When you’re pulled over and an officer suspects you of driving under the influence, it’s standard practice for the police officer or Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper to ask you to submit to one or more OVI or DUI testing in Ohio. The cornerstone of most DUI charges in Ohio will be the results of tests designed to determine whether you were impaired by the use of drugs or alcohol. In Ohio, the types of tests that may be used to determine your impairment include:
- Roadside field sobriety tests
- Breath test
- Blood test
- Urine test
If the officer or trooper interprets your performance on one or more of these tests in a way that indicates you were operating a motor vehicle while intoxicated, you will be arrested for OVI. If you’re convicted, you face a number of potential consequences that can include:
- Jail time
- Driver’s license suspension
- Points on your driver’s license
- Loss of your job or difficulty finding employment
- A permanent criminal record
However, there are ways in which any of these types of DUI tests might produce inaccurate results, and you may be arrested or charged based on a false positive result. If you believe you were charged with drunk driving based on an inaccurate test result, an experienced Ohio OVI defense lawyer can help pinpoint the problems with how your test was administered or interpreted, and help you fight your charge.
Roadside Field Sobriety Tests
Roadside field sobriety tests generally are designed to test your coordination, balance, and other physical responses that may indicate that you’re impaired by the use of alcohol or drugs. The standard set of tests includes:
- Walk and Turn Test — This involves walking heel-to-toe in a straight line without stumbling or losing your balance. You also have to count your steps while you walk. If you stop, lose count, use your arms to keep your balance, and/or fail to follow the instructions to the minute detail, the officer may claim that you’re impaired if you do two or more of those things.
- One Leg Stand Test — This test involves standing with your feet together, and then raising one leg and balancing on the other while counting out loud for 30 seconds. If you have trouble maintaining your balance, hop, and/or lower your foot, the officer may claim that you’re impaired if you do two or more of those things in the 30-second period.
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test — This test involves asking you to follow an object such as a finger, pen, or pen flashlight with your eyes so that the officer can look for involuntary movements or jerking that may indicate the use of alcohol or drugs. If your eyes jerk while you follow the object, the jerking is sustained, and/or the jerking starts before your eye has moved 45 degrees while following the object, the officer may claim you’re impaired if these things happen four or more times during the test.
The problem with roadside field sobriety tests is that there are any number of factors other than alcohol or drug use that can account for your inability to adequately perform on the tests. Being overweight — like a significant number adult Americans — or simply being a senior citizen can affect your ability to perform the walk-and-turn or one leg stand tests and keep your balance. Medical conditions or taking certain legal prescription medications can produce involuntary eye movements that might make you “fail” the horizontal gaze nystagmus test even though you’re not impaired.
Roadside field sobriety tests also depend on the training and expertise of the officer or trooper administering the test to produce accurate results. If the officer wasn’t properly trained in how to give the tests, what people might not be appropriate candidates for these types of physical tests due to age, disability, or other factors, or how to interpret your reactions during the test, then the results may not be a good indicator of your level of impairment.
If you have been charged with an OVI based on your perceived performance on roadside field sobriety tests, a skilled Cincinnati DUI defense lawyer can help you fight the charge, and may be able to get it dismissed or your penalties reduced.
If you’re suspected of driving under the influence of alcohol, a breath test is the most common way that a police officer or state trooper will try to establish that you were driving while impaired. When you take a breath test, a machine is supposed to capture breath from the depth of your lungs, and then uses infrared wavelengths to detect droplets of alcohol in your breath. The breath from deep inside your lungs in theory is supposed to come close to reflecting how much alcohol is in your blood.
There are a couple of ways that your breath may be tested to determine your blood alcohol concentration in Ohio.
- Preliminary Breath Test — This is a test done in the field when you’re pulled over using a handheld breath test device. The results are not admissible as evidence that you’re guilty of OVI / DUI, but can be used to support probable cause for your OVI / DUI arrest. You can refuse a preliminary breath test without a license suspension or other penalties.
- Evidential Breath Test — Once you’re arrested, the officer or trooper will want you to take a breath test using a bigger desktop machine. These machines are supposed to be more accurate than the handheld devices used in the field. If you refuse to take the breath test using the machine at the police station, you can suffer consequences including an administrative driver’s license suspension that is separate from any suspension if you get convicted of OVI.
If your breath test result shows that you have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher, you can be charged with the offense known as OVI per se for being over the Ohio legal limit, which basically means that your BAC itself is evidence that you were driving under the influence. If your BAC is .17 or higher, you can be charged with a “high test” OVI offense, which has more severe penalties in Ohio.
You may think that if you test over .08 there’s nothing you can do. However, breath tests often can be inaccurate. There are specific rules for when and how a breath test must be administered precisely because there are factors that can skew the results. For example, you shouldn’t be given a breath test immediately after you burp or vomit because that can result in the presence of more alcohol in your mouth, and therefore on your breath, than is actually present in your blood.
If you’re facing a drunk driving charge based on breath test results, an experienced Ohio DUI defense attorney may be able to challenge the results based on how the test was administered or interpreted, and you may have a chance at getting your charge dismissed or your penalties reduced, depending on the circumstances.
Blood and Urine Tests
Blood and urine tests are more commonly used when you are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, but a blood test also may be used in an alcohol-related DUI case if you refused a breath test. If you don’t consent to the test, the officer must get a search warrant to compel you to give a sample.
As with breath tests, there are a number of rules for how blood and urine samples must be collected and processed in order to get accurate readings. Some of those rules include:
- Samples must be collected within 3 hours of your alleged DUI
- Samples must be collected in front of a witness
- People who analyze the samples must be properly trained and qualified under Ohio law, and perform the analysis in a way that’s consistent with Ohio regulations
- When a sample yields a positive result, it should be re-tested to confirm the result
When samples are collected too late, or proper procedures aren’t followed, that can affect the accuracy of your results. If you were charged based on blood or urine test results that you think were inaccurate, a Cincinnati OVI defense attorney may be able to get the results excluded from court, which may give you a stronger chance to fight the charge.