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Luftman Heck Case ResultsIn this blog, we publish articles and stories we believe people will find useful in the areas of criminal defense and justice, OVI / DUI and other issues we think our visitors will find useful. If you have any tips or topics you would like us to write about, please feel free to suggest article topics by email us at advice@columbuscriminalattorney.com.

Between 2014 and 2016, the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, commissioned by Gov. John Kasich in 2014, developed new standards for when the police may use force during interactions with civilians. The board also defined when deadly force is necessary and appropriate.

Once the advisory board finalized the state’s new standard for use of force, the state began the process of “certifying” law enforcement agencies across the state early last year. Certification means the agency complies with the state’s new standard. In addition to certifying the nearly 1,000 law enforcement agencies around the state, Ohio intends to publish a report by March 2017 regarding the agencies that have adopted the new standard to improve accountability. Police forces that do not meet the statewide standards will be listed as noncompliant.

This is the first initiative of this kind in Ohio and is meant to improve community-police relations and reduce arrest-related injuries and deaths. However, these new standards do not mean police officers will not intentionally or negligently mishandle situations. If you were subject to police brutality or an unlawful detainment or arrest, contact a Columbus criminal defense attorney at Luftman, Heck & Associates right away. Call us at to find out how we can help.

Ohio’s Use of Force Standard

According to the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board, employees are entitled to use the force reasonably necessary to effect lawful objectives, such as:

  • Completing a lawful arrest
  • Overcoming resistance to a lawful arrest
  • Preventing the escape of an offender
  • Preventing or defending others or themselves from physical harm

The advisory board also a developed policy for Ohio’s standard in regard to the use of deadly force. According to a statement from the policy board, the preservation of human life is the highest value within the state, which means employees must have an objectively reasonable belief that deadly force is necessary to protect life before using it. Deadly force may only be used:

  • To defend themselves from serious physical injury or death
  • To defend another person from serious physical injury or death
  • In accordance with all U.S. Supreme Court and Ohio Supreme Court decisions, specifically Tennessee v. Garner and Graham v. Connor

The collaboration also created standards for telecommunicator training, body cameras, recruitment and hiring, and community engagement.

Many of Ohio’s Largest Forces Are Certified

As of January 2017, the highway patrol and the Cincinnati, Columbus, Akron, Dayton, and Toledo police departments were certified. A number of mid-sized to small forces are already certified as well and a large number of agencies have applied in order to gain certification by the deadline. Many university police departments including Ohio University, Case Western Reserve, Miami University and Shawnee State are also participating in the initiative.

A full list of the agencies that are currently certified can be found on the Ohio Collaborative Community-Police Advisory Board’s site listed by county.

Some Forces Will Not Participate

There are law enforcement agencies around the state that have already said they will not seek certification. Some local forces say this is because they already meet the standards and participating in this program requires time and resources they do not have – particularly after state funding cuts.

Do You Need an Attorney?

Prior to this community collaboration and new statewide standards, police departments themselves should have had regulations on when to use force. However, police officers can willfully defy these standards or act carelessly or recklessly.

If you were injured or unlawfully arrested because of an officer’s violent or unnecessary behavior, you may be able to use police misconduct within your criminal defense strategy. Contact the attorneys of Luftman, Heck & Associates to learn more about the law enforcement agency in control of your arrest and whether you were the victim of police misconduct. We will analyze your case, explain your legal options, and help you defend your freedom in court.

To schedule a consultation with Luftman, Heck & Associates, call .

Ohio is taking great strides this year to reduce the number of drunk drivers on its roads. The Ohio legislature passed House Bill 388 in December and it was signed into law by Gov. Kasich shortly after. Known as “Annie’s Law,” after Annie Rooney, a local prosecutor who was killed by a drunk driver, HB 388 increases the use of ignition interlock devices for individuals convicted of operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) for the first time.

This option does not go into effect until April 1, 2017. However, if you are currently facing OVI charges, you may seek limited driving privileges or full driving privileges with an ignition interlock device. Judges have the discretion to provide this option in some cases. To learn more about your legal options and potential OVI defenses, contact a Columbus DUI defense attorney from Luftman, Heck & Associates at .

Annie’s Law

Starting April 1, ignition interlock devices will not only be for repeat offenders. These devices, which function as a breath test that must be taken and passed before a vehicle can turn on, will now be more readily available to first-time offenders who want to keep their driving privileges.

