While the 4th of July does fall on a Wednesday this year, this will not stop thousands of people throughout Hamilton County, OH, from enjoying public and private celebrations. Last year, Ohio State Highway Patrol reportedly arrested 598 drivers for OVI (Operating a Vehicle under the Influence) on the Fourth of July. This number is likely to decrease for a holiday that takes place over the weekday.
However, this does not mean the Ohio State Highway Patrol, Columbus Division of Police, and other local law enforcement officers will be any less vigilant. Expect to see an increased presence of law enforcement officers in Columbus and other key areas within Hamilton County, OH.
Your Rights During a DUI Traffic Stop
It's important to understand your rights during a stop for suspected DUI (Driving Under the Influence, commonly referred to as DUI) in Ohio. No matter the circumstances of a traffic stop by law enforcement officers, whether it is for suspicion for driving drunk or under the influence of drugs, you do have rights.
Keep in mind that a law enforcement officer is only allowed to pull you over if they find "probable cause." This means the officer must have observed an action that gave reason to believe the driver was under the influence of drugs or alcohol (or committing another crime/violation) before pulling the driver over. Some of the more common causes for these stops are:
- - Erratic driving behavior;
- - Abrupt stopping;
- - Lane drifting; and
- - Driving at extremely high or low speeds.
You also have the right against unreasonable search or seizure. For a DUI stop, this means that your vehicle cannot be searched without probable cause or your express consent. In this scenario, probable cause may include:
- - Clear presence of open containers of alcohol and / or drugs;
- - The smell of alcohol and / or drugs;
- - Involuntary eye movements ("gaze nystagmus");
- - Red, blood-shot eyes;
- - Slurred speech;
- - Verbal admission of alcohol and / or drug use;
- - Inconsistent responses to police questioning; and
- - Clumsy movements.
The law enforcement officer may also ask you to submit to a blood or breath test, after reading a mandatory warning informing you of the consequences of refusal. You may refuse this test (or take the test and request an additional independent test done at your expense). Refusal will result in immediate administrative driver's license suspension. In some scenarios, the law enforcement officer may also pursue a warrant to have a blood sample forcibly drawn.
A defense attorney can analyze the details of the results and testing procedure for potential weaknesses to use to your benefit. Even if you refuse the test, this fact alone will not necessarily lead to a conviction. There are various other details that a defense lawyer in Hamilton County can use to defend you from the alleged charges.
Guidelines for a DUI Checkpoint
A DUI/sobriety checkpoint in Ohio must adhere to several guidelines (as per a 1990 U.S. Supreme Court Ruling):
- - The location in which the checkpoint occurs must have a history of drunk driving or alcohol-related accidents;
- - The logistics related to the DUI checkpoint (such as organization and people-power) must be documented;
- - Residents of the area must be notified of the date, time, and location of a DUI checkpoint one week in advance; and
- - The stops made must be uniformly random (e.g. every 5th car as traffic permits).
The Ohio State Highway Patrol has further clarified their procedures and notes that large, highly reflective signs are to be used at the side of the checkpoint site near fully marked police cars. A second sign is to be placed at the beginning of traffic cones or other markets that define the boundaries of the checkpoint. The entire checkpoint area is to be illuminated by lights or flares.
Their failure to follow state and federal guidelines regarding sobriety checks is problematic. These details can also be used to strengthen your case against the prosecution's.
The Importance of the Right DUI Attorney
It is important to remember that an arrest for DUI does not necessarily mean that you will be convicted. There are various factors that can severely influence the results of a DUI case. This includes violations of constitutional rights, inappropriate police procedure, and weaknesses in chemical testing, among others.
It is often in your best interests to work with a Columbus DUI lawyer who has experience in the Hamilton County Court system. A criminal defense attorney can use these details to your advantage in building a case. Because the prosecution often relies on the results of chemical testing heavily in their case, working with a defense attorney who is familiar in the science of chemical testing can be especially advantageous.
Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest and your attorney's knowledge of Ohio DUI laws, he or she can proactively work your case. This may mean proactively pursuing a case dismissal or motion to suppress evidence. If taking the case to trial becomes necessary, your defense attorney should be able to use the details of your case to your advantage and weaken the prosecution's case against you.