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Criminal Defense, DUI/OVI

You’ve Been Pulled Over on Suspicion of OVI – Now What?

Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence in Ohio

In Ohio, it is not illegal to drink alcohol and operate a vehicle, unless you are over the legal limit and/or impaired to drive. While some jurisdictions refer to the offense as “driving under the influence” (DUI), or “driving while intoxicated” (DWI), in Ohio, it is defined as “operating a vehicle under the influence” (OVI). In Ohio, it is against the law to operate a vehicle with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08% or more, and drivers under 21 years of age cannot exceed a BAC of 0.02%.

Ohioans fighting an OVI charge can face penalties including jail, house arrest, probation, fines, restrictive driving privileges, and substance abuse treatment. While it is never advisable to drive impaired or over the limit, it is important to remember your rights and responsibilities when detained during an OVI investigation.

What To Do If You’re Pulled Over

1. Treat the Officer with Respect

Your conduct will be scrutinized from the moment the officer notices your vehicle, even before you are pulled over. Every move you make will be considered in the officer’s assessment as to whether you are legally impaired. As soon as you are instructed to pull over, use your turn signal, slowly drive off the main road to a safe location, put your vehicle in park, and remain calm inside of your vehicle as the officer approaches. Remember that everything you do and say should be recorded by the officer’s body camera and equipment on their cruiser.

2. Remember Your Rights to Remain Silent and Ask for an Attorney

Other than providing your license, proof of insurance, and vehicle registration, it is entirely your legal right to refuse answering any and all further questions. This includes questions about how much alcohol you consumed before driving, where you were at, and where you are going. Be prepared, however, that by invoking this right, the officer may increase the pressure to respond to their questioning. By remaining silent, you are not inferring that you are guilty, but rather that you know your rights. Conversely, you cannot be dishonest with an officer, as doing so may result in criminal charges such as falsification.

It is advisable to ask for an attorney at the first opportunity. Note that most police cruisers have microphones and cameras inside the vehicle, so as stated above, it is important to not make any statements while you are detained. You must clearly invoke your right by stating, “I am not speaking without consulting with my attorney.”

3. Remember Your Right to Refuse Standardized Field Sobriety Tests

Standardized Field Sobriety Tests (SFSTs) are used to determine whether a person is under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance. The United States National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) defines three specific parts of the SFSTs:

  • The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test – Nystagmus is an involuntary jerking of the eyeball that occurs when the eyes track an object moving side to side. When an individual is intoxicated, the nystagmus is exaggerated and will demonstrate a significant jerk of the eye. During this test, officers will ask an individual to follow their finger or an object while they move it side to side.
  • The Walk-and-Turn Test – This test indicates impairment when an individual stops to regain balance, fails to touch heel-to-toe when they are stepping, uses their arms for balance, or steps off the line.
  • The One-Leg Stand Test – This test is typically timed for approximately 30 seconds. Indications of impairment include swaying, using arms to balance, hopping, or putting the foot down completely.

For many reasons, these tests may result in inaccurate results due to inconsistencies in how they are administered, the subjectivity of the officer’s interpretations of your conduct during the tests, and external factors such as physical limitations and weather conditions.

4. Remember Your Right to Refuse Breath, Urine, and Blood Tests

Similar to SFSTs, chemical tests can be administered with inconsistent accuracy and provide unreliable results. *It is very important to know that while you have the right to refuse a breath, urine, or blood test, that decision will most likely result in an automatic administrative license suspension for at least one (1) year, as well as your arrest.* While there are certain legal opportunities your lawyer can explore to challenge this type of suspension, by default, it is a statutorily imposed outcome. Still, it is your right to consider the discrepancies of chemical tests and ultimately refuse them.

. . .

OVI cases in Ohio are complex and require diligent representation to ensure the integrity of your rights. If you are stopped due to suspicion of an OVI, you should contact a lawyer immediately. Attorney Brad Wolfe is a Cleveland, Ohio, OVI defense lawyer and is available 24/7 to discuss your case. If you have been charged with an OVI, or are under investigation, call (216) 815-6000 to speak with Brad today.
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