HB 388 includes a number of provisions that change how Ohio handles first-time OVI offenders, including:

  • Increases the duration of a license suspension for first-time offenders from six months to one year
  • Allows first-time offenders to ask the court for unlimited driving privileges with an ignition interlock device on their vehicle
  • Enables the court to grant unlimited driving privileges with an ignition interlock device on the offender’s vehicle
  • If the court grants unlimited driving privileges, it may suspend any jail term and reduce the license suspension by up to half
  • If the offender violates any terms or conditions of the license suspension, the offender may serve the suspended jail time
  • Compliance-based removal requires that any violations regarding the use of the ignition interlock device within the last 60 days of the license suspension increases the duration of the suspension and use of the device for another 60 days
  • Upon an ignition interlock device violation, the offender may be required to wear a continuous alcohol monitor for a period of time
  • Ignition interlock device violations include tampering with or attempting to circumvent the device or failing a breath test with the device
  • Extends the look back period for OVI offenses from six years to 10 years

The Benefits of Annie’s Law

This law stops OVI offenders from being able to use their vehicles if they have alcohol in their systems. An offender with an ignition interlock device on their car must blow a clean breath test before the vehicle will start. If the device detects alcohol on their breath, then the vehicle cannot be started for a set period of time. The device also records a log of this failed attempt, which can be viewed by the manufacturer and court. A failed attempt is a violation that increases the duration of the suspension and pushes back when the ignition interlock device can come off.

Ohio believes this will take more drunk drivers off the roads compared to license suspensions or limited driving privileges alone. It is difficult to enforce license suspensions or limited driver’s licenses, and they give offenders room to get behind the wheel after they have been drinking. Ignition interlock devices take this option away entirely while allowing offenders to get to and from work, school, appointments, and errands.

Ignition Interlock Devices Are Proven to Keep Drunk Drivers Off the Roads

Ignition interlock devices are proven effective. States with strict ignition interlock devices laws like West Virginia have seen a decrease in drunk driving fatalities up to 50 percent. A recent study by Johns Hopkins University, published this January, found that between 1982 and 2013, ignition interlock devices reduced fatal drunk driving crashes by 7 percent across the country. In total, 1,250 lives have been saved. Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) conducted a nationwide survey as well and found ignition interlocks stopped more than 1.77 million attempts to drive while intoxicated.

Contact a Columbus DUI Defense Attorney for Help

Ignition interlock devices are beneficial for both the state and OVI offenders. If you made a mistake and are facing your first DUI charge, you will soon have the option to be able to keep driving as long as you remain sober. This enables you to avoid some of the harshest punishments of an OVI – jail and a license suspension.

At the moment, Annie’s Law is not in effect. The penalties for a first-time OVI with a blood alcohol content between .08 and .17 percent through the end of March is 72 hours to six months in jail, a six-month to three-year license suspension, and fines up to $1,000. However, judges do have the discretion to provide you with driving privileges if you agree to use an ignition interlock device.

To learn more about how to minimize the consequences of a DUI charge, contact the Columbus DUI Lawyers of Luftman, Heck & Associates at to schedule a consultation.

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Categories: DUI, Legal Blog, OVI / DUI

When you are arrested for possessing, manufacturing, or selling drugs, the level of the offense depends on the type and amount of the drug based on weight. The weight of the drug you are accused of having is very important to your case. An incredibly small amount can lift your charge to a higher felony that adds years to a potential prison sentence. For instance, 20 grams of cocaine is charged as a third-degree felony while 21 grams will be charged as a second-degree felony. However, not all drugs are pure. In fact, a significant amount of illegal drugs manufactured and sold on the streets are mixed with other substances, known as fillers. In the past, prosecutors would weigh the total amount of the controlled substance and filler to determine the charge. A recent Ohio Supreme Court decision changes this procedure. Now, prosecutors are required to measure the actual weight of drugs without fillers in order to determine the appropriate charge.

If you have been charged with a crime based on the weight of a drug including the filler, call a Columbus criminal defense lawyer from Luftman, Heck & Associates as soon as possible. You may be able to fight your charges or sentence. Call us today at .

