you have not refused the field sobriety tests, you may be asked to touch your finger to your nose with your eyes closed and head tilted back, to count backward, to say portions of the alphabet, or to stand balanced with your feet together, head tilted back, eyes closed, and estimating when 30 seconds have passed.
Another test the police officer may ask you to take before arresting you is the Portable Breath Test. This is NOT the Evidentiary Test discussed below, which would be given to you at a police station or medical facility. You have every right to refuse the Portable Breath Test given in the field, without any implications to your license.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) describes the standardized field sobriety tests (SFTS) in its manuals. There was an update to the NHTSA manual in 2018 - https://www.nhtsa.gov/sites/nhtsa.dot.gov/files/documents/sfst_full_participant_manual_2018.pdf. NHTSA's web page at http://www.nhtsa.gov/Impaired also includes general information about enforcement. Ohio has a manual for law enforcement located at http://www.publicsafety.ohio.gov/links/DPS0011.pdf
If the officer believes he has sufficient information that you have violated OVI laws, he will arrest you. That is, he will take you to jail where you will be asked to take an evidentiary blood alcohol test. You will be held by the police until you post bail or are released on an own recognizance bond, which is a the legal way of saying that you are released without having to post bail. During this entire process, you simply need to keep your mouth shut. Do not assist the police in gathering their information against you. If they have arrested you, it is inconceivable that you can say anything to help you at this point, though much of what you say will be used against you. OVI charges are the same as DUI charges. What used to be referred to as Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is now referred to as Operating a Vehicle while Intoxicated (OVI) by the laws of Ohio.
The police may attempt to test your blood alcohol content with a urine test, blood test, or much more likely with a breath test. There are specific guidelines that are required for all of these tests. There is no right answer to whether you should consent to the evidentiary test. If you refuse, you will face a license suspension, but your lawyer may be able to avoid the OVI conviction. If you take the test and score under, it will certainly help you, though the police officer may still charge you with an OVI or other offense. Drivers with CDLs who refuse lose their CDL for a year, and if they refuse a second time they lose their CDL for life. If you have prior OVI convictions or have refused in the past, a refusal today can affect you differently. And more basically, it may depend on whether you had anything to drink and how much. Generally speaking, it is appropriate to refuse if you have no other OVI convictions or refusals, do not carry a CDL, and would likely receive a high test if you did consent.
The rules with respect to giving these tests are extensive, related to how the test equipment is maintained, how often it is calibrated, how the calibration solution is maintained, the timing of the test must be within 3 hours of the violation but after a senior operator has observed you for twenty minutes, your mouth must be checked for any objects, and the Administrative License Suspension Form must be read to you before you decide whether to submit or refuse. Additionally, challenges to the test may be made if you have certain health conditions, have belched or vomited during the observation period, if you have dentures or dental apparatus, and even if you are accused of refusing when you did not.
The arraignment is your initial appearance where you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty, not guilty, or no contest in court. If you wish to challenge your OVI/DUI charge, you should enter a plea of not-guilty and inform the court that you will be obtaining a lawyer. Better yet, contact a lawyer immediately after your arrest and the arraignment may be avoided by the lawyer filing a not-guilty plea and entering a notice of appearance. If you cannot afford an attorney and qualify, you may also ask the court to appoint an attorney (i.e., public defender) to you.
If an officer has reasonable grounds to believe you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, a refusal to submit to the evidentiary test, or submitting but blowing over the limit, may result in an administrative license suspension (ALS) through the Bureau of Motor Vehicles (BMV). Depending on prior convictions and prior refusals, and the level of the test, these suspensions may be anywhere from 90 days to five years. Administrative License Suspensions can be challenged, but you must do so immediately, and the Ohio DUI lawyers at Smith's Law Offices have the experience, knowledge, and skills to help you fight such ALS suspensions.
Evidence that was unlawfully or inappropriately obtained against you should be suppressed so the jury never sees or hears it. This requires a motion to suppress be filed as well as a suppression hearing. The Ohio Judicial Conference published a Motion to Suppress Checklist that reviews some typical OVI suppression issues. Suppression hearings may have a significant impact on your case, if not lead to resolving it completely. The DUI attorneys at Smith's Law Offices can bring their experience and skills to put the State to the test through a suppression hearing.
Not all attorneys are trial attorneys, in the sense that many attorneys do not go to trial at all. They simply plea all of their cases, and even if faced with an occasional trial, they do not have the experience necessary to properly carry the case through trial. The lawyers at Smith's Law Offices are not just Ohio DUI Lawyers, they are also Trial Lawyers ready, willing, and able to take your case through trial if needed.
Much discretion is left to the trial court to issue driving privileges if your license has been suspended. These are not limited to just driving back and forth to work, but may also include other daily activities such as driving to school, to doctor appointments, or taking your children to school or day care.
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