Ohio DUI Registry Sees Updates

In a December post, we discussed the recently disclosed issue of Ohio’s DUI registry. The publically accessible database of repeat DUI offenders was established in 2008 in an attempt to aid law enforcement and the criminal justice system in properly handling repeat offenders and keeping them off of the streets. Similar to the sex offender registry, this list allows the public to view the information of repeat drunk drivers with more than 5 convictions in a 20 year period. Examination of the database in recent months have revealed, however, that the records were largely out-dated and incomplete, leaving a time-investment for law enforcement with very little practical use.

However, an update released by the Columbus Dispatch this week suggests that the database is receiving a much needed update. Since October, the registry has grown from 520 names to over 5,300 offenders. The public can search through the online registry by name, county, or zip code on the website.

The newly improved database includes nearly 400 repeat drunk drivers in Franklin County, with many across the state who have been convicted more than 7 times.

Critics of the registry argue that the database is still far from reliably accurate. The Dispatch article cites several incorrect addresses for offenders, pointing to lingering issues that could interfere with the effectiveness of the list.

In addition, the unofficial nature of the registry makes it of little use to prosecutors or court officials. There are more reliable information sources available to officers, lawyers, and judges that can inform on a person’s DUI history, so the registry is seldom used by officials. This could label the database as a waste of tax dollars and the time spent to maintain it.

Supporters of the database cite the goal as a tool for the public rather than court officials, though. The registry was created in the hopes that public scrutiny would put pressure on repeat offenders and make Ohio’s streets safer.

In the event that the database remains in use, however, it is easy to see that accuracy is key in maintaining any use for the tool. Officials say that they will strive to make the registry even more accurate and updated in the future.

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Holiday Celebrations and DUI Warnings

With the winter holidays right around the corner, it’s important to remember that law enforcement will be out on the streets, keeping an eye out for those driving under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Checkpoints will be set up across the state to catch both local drivers and those visiting from out-of-state. Police will be eager to stop those suspected of driving drunk, and they will not go easy on you just because of the holidays. The consequences for being arrested for a DUI offense can put a serious damper on your holiday plans, so it is important to remain vigilant about information regarding local DUI checkpoints.

A checkpoint may require you to take a test to determine your blood alcohol content (BAC) through a breath, urine, or blood test. If you are found to have a BAC over .08, you can be arrested for DUI. However, if it is above .17 you face even steeper consequences. Implied consent in Ohio means that any driver with an Ohio license has consented to a BAC test while on the road. You can legally refuse this test, which will result in an automatic suspension of your license for a year, but it will also deny prosecutors physical evidence against you in a DUI charge.

For those facing their first offense of DUI, they could spend up to 180 days in jail and pay up to $1,075 in fines. In addition, they face an immediate license suspension after being arrested. This suspension may be lifted as a result of your case, but in the meantime it can cause serious problems for traveling to gatherings or to finish your Christmas shopping.

Remember that if you’re a professional such as a teacher, doctor, lawyer, or member of the military, your career could suffer as a result of a DUI charge. Your license to practice may be suspended, or your may simply lose a future opportunity for promotion. If you are arrested for DUI during the holiday season, a lawyer can seek to have your case dismissed or defend you in the upcoming case. In some situations, you may be able to have your offense expunged, preventing it from interfering with your future opportunities.

For students in particular, a DUI charge can interfere with your education. An arrest for DUI will require you to face a disciplinary hearing at your school, which could lead to suspension, expulsion, or the loss of a scholarship. An attorney may not be able to speak on your behalf at this hearing, but you can still enlist one to advice you on how to defend yourself during this situation.

While enjoying time with friends and loved ones, it’s important to remember that drinking and driving is never safe and can lead to dire consequences. If you do find yourself facing a DUI charge, consult an attorney for legal advice and the best chance at defending yourself.

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The Impact of a DUI on a Professional’s Career

In a recent incident, a school bus driver in central Ohio has pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of drunken driving and endangering children. On November 25, a school bus was pulled over after several individuals reported erratic driving. The bus’s driver admitted to drinking alcohol before beginning her route, and an open container of whiskey was found in the bus. On checking her blood levels, her BAC was over twice the legal limit. Two children were on the bus during this incident, but neither were harmed. She is said to be entering an alcohol treatment program and she faces up to 6 months in prison at her sentencing hearing in February.