Ohio Supreme Court Case State v. Gonzales

In State v. Gonzales, the Ohio Supreme Court looked at whether the weight of cocaine mixed with another substance met the threshold for a specific charge or whether the prosecutor must charge based on the weight of only the cocaine. The issue arose because Rafael Gonzales was arrested for buying cocaine from a confidential informant. Of the two imitation bricks of cocaine Gonzales purchased, one contained cocaine weighing 139.2 grams in total and the other contained a tracking device. The bag that held the cocaine weighed between 3 to 20 grams. The prosecutors charged Gonzales with having more than 100 grams of cocaine, which is a first-degree felony and labels an individual a major drug offender. The prosecutor did not investigate whether the bag contained filler and if so, how much. At trial, the jury found Gonzales guilty of possessing cocaine equal to or more than 100 grams, which led to a mandatory prison sentence of 11 years.

Gonzales appealed to the Sixth District Court of Appeals. The appellate court reversed the decision upon finding the state must prove the defendant actually had the alleged weight of cocaine and not a cocaine mixture based on the clear wording of Ohio’s law. The state appealed to the Supreme Court, which took the case because the Second District Court of Appeals had decided differently in a similar situation.

Ultimately, the Supreme Court agreed with the Sixth District’s finding. The Supreme Court found that not only was Ohio’s statute unambiguously clear in its meaning of cocaine, but the legislator also intended to reduce the amount of cocaine that caused an automatically elevated sentence. By weighing only the cocaine, the prosecutors would adhere to the letter and intent of the law.

Prosecutors Must Charge Based on Actual Weight of Drugs

The Ohio Supreme Court’s decision is now the clear interpretation of Ohio’s drug law. All prosecutors throughout Ohio must now have illegal substances tested for other materials. If there are fillers present, the drug must be separated from that filler in order to be properly weighed. Prosecutors will only be able to charge defendants based on the weight of the actual drug and not a drug mixture, unless a statute particularly allows that.

Contact a Columbus Criminal Defense Lawyer for Help

This ruling may be good news for many defendants. Drugs like cocaine are often cut with other substances, diluting the purity of the drug. By weighing only the amount of the actual illegal substance, defendants are likely to face slightly lower sentences. However, whether or not this adjustment leads to an abundance of lower drug charges remains to be seen. For individuals accused of possessing relatively pure drugs, it is unlikely to make a significant difference

If you are currently facing drug charges, contact a Columbus criminal defense lawyer from Luftman, Heck & Associates right away. Defense attorneys must be vigilant regarding prosecutor’s actions in drug cases now. We will ensure that the substance you are accused of possessing is properly tested, separated, and weighed.

For more information about your options for defending against drug charges, call Luftman, Heck & Associates at .

Ohio takes the crime of selling drugs seriously. Yet if you are found to offer, sell, or distribute drugs close to a school or kids, then the offense is treated even more harshly. If you have been charged with selling drugs to or near minors in Ohio, you should contact a Columbus drug defense attorney as soon as possible. By working with a lawyer right away, you have a greater chance of obtaining the best possible outcome in your case and minimizing the consequences of the arrest or conviction.

If you are facing an Ohio drug charge, you have options. An experienced criminal defense attorney at Luftman, Heck & Associates can help. Call us today at to schedule a free initial consultation.

Defining the Crime: Selling Drugs in Ohio

Ohio Revised Code §2925.03 states it is illegal for any person to knowingly sell or offer to sell a controlled substance, or for an individual to prepare to ship, transport, deliver, or distribute a controlled substance when that individual knows or has reasonable cause to believe the controlled substance is intended for sale by another person. Additionally, Ohio law does not limit a “sale” to drugs exchanged for cash. Any gift, transfer, or barter for a controlled substance will be prosecuted under the law.

Ohio’s statute regarding the trafficking and distribution of controlled substances is broad. If the police find evidence a person is involved in the distribution, offer, transfer, or sale of an illegal drug in any way, he or she will be charged with a crime.

