Do not drive impaired.
Following that essential rule for living well and safely while respecting the health and property of others goes far in alleviating the risk for getting charged, arrested, and convicted for driving under the influence. As Ohio criminal defense lawyers it is our job to defend those charged with traffic violations such as OVI/DUI. However, at Leist Warner we recognize that some situations increase the likelihood that a person will be stopped, charged, and possibly taken into custody for the offense known under Ohio law as operating a vehicle under the influence or OVI.
OVI checkpoints and traffic stops for reasons other than suspicion of DUI/OVI can lead to arrests, prosecutions and convictions for drunk or drugged driving that could have been avoided. People make mistakes, even those who would consider themselves cautious or unimpaired. Here are a few precautions which can minimize one’s chance for getting arrested for driving under the influence or impaired.
Local and state police depend heavily on random stops to enforce OVI laws, particularly on and around major holidays like Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving, and New Year’s. Any person passing through a “drunk driving” or sobriety checkpoint will be stopped and could be asked to perform field sobriety tests (F.S.T) upon suspicion of driving impaired. Law enforcement officers do not have to meet the minimal legal standard of “reasonable suspicion” for stopping your vehicle.
Sobriety checkpoints have been upheld as constitutional by the United Stated Supreme Court in Michigan v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990). The Supreme Court held in Michigan that “the State’s interest in preventing drunken driving, .… , and the degree of intrusion upon individual motorists who are briefly stopped, weighs in favor of the state program. We therefore hold that [sobriety checkpoints are] consistent with the Fourth Amendment.” Michigan, 496 at 455. So while the constitutionality of the checkpoint programs have been upheld it must be noted that avoidance of those checkpoints are equally permissible so long as you do not provide separate reasonable suspicion for a stop by violating laws such as making a prohibited U-turn. The Michigan decision mandates that agencies or municipalities conducting checkpoints must announce or broadcast the exact location and times so that the public has advance notice. If you do plan on having drinks and driving it would be wise to check your local media for any checkpoint advisories prior to heading out and plan your course of travel accordingly.
Remain Calm and Know Your Rights
In the event that you are stopped by law enforcement it is wise to treat the officer with respect. The quickest path to a jail cell is often preceded by rude, discourteous, offensive behavior or language on the part of the individual stopped. An arrest does not always follow from a stop. Stay in your car and avoid any suspicious or furtive movements, including but not limited to, getting into your glove box or console. Wait until the officer requests your license and insurance before digging through your wallet, purse, or glove box. If you know that you do not have a license, insurance, or both, tell law enforcement rather than by being deceptive or misleading.
The acquisition of evidence to establish probable cause for a charge or arrest begins the moment the police stop your vehicle. The officer’s initial observations of your speech, behavior, response, and appearance can lead to a more detailed inquiry of your ability to operate a vehicle. Officers are trained to look for “articulable signs of alcohol impairment” and symptoms of drug use. Those signs include slurred speech, uncoordinated movements, emotional instability, and lack of focus, all of which can be displayed by an otherwise sober person who has lost his or her cool.
In the event that the officer detects an odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, or slurred speech you will be asked to step from the vehicle to perform standardized field sobriety tests devised by National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. These tests are not mandatory, yet many people freely submit to them despite their obvious impairment, which unfortunately they themselves fail to recognize. Today more than ever police use video to capture the performance of field sobriety tests and as they say, “the tape doesn’t lie”. More often than not, convictions are sustained by a poor performance of the field sobriety tests, which include a structured walk and turn, a one-legged stand, and alcohol gaze nystagmus examinations [i.e., uncontrolled eye movements]. In addition to the F.S.T. officers will often ask for you to submit to a portable breath test (P.B.T) which although inadmissible for evidentiary purposes at trial can be used to establish probable cause for arrest in the field.
There is no legal requirement for an individual to submit to any of these tests and many believe that if they do the F.S.T. and refuse a breathalyzer test at the station they can avoid an OVI. The reality, however, is that a failure to properly perform the tests in the field is often more than enough of a basis to sustain a conviction irrespective of whether a breathalyzer test is administered. Anyone who elects to submit to field sobriety tests should fully explain any and all physical conditions which could be misinterpreted as effects of consuming alcohol or taking drugs. These conditions can include natural nystagmus, lazy eye, cross-eye, speech impediments, leg injuries, and balance disorders, such as vertigo. In addition to disclosing physical conditions, it is imperative that you listen closely to all of the instructions of the officer administering the tests prior to performing them. Failure to properly perform the tests includes an inability to follow instructions, such as standing with your feet together, keeping your hands to your side, counting the correct number of steps, or placing one foot in front of the other.
In the event you elect not to take the tests for any reason you will most likely be arrested and offered a breathalyzer at the station. A refusal to take the breathalyzer will result additional consequences which will be addressed in a future blog. It is important to remember that each step of the confrontation from the stop through arrest is an opportunity for law enforcement to obtain evidence and knowing your rights and limitations can make all of the difference.
Carry a List of Prescribed Medications
Elderly drivers and individuals undergoing treatment for seizures, sleep disorders, mental illness, and chronic pain are well advised to keep up-to-date lists of all their prescriptions in their wallets. Many medications have effects that mirror intoxication. Even if a person is not visibly impaired, officers who discover psychoactive drugs or narcotic medication in a vehicle can jump to unfounded conclusions about the driver’s physical and mental state or their right to possess the narcotics. The fact that a medication is prescribed does not preclude an individual from being charged with OVI/DUI for ingesting it and then operating a vehicle. It is important to read the information provided by your doctor or pharmacist prior to taking any medication and its effect upon your ability to operate a motor vehicle.
Consult With an Experienced Ohio DUI/OVI Attorney at Leist Warner
Good people make mistakes. In the event you have been charged with an OVI, you need advice and representation from a lawyer who not only has the experience and knowledge to provide a strong defense, but the passion and dedication to fight for you every step of the way. Like fingerprints, no one case is the same. It is impossible to generalize strategies to avoid being charged with OVI or predict the outcomes of any legal matter. OVI law is a highly technical area which is constantly changing. The fact remains that most outcomes are predictably attributed to many of the decisions you make prior to driving and after the stop by law enforcement. Unfortunately you don’t have immediate access to experienced Ohio DUI/OVI attorneys during those times. The purpose of this blog is to provide some basic information that hopefully proves useful in the event that you find yourself in a difficult situation until you can obtain experienced counsel.
If you or someone you know has been charged with operating a vehicle impaired or OVI, contact Leist Warner for representation immediately by calling (614) 222-1000 or completing this confidential web form. We are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If calling after hours, leave a detailed message and one of our lawyers will return your call.
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