The Columbus Dispatch reports that the driver quit her job as a bus driver last week. This could be pre-empting the disciplinary actions she could face a result of this charge. A DUI charge can adversely impact the careers of many professionals, including bus drivers, lawyers, and law enforcement officers.

Apart from the potential for fines and jail time, a charge for a DUI-related offense can lead to disciplinary hearings, suspension of a professional license, and even the loss of a professional’s job. This can make a single offense have a huge impact on the life and career of the alleged offender. Many jobs, such as pilots, have requirements for arrested individuals to report their criminal charges within a certain time limit. The individual situations for each career type vary, but if you are a professional who has been charged with a DUI offense, a lawyer can help you determine what’s in store for your career as a result of these charges.

Some professions that can be impacted by a DUI charge include:

  • Doctors
  • Dentists
  • Nurses
  • EMTs
  • Pilots
  • Stock Brokers
  • Lawyers
  • Commercial Drivers
  • Teachers
  • Real estate agents
  • Professional athletes

Because DUI convictions cannot be expunged from your record in Ohio, they can have a lasting effect of your future. When seeking to gain a certain professional license, including a CDL license, your traffic history and criminal background may be reviewed. A DUI in your past can easily influence your employment opportunities.

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Ohio’s DUI Repeat Offenders Registry and the Current Issues with it

Almost every state in the U.S. has a sex offender registry, where those convicted of sexual related offenses are listed for the public to see. In a similar way, Ohio employs an OVI Repeat Offender Registry. Any person who is convicted of 5 DUI offenses within a 20 year period is added to this database. Their information, including their address, can be accessed by the public through this online listing. Once 20 years have passed without the offender committing 5 DUI crimes, their name is removed from the registry. The database was established to help law enforcement keep track of repeat offenders and keep Ohio’s streets safer.

However, recent analysis of the registry has revealed that it is largely incomplete and outdated. Many of the counties throughout Ohio, including Delaware County, are not listed at all in the registry. In fact, The Columbus Dispatch cites that only about half of the counties are represented in the list, and many habitual offenders are not properly included.

The registry was created in 2008, and each person listed must have committed at least one DUI offense since that time. Currently, there are about 520 individuals registered in the database, and not all of the information is accurate.

According to the Dispatch, the Ohio Public Department of Public Safety assembles the entries for the registry from information sent to it by the individual courts throughout the state. There is currently no penalty against courts that do not provide repeat offender information to the state, and there seems to be confusion amongst many counties as to whether they have been or are even able to submit the required information for the registry.

This raises some important concerns about the use of this public database. Not only is the registry surely missing many offenders, it may also contain incorrect information about those who are listed. With the inaccuracy of the record so high, it seems to currently be a drain on taxpayer’s money and the court’s time. If the database cannot be relied upon for accurate information, it ceases to be a database of any value to attorneys, law enforcement, and the general public.

Those who support the use of the registry are seeking out answers as to why it is not maintained and hoping to reform the procedures involved. For those already registered or facing addition to the untrustworthy records, a system so out of date is cause for concern.

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Drug Paraphernalia Charge in Violent Traffic Stop

On October 28th, a mother traveling through New Mexico with her five children was fired upon by police during a traffic stop. The incident occurred when Oriana Ferrell, a Tennessee resident, was pulled over for speeding. The woman refused to cooperate with police and an officer fired three shots into the vehicle, where her kids, aged 6 to 18, were sitting. None of the children were injured.

The details of the incident include Ferrell pulling to the side of the road several times, her son confronting officers, and a window of the vehicle being smashed in. Due to the police violence involved in the case, it may be difficult to pursue charges against Ferrell.

Ferrell faces charges of child abuse, fleeing an officer, and possession of drug paraphernalia. An investigation is being launched into the actions of the officers on the scene. Currently Ferrell is being held on bail.

The drug paraphernalia charges are a result of the officer’s finding two marijuana pipes inside the vehicle after arresting Ferrell. There is dispute over whether she had been previously convicted of a DUI charge, but in either case she faces serious consequences for all of these offenses.

