“Motion Hearing” or “Suppression Hearing”
Ohio DUI & OVI
The defense of DUI or OVI cases in Ohio often begins with pre-trial Motions to Suppress Evidence. There are several types of Suppression Motions in DUI cases, but there are generally two categories in Ohio.
Fourth Amendment Challenges
The first category is 4th Amendment challenges. If the police violated a suspect’s rights under the 4th Amendment, all the evidence found as a result is “suppressed” from use at trial. This is what is happening when “the evidence was thrown out of court.” In DUI cases, the police might violate the 4th Amendment by stopping a car for an invalid reason (may they just had a “hunch”). Generally, a traffic violation is good enough. But sometimes the police may get it wrong. For instance, police might base a stop on an alleged marked lane violation. But the police cruiser cameras later show that the violation did not occur. There is a good argument that everything found as a result of the stop should be thrown out—including police observations, sobriety test results, and even chemical BAC test results.
Even if the stop is deemed valid, police may not have enough evidence to justify an arrest for DUI. In order to arrest someone under the 4th Amendment, police must have “probable cause.” Without getting into the depths, probable cause generally means that the police had a genuine reasonable belief that the suspect was committing a violation of law. In a DUI case, the police must have probable cause the suspect was impaired. And that is not always clear. Sometimes the police act too quickly and place a suspect under arrest before they development enough probable cause. Or they might just not have enough information to justify an arrest. This why it’s imperative for those pulled over for DUI to consider carefully whether they should refuse a field sobriety test. Police rely heavily on FST’s to justify an arrest for DUI or OVI. These tests give the police a means to describe and testify about impairment. Without them (in the case where a suspect refuses), police do not have the benefit of this evidence. That makes the probable cause justification more difficult for the prosecution. If there is no probable cause, then all evidence discovered after the arrest (generally a chemical BAC test) is “suppressed” from use at trial.
Challenges to Test Results
The second category of suppression motions in Ohio DUI cases involves challenges to the admissibility of chemical test results. Ohio law is somewhat unique here. It requires that defendants challenge the admissibility and reliability of chemical tests in pre-trial Motions to Suppress. Generally, this is a challenge to the administration of the blood, breath, or urine tests. Motions to Suppress results typically require the prosecution to bring evidence into a pre-trial hearing to show that the test was conducted in compliance with the Ohio Administrative Code and that the police maintained the testing device(s) correctly. For example, most breath testing machines require regular calibration checks, and the police must maintain calibration and repair records. If they fail to do so, the results of the test can be suppressed or thrown out of court.
Both categories of suppression motions are often factually and legally complicated. All too often, attorneys either do not understand or simply have no experience in the nuances 4th Amendment and Administrative law regarding the admissibility of chemical tests. Test results are not “automatically” admissible at a DUI trial in Ohio. Left unchallenged, however, test results often result in certain conviction. Absent experience in this area, it is easy to avoid these complex issues and simply presume that the test(s) are admissible.
Any DUI defense requires a multi-faceted understanding of the scientific, constitutional, and administrative legal issues. Absent that, it is impossible to analyze a case and give the best legal advice. The takeaway is simple. Find a DUI lawyer with experience and a good conceptual understanding of all the issues.