The Ohio Supreme Court recently heard oral arguments for a case in which a driver who was convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol appealed his sentence claiming it was unreasonable and was an abuse of discretion.
The case of State v. South, 2014-Ohio-374 was the result of 2012 accident in which the defendant allegedly crashed his car into a pole and left the scene of the accident with the license plate. Police tracked him to his house, observed the license plate in his home and smelled the alcohol on his breath, according to court documents.
Police asked the defendant to participate in field sobriety tests, and the officers arrested him. After arriving at the police station, he consented to a breathalyzer test, which showed his blood alcohol concentration at .087, which is above the legal limit. Officers also discovered he had prior OVI convictions and a suspended driver’s license.
A grand jury indicted the defendant on two counts of operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol, each under different Ohio statutes. The first OVI count also contained an attendant specification based on South’s previously having been convicted of five or more OVI offenses within the last 20 years, which is a violation of R.C. 2941.1413.
The defendant was convicted on both OVI charges, a driving on suspension charge and a failure to control charge, which was a misdemeanor offense. The court merged the two OVI counts for purposes of sentencing, and the driver was sentenced to a total of eight years in prison.
Now, the defendant argues his counsel was ineffective because he or she failed to litigate the admissibility of the datamaster results. Additionally, he says the trial court abused its discretion by sentencing him to eight years in prison. The court of appeals agreed with the defendant’s second argument, saying the court issued a sentence that was contrary to law.
The driver was convicted of a third-degree felony OVI, as well as a specification for previously having been convicted of five or more OVI offenses within 20 years of his current offense. His sentence, therefore, had to consist of at least a five year mandatory prison term on his specification.
The court imposed an additional prison term on the underlying OVI offense. According to court documents, the mandatory prison term should be run “consecutively to and prior to the prison term imposed for the underlying offense.”
The appeals court vacated the portion of the defendant’s sentence related to his OVI conviction and the specification linked to that conviction, leaving the other portions of his sentence intact. Now the Ohio Supreme Court is expected to rule at a later date.