We’ve all heard the public service campaigns: Drive Sober or Get Pulled Over; Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving; Over the Limit, Under Arrest. There are many names and abbreviations for it: OVI; DUI; OMVI; Impaired driving; Drunk driving. In Ohio we typically use OVI, but what exactly is OVI (operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs)?
R.C. 4511.19 prohibits a person from operating a vehicle if the person is under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or a combination of them, or has a prohibited concentration of alcohol or drugs in their breath, urine, or blood at the time of operation. A person can have a prohibited level of drugs in their system (I’m specifically referring to marijuana) but not be “under the influence” but still be in violation of the OVI law.
From the moment an officer suspects you are driving impaired he is attempting to collect evidence against you. An officer may believe you to be impaired when he first notices your vehicle based on your driving (e.g., weaving, fluctuations in speed, etc) or during a traffic stop for other purposes (e.g., you’re driving at 1AM on a Saturday with a license plate light out and detects an odor of alcohol on your breath).
Your driving, your speech, the odor of your breath and clothes, and your ability to provide your driver’s license are all factors the officer will consider when determining whether or to ask you to submit to Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs). After determining you are impaired based upon the SFSTs, the officer will place you under arrest and transport you to a police station. At the station the officer will ask you to submit to another test – usually a breath test.
To blow or not to blow? Put simply, without a scientific test to prove your impairment the State has a harder time convicting you (though a jury can still find a person guilty based upon the SFSTs). But there are additional consequences if you don’t blow – increases in driver’s license suspension times and there may be professional ramifications for those with professional licenses, CDLs, etc. Additionally, some courts do not generally grant limited driving privileges during the pre-trial phase of the case if there is a refusal on a breath or other chemical test.
But just because the officer says you failed the SFSTs or that you have a test result that indicates you over the legal limit, it does not mean you were impaired and guilty of OVI. Minor deviations in the SFSTs can effect the results the officer observes and breath-testing machines and the officers that operate them have stringent guidelines that must be followed.
Ohio’s OVI laws are extremely specific and technical and it takes trained OVI attorneys to protect your rights. I have received the same training police officers receiving in the administration of SFSTs and I regularly present on handling OVIS in certain courts. If you, or someone you know, has been charged with an OVI, you must obtain counsel to protect your rights. Call me at 740-422-9280 to schedule your consultation as soon as possible after an OVI arrest – some OVI related matters are time limited.