In Ohio, a charge for possessing drug paraphernalia sometimes accompanies a charge of driving while under the influence of drugs. If convicted of a paraphernalia charge, an offender faces the possibility of up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $250, but these penalties may be increased based on the offender’s prior criminal history.

Drug paraphernalia is defined by Ohio Revised Code 2925.14 as any equipment, products, or materials designed with the intention of using illegal drugs.  Common examples include bongs, syringes, water pipes, plastic baggies, and scales. Even if the item in question was temporarily placed in an area that you are responsible for, such as the glove box of your car or your pocket, you may still be held liable for its possession. The presence of paraphernalia can lead to officer’s obtaining a warrant to search your belongings for drugs.

A charge of possessing drug paraphernalia can easily come from a misunderstanding, but it can have a lasting impact of the alleged offender’s future. Any drug-related charge can interfere with employment and education opportunities. Those facing a charge for possession or distributing drug paraphernalia can contact an attorney for a better chance at defending themselves against this allegation.

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Vehicular Homicide Case in Ohio Draws National Attention

A DUI charge, officially known as OVI in Ohio, is always a serious matter, but when driving drunk causes the death of another person, the offense takes on another level of gravity. This was the case with Matthew Cordle of Ohio, whose sentencing was completed at the end of October this year.

After a night of heavy drinking on June 22, 2013, Cordle collided with another vehicle while traveling the wrong way on Interstate 670 and killed the driver of the other vehicle, Vincent Canzani. The case gained national attention when Cordle posted a video of himself confessing his crimes, which has received over 2 million views since then. In the video, Cordle described how he had been drinking at multiple bars before getting behind the wheel. At the end of his confession, he urged viewers not to drink and drive.

Cordle was sentenced to 6 ½ years in prison for charges of aggravated vehicular homicide and driving under the influence of alcohol, which, in his case, carried a potential maximum of 8½ years in prison. His driving privileges were also revoked for the rest of his life. Cordle had entered a guilty plea for the case, expediting his trial process to a matter of weeks.

Aggravated vehicular homicide consists of crimes in which the death of a person was caused by the offender’s reckless behavior while driving or if the offender was intoxicated while driving. It is also important to note that the death of an unborn child is also considered a separate act of homicide.

Ohio Rev. Code §2903.06 outlines the specific penalties faced by an offender accused of aggravated vehicular homicide. The potential consequences vary greatly depending on factors such as an offender’s prior traffic offense history, and if the driver’s privileges were suspended at the time.

For a first-time offender, they face a third degree felony with consequences of 1-5 years in prison, up to $10,000 in fines, and a driver’s license suspensions from 3 years to life. Jail time can go all the way up to 15 years in prison for an offender with multiple prior offenses.

A charge of vehicular homicide is a serious offense, and should not be taken lightly. Those facing this offense should seek out the help of an experienced DUI lawyer in order to protect their futures.

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Labor Day Weekend OVI in Ohio

As the summer draws to a close, many tourists and locals will be out to finish the season with a last hurrah over Labor Day weekend. The four-day weekend induced by the National Holiday will give everyone a chance to take trips, socialize, and relax. For some, that includes drinking with friends, and in light of the festivities, it’s important to proceed with caution when alcohol is involved. The Columbus police force will be on the look-out for drunk or drugged drivers, and may have checkpoints set-up to catch those with a BAC of more than .08. Nearly 700 individuals were reported as OVI, or more commonly known as DUI, offenders for 2012, and both local officers and highway patrolmen will be on high alert.

If you are pulled over while driving, that means that the officer already has probable cause, meaning a compelling reason, to stop you. This can range from a broken tail-light to speeding, but once you are stopped, the officer will keep an eye out for any signs of intoxication. If an officer notices any of the following, you may be arrested on suspicion of OVI:

  • Slurred or nonsensical speech
  • Inability to follow the officer’s directions
  • Statements or admission of guilt by you or a passenger
  • Open containers in the vehicle
  • Smell of alcohol
  • Unusually enlarged or constricted pupils

The officer may suspect that you are intoxicated if he finds any of the above, and you may be asked to complete a field sobriety test. You are not legally required to take this test, and it can be more difficult to pass than one would expect. If you refuse the test or fail, you may be asked to take a BAC test in the form of a breathalyzer, blood test, or urine test. There are legal ramifications for refusing these tests, unlike the field sobriety test.

