What Happens When A Driver is Pulled Over for DUI/OVI

Criminal DefenseDUIOVI

July 25, 2011

A DUI/OVI charge usually begins when a law enforcement officer effectuates a traffic stop upon an individual. There are many reasons why an officer may choose to stop a driver. Most commonly, the officer will have observed the driver do one or more of the following: engage in behavior such as swerving that indicates intoxication, commit one or more traffic violations such as speeding, operate a vehicle with an equipment violation such as a broken taillight. Once the officer pulls the individual over, he will approach the vehicle and being communicating with the driver while making several observations. The officer will be looking for signs of intoxication such as the odor of alcohol, redness or glassiness of the eyes, impaired speech or coordination, and degree of cooperation. If the officer feels that he has observed sufficient facts indicating that the individual is intoxicated, he will request that they submit to a series of field sobriety tests. Ohio has three standardized field sobriety tests: the one leg stand (requiring the driver to stand on one leg for thirty seconds), the horizontal gaze nystagmus (requiring the driver to follow a pen or other object with his eyes to test for jerky eye movement) and the walk and turn (requiring the driver to walk nine steps, turn, and walk nine steps back). Although it is legal to refuse to submit to field sobriety tests, the driver still be arrested and charged with a DUI/OVI. Field sobriety test results and recordings of field sobriety tests taken by video cameras in police cruisers are usually admissible as evidence of a driver’s sobriety, or lack thereof, in court. Based upon his observations and results of field sobriety tests, if conducted, the officer may conclude that there is ” probable cause” to believe that the driver was operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol. “Probable cause” is defined as a reasonable amount of suspicion, supported by circumstances sufficiently strong to justify a prudent and cautious person’s belief that certain facts are probably true. At this point, the officer will place the driver under arrest and transport them to the police station. At the station, the officer will likely question the driver, asking questions about the circumstances surrounding the incident such as the individual’s intended destination and whether they have consumed any alcohol. The driver has the right to remain silent and, should they choose not to speak to the officer, should respectfully inform the officer that they do not want to answer any questions until they consult with legal counsel.

Next, the driver will be asked to provide a sample of his breath, blood, or urine for chemical testing to determine his blood alcohol content. In Ohio, it is illegal to operate a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol content in excess of 0.08. The individual may refuse to submit to chemical testing, but refusal results in an automatic license suspension known as Administrative License Suspension. Before submitting to or refusing chemical testing it is important to consider the following:

  • Chemical test results showing that the driver is under the legal limit will not result in license suspension, but the individual may still be charged with DUI/OVI.
  • Chemical test results showing that the driver is over the legal limit will result in license suspension of 90 days, longer if the person has prior DUI/OVI convictions, and the results of said tests may be used as evidence in court.
  • Refusal chemical testing will result in license suspension of one year, longer if the person has prior DUI/OVI convictions, and the person may still be charged with DUI/OVI, but there will be no test results to be used as evidence in court.
  • Ohio law provides that certain people may NOT legally refuse chemical tests, including those that been convicted of a DUI/OVI within 20 years. Further, individuals on probation and commercial drivers may face additional consequences for refusing chemical testing.

Field sobriety tests can be inaccurate if they are done improperly and, even when administered correctly, can be misleading as to a driver’s sobriety. Further, evidence has shown that certain chemical breath testers may suffer from problems that, due to recent Ohio court decisions, may be challenged in court. Challenging an arrest or charge of DUI/OVI can be a complex process that requires the knowledge of an experienced DUI/OVI Attorney . If you have been arrested for DUI/OVI , contact a DUI/OVI Attorney today.