A DUI charge in Ohio is a serious allegation. If you’re convicted, you face consequences that can haunt your life for years to come, including:
- A jail or prison sentence
- Costly fines and court fees
- Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license
- Points on your driver’s license
- A permanent criminal record that can’t be expunged
- Loss of your job if you drive for work
However, your situation isn’t without hope. You may have options for fighting your Ohio OVI charge with the help of a skilled Cincinnati DUI lawyer. A lawyer with experience defending OVI / DUI charges in Ohio can find the weak spots in a prosecutor’s argument and build a strategy that may get your charge dismissed or your penalties reduced. With the help of a good attorney, you may have a chance at putting your drunk driving charge behind you and moving on with your life.
Your charge of driving under the influence is based on a set of facts and circumstances that are unique to your case. That means that your defense options and the possible outcomes also are unique to your case. However, there are some common strategies that Ohio drunk driving defense attorneys use to fight these types of charges.
DUI BAC Test Defenses
Most OVI or DUI cases in Ohio are built on the allegation that your blood alcohol concentration exceeded the .08 legal limit, or that you otherwise had enough alcohol in your body to impair your driving. A police officer or trooper usually will try to establish the fact of your impairment or intoxication through the use of OVI / DUI tests. The types of tests used in Ohio include:
- Breath Tests
- Blood Tests
- Urine Tests
- Roadside Field Sobriety Tests
However, none of these tests are an infallible way to determine your BAC or your level of impairment. OVI / DUI tests rely on interpretation, and the accuracy of the results can be affected by number of external factors.
In essence, a BAC test is trying to determine how much alcohol has been absorbed into your blood. The rate at which alcohol is absorbed into your bloodstream can be influenced by:
- Your gender
- Your weight
- The alcohol content of what you drank
- How fast you drank
- How many drinks you had
- Whether you had any food in your stomach
A skilled Ohio DUI defense lawyer may be able to spot the flaws in how your test was administered or how the results were interpreted. If your attorney can keep your BAC results from being used as evidence of your alleged OVI, there’s a chance your case could be dismissed or that you could be found not guilty, depending on the other circumstances and evidence.
A breath test is probably the most common type of test used to determine your BAC when you’re suspected of drunk driving in Ohio. However, there are a number of rules about how tests must be administered or the results interpreted. When there are flaws in the process, your BAC result may not be an accurate reflection of how much alcohol was actually in your bloodstream.
Some common challenges to breath test results may include:
- The test wasn’t administered within the 3-hour deadline under Ohio law
- You weren’t observed for the mandatory 20 minutes before your breath test
- The analysis of your breath test wasn’t performed according to the machine’s operational checklist
- The breath test machine didn’t undergo a proper instrument check
- The person operating the breath test machine wasn’t properly trained or wasn’t a proper operator as defined by Ohio law
- The results of your breath test were improperly recorded or kept
- The breath test machine wasn’t properly calibrated
Your OVI defense lawyer also may be able to challenge the reliability of the machine itself. If your breath test was performed using an Intoxilyzer 8000 machine, recent cases have mounted legal challenges to this particular machine and the way it collects samples and calculates BAC results.
Blood or Urine Tests
A blood or urine test is another way to try to determine how much alcohol was in your system at the time of your alleged DUI. These tests also are used to determine if you used drugs if you’re suspected of driving under the influence of a controlled substance.
Similar to breath tests, there are a number of rules for how blood or urine samples can be obtained, how the tests should be conducted, and how results should be interpreted.
Common challenges to blood or urine test results may include:
- The sample wasn’t collected within the 3-hour deadline under Ohio law
- Police forced you to give a sample without first getting a search warrant
- You weren’t observed giving the sample and the prosecutor can’t prove the sample is yours
- Your sample wasn’t properly collected or stored in compliance with Ohio law
- Your sample was contaminated and yielded an inaccurate result
- The equipment used to analyze your sample wasn’t properly calibrated
- The person who collected your sample wasn’t properly trained or qualified
- You have a medical condition that could make your test result inaccurate
If you were charged with OVI / DUI based on a blood or urine test, a skilled Cincinnati OVI defense lawyer may be able to challenge the accuracy of the test results and help you fight the charge.
Roadside Field Sobriety Tests
Roadside field sobriety tests are used to estimate whether you’re impaired by alcohol or drugs by judging your motor skills, coordination, ability to think and follow instructions, and whether your eyes jerk involuntarily. The three types of test typically used in Ohio include:
- Walk-and-Turn Test — This test is intended to measure your coordination, motor skills, and thinking by having you walk heel-to-toe in a straight line and back while counting out loud. If you wobble, use your arms to balance, or lose count, the officer might claim that you’re impaired by alcohol or drugs.
- One Leg Stand Test — This test involves standing on one leg for a period of time. If you hop or use your arms to balance, the officer may claim that you’re impaired.
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test — This test involves following an object with your eyes and without moving your head. The officer is looking for involuntarily movements in your eyes that might indicate alcohol or drug use.
The field sobriety tests are far from foolproof. The science shows they’re accurate at predicting impairment about 65 to 75 percent of the time, depending on the test. That means as much as 25 to 35 percent of the time, these tests get it wrong — or with as much as 1 in 3 people suspected of DUI.
There are a number of factors that can produce results that look like alcohol or drug impairment, but are actually due to something else. For example, if you have arthritis it might be hard to do the walk-and-turn or one leg stand tests. The tests generally shouldn’t be given to people over 65, or people who are significantly overweight. Even if you’re a younger person who has a sinus infection, that could throw off your balance. Certain medical conditions or legal prescription drugs can cause involuntary eye movements like the ones the horizontal gaze nystagmus test is supposed to measure.
Common challenges to the results of standard roadside field sobriety tests may include:
- The tests were administered in improper conditions, such as on a wet or icy roadway or an uneven surface
- The officer who administered the test wasn’t properly trained in how to give or interpret the tests
- You were not a proper candidate for the test because of a physical disability, age, or your weight
- You have a medical condition that affected your performance on the tests
An experienced Cincinnati DUI lawyer will know how to examine the testing process and your results to look for factors that may have affected the outcome.
Invalid Traffic Stops
It’s inherent in an OVI / DUI case that your arrest and charge probably started with a traffic stop. A police officer or state trooper may claim he or she saw you weaving on the road in a way that suggested you were impaired. You got pulled over, asked to take OVI / DUI tests, and ended up arrested.
However, sometimes an officer might pull you over on a hunch — or based on nothing at all. When that happens, your DUI defense lawyer may be able to challenge the basis for your arrest.
You have a right under the 4th Amendment to be free from unreasonable seizures. In general that means that law enforcement officers must have probable cause to suspect you of illegal activity in order to pull you over. The law doesn’t require them to suspect you of DUI, but they do have to have some valid reason for the stop. A valid reason can include something as simple as an expired license plate. Then if the officer smells alcohol on you and you fail roadside sobriety tests, you could be arrested for a DUI.
When an officer doesn’t have a valid reason for the stop — you had no equipment violations and didn’t break any traffic laws — then your Cincinnati DUI lawyer may be able to get your charge dismissed or your penalties reduced.