If you are arrested for OVI in Ohio this weekend, you could face anywhere between 180 days and 18 months in prison and / or up to $5,000 in fines, depending on your circumstances. You may also have your license suspended and you may be required to participate in an intervention program. Remember that in the event of an arrest, you do have the right to remain silent and it may be in your best interest to consult an attorney before speaking to the police.

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A Closer Look at What 0.05 BAC Means

With such a big change on the discussion table about what the legal BAC means, it’s important to closely examine what impact the NTSB’s proposition would have. In a drastic step to decrease drunk driving, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) released a report earlier this year recommending that states lower the level of blood alcohol level (BAC) required for an OVI arrest. Currently in all 50 states, BAC must be at 0.08 for am OVI, commonly known as DUI, but the proposed level would only be 0.05. That’s about a 50% cut in how much alcohol can be in a person’s blood while driving.

To put this in perspective, currently an average sized adult can drink about 2 beers and a couple of margaritas. According to The Police Notebook BAC calculator, under the new proposal a person who weighs 160 pounds could only have one of the following before being unable to drive:

  • 2 light beers
  • 1 dry martini
  • 1 frozen daiquiri
  • 2 glasses of wine

A smaller person may be unable to have so much as a glass of wine at dinner. This also means the average woman wouldn’t be able to have more than 1 drink without being considered legally impaired.

The recommendation was met with approval by some, including the Governors Highway Safety Association and MADD, who laud the change as preventing drunk-driver related deaths. Although the number of alcohol related driving fatalities has been on the decline for years, they say that a reduced BAC requirement will further help reduce them. The report estimates that this measure would reduce fatalities by 500-800 each year.

However, opponents of the proposal say that this will do very little to help with drunk drivers and instead will hamper responsibly drinking adults and the restaurant industry’s workers. The American Beverage Institute, which represents 8,000 restaurants and their workers, has said that this measure focuses on moderate drinkers instead of the real problem. They say that that reducing the BAC so severely will keep reasonable and safe adults from being able to relax and have a drink while crippling servers working at restaurants that serve alcoholic beverages with little to show for it. Sarah Longwell, spokeswoman for the organization, compared the recommendation to a situation when “people are driving though an intersection at 90 miles an hour and so you drop the speed limit from 35 to 25.”

Over 70% of alcohol related traffic fatalities are attributed to drivers with a BAC or over 0.15, twice the current legal limit. So when the majority of deaths result from drivers who are far over the allowed BAC, will lowering that BAC help the problem? Opponents of the recommendation say that it would be more beneficial to focus efforts on repeat offenders and those far over the legal limit. Concerns have been raised that more drivers will face a first DUI arrest and its serious consequences without any real progress being made to protect lives.

The NTSB does not hold any actual authority to draft laws or legislation, but their recommendation certainly has weight in debates over the future of DUI legislation. The board initially made the recommendation in 1982 that the legal limit be decreased from 0.10 to 0.08.

Speculation has emerged over what this could mean for technology in cars as well. Testing will soon be underway for car devices that test BAC, with the possibility of this technology coming standard in all cars. If the legal BAC might be undergoing changes, this could lead to a hiccup in this development. If the debate over the legal BAC interferes with the development and production of these devices, it might interfere with their ability to save lives. The question would then come down to whether a device that refuses to start your car if you’ve been drinking or a lower BAC law would prevent more drunk-driving deaths.

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New Drug Recognition Experts in Ohio

In another step to crack down on rising numbers of individuals operating a vehicle the influence (OVI), commonly known as DUI, on the roads, Ohio has begun enacting a new strategy to gauge whether a driver is intoxicated or drugged while behind the wheel. Funded by federal grants, Ohio became the 48th state to train officers to act as DREs, or Drug Recognition Experts. This gives certain trained officers the ability and authority to analyze whether a person is under the influence of drugs, even if the drugs have been prescribed and are being used legally. These officers are also trained in spotting the differences between a drunk driver and a drug-impaired one.

Beginning in 2010, Ohio has specially trained 71 law enforcement officers for this task, four of which operate in Columbus. The use of these officers has become more widespread, and in 2012 alone 480 evaluations were performed on drivers.

Law enforcement is enthusiastic about the new assessment procedure, and supports the new ability to assess drivers. The program claims to have an 86 percent accuracy rate when compared to urine and blood tests. State officials have praised the ability for the trained officers to be able to comment on a driver’s mental state and how much he or she is actually impaired as opposed to simple numbers that they say may not reflect an individual’s state.

However, criminal defense lawyers aren’t thrilled by this new prospect. Some opponents of the DREs say that the accuracy rate is far lower than publicized, and they cite the subjectivity of personal assessment rather than scientific evidence as cause for concern. Critics worry that the patrolmen will push alleged offenders into participating in the evaluation and incriminating themselves when they have no legal obligation to do so. The program is new and those accused might not be aware of their rights in this situation. The legal ramifications of refusing to submit to a blood of urine test may also scare drivers into succumbing to the assessment, despite the fact that they cannot be punished for doing so.

Whether the assessments of these DREs will be permissible in court remains to be seen. No case has been brought before a judge yet, but when one is it will set a precedent for using these tests in the future. DUI attorneys are worried about the outcome, however. If a DRE’s assessment is deemed legal proof of impairment, then even if a driver’s BAC is below the legal limit they may still be facing jail time, fines, and a mark on their record.

Ohio plans to continue furthering the program while also training the rest of its officers in spotting drug use. For those that are pulled over and accused of drug use, your rights can be confusing. The best course of action may be to refuse to answer any questions or make any statements without a defense lawyer present.

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4th of July DUI in Ohio

Independence Day is a time to celebrate American history with family and friends, but it can be easy to get caught up in the festivities. The Fourth of July is one of the biggest days of the year for driving under the influence arrests, commonly known as DUI, DWI or OVI depending on the state. In 2011, almost 600 OVI arrests were made by Ohio State Highway Patrol. Ohio has strict laws and harsh penalties for those convicted of an OVI (Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence) offense, ranging from prison time to heavy fines and driver’s license suspensions. These accusations carry serious consequences that can impact all areas of your life.

A person found to have blood alcohol content (BAC) higher than .08 while in physical control of a vehicle can be charged with OVI, according to Chapter 4511 of the Ohio Revised Code. The penalties for the offense increase, however, if the person’s BAC is higher than .17.

The majority of DUI offenders have never been charged before and are facing their first DUI. For first-time offenders with BAC of less than .17, an OVI is usually categorized as a first degree misdemeanor. This can carry a sentence of up to 6 months in prison, but any OVI convictions comes with a mandatory 3 days in jail. If the driver had BAC over .17, however, they may also be required to participate in a driver’s intervention program. In addition, an offender convicted of OVI can face fines from $375 to $1, 075, and the person’s driving privileges can also be suspended from 6 months to three years. A defense attorney may be able to assist you with getting a special permit to drive for purposes such as education and work during your suspension.

If an offender is charged with another DUI within 6 years, the penalties increase as outlined by Ohio Revised Code 4511.19. For a second OVI offense, the offender must serve a mandatory 10 days in jail, and may be sentenced for up to 6 additional months. Fines of up to $1500 can also be ordered, and your license can also be suspended. Subsequent OVI charges continue to increase potential consequences, and if you accrue more than 3 OVIs within 6 years, you may be charged with Felony DUI in Ohio. This means that the charge is a fourth degree felony, and carries potential sentences of up to $10,000 in fines and / or up to 5 years in prison.

In addition to jail time and fees, OVIs can have other negative impacts on your future. Unless a lawyer can help you get the charges reduced or dropped, the offense may go on your record, which can affect your educational, housing, and employment opportunities. Your insurance will probably go up if you are convicted, and you can even be dropped altogether.

Remember to drive safely during the festivities this Independence Day. If you find yourself facing charges after the holiday, seeking legal help may be the best option to work toward a not-guilty verdict, a case dismissal or another favorable outcome. An attorney may be able to fight a blood or urine test, as these tests are administered by humans and are subject to error. These tests are often the prosecution’s key evidence against you, and a lawyer can try to get these thrown out, minimizing your chances of a conviction.

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