Possible Charges for Selling Drugs in Ohio

The level of offense a person will be charged with for selling, distributing, or offering an illegal substance depends on the drug, where the sale takes place, and who the individual sells or attempts to sell to. For instance, if the drug is a Schedule I or II narcotic (except for marijuana, hashish, cocaine, LSD, and controlled substance analogs), then the charge is aggravated drug trafficking, which is often a fourth-degree felony. Overall, drug trafficking and distribution charges can range from fifth- to first-degree felonies depending on the specific circumstances, punishable by:

  • Fifth-degree felony: Six to 12 month in prison, up to $2,500 fine
  • Fourth-degree felony: Six to 18 months in prison, up to $5,000 fine
  • Third-degree felony: One to five years in prison, up to $10,000 fine
  • Second-degree felony: Two to eight years in prison, up to $15,000 fine
  • First-degree felony: Three to 11 years in prison, up to $20,000 fine

Penalties for Selling Drugs to or Near Minors

Selling drugs to minors or near minors in Ohio is treated much more harshly than when the activity is only between, surrounded by, or visible to adults. If an individual is charged with selling, distributing, or offering drugs within the vicinity of a school or vicinity of at least one juvenile, then the charge of aggravated trafficking in drugs is a third-degree felony.

However, if the amount of drug within the individual’s possession at the time of the arrest is considered a bulk amount yet less than five times the bulk amount, and the incident occurs within the range of a school or minors, then the crime is a second-degree felony with a mandatory minimum prison sentence. When an individual is found to have between five and fifty times the bulk amount of a controlled substance near a school or minors, then it is a first-degree felony with a mandatory minimum prison sentence.

Selling Marijuana to Minors

Marijuana, hashish, cocaine, and LSD are treated slightly differently under §2925.03. An individual caught selling, trying to sell, or offering these drugs to juveniles in any way will face felony charges of different levels than other Schedule I and II drugs.

Selling marijuana is a fifth-degree felony. However, if an individual sells or distributes it near or a school or minors, they will be charged with a fourth-degree felony. If a person has between 200 and 1,000 grams of marijuana within the vicinity of a school or juveniles, then the crime is charged as a third-degree felony. This is a slightly less harsh than the crime of selling other controlled substances near or to kids, yet individuals accused of selling pot need to take the situation just as seriously as being charged with selling a harder drug.

What it Means to be Within the Vicinity of a School or Juveniles

Many times, individuals are charged with a harsher offense because the police state they were found near a school or minors. This can be confusing for defendants who had no idea they were near either a school or kids. Under §2925.01(P), within “the vicinity of a school” means the individual commits the offense:

  • On school premises
  • In a school building
  • Within 1,000 feet of the school premises’ boundaries

Section 2925.01(BB) states an offense is within “the vicinity of a juvenile” when the individual sells or distributes drugs:

  • Within 100 feet of a juvenile
  • Within view of a juvenile

It does not matter whether the individual knew they were on or near a school or if they knew another person was a minor or that a child could see what was going on. Ohio’s law is written in such a way that if the prosecutor can place the defendant within a certain distance from a school or person younger than 18 years old, then this mitigating factor increases the level of the crime.

A Columbus Drug Defense Attorney is Here to Help

Drug crimes can escalate quickly from a lesser felony to a second- or first-degree felony that results in a harsh mandatory minimum prison sentence. If you have been charged with selling or offering drugs to kids or near them, do not wait to get legal help. You need an experienced criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to minimize the potential consequences of an arrest or conviction.

To learn more about your potential defenses to this crime, contact Luftman, Heck & Associates at to schedule a free consultation.

If you have been charged with petty theft, you might be wondering what to do next and asking yourself where you went wrong. At Luftman, Heck & Associates, we understand that shoplifting or other petty theft crimes are often a one-time mistake or occurred because you were pressured by your peers. The desire to be cool and fit in can be overwhelming, leading you to do something you normally wouldn’t consider.

If a mistake has landed you in the hot seat, you aren’t out of options. Our experienced petty theft attorneys can help you defend yourself against these charges or push for a pretrial diversion program in order to avoid a criminal conviction. We are prepared to aggressively represent you in court and do what is best for your future.

Call the theft attorneys with Luftman, Heck & Associates today at to schedule a free consultation.

Understanding Theft

If you are facing petty theft or other theft charges, you must first understand how Ohio law defines this crime. Under the state’s criminal code, theft can be more than simply walking out of a store with a few products in your pocket without paying. Statute 2914.02 defines theft as one person, with the intention of depriving the rightful owner of property or services, exerting control over or obtaining property or services:

  • Without consent of the owner
  • Beyond the scope of implied or express consent given by the owner
  • By threat
  • By intimidation
  • By deception

You can be charged with petty theft in a number of circumstances, from shoplifting to obtaining money, property, or services from someone else based on false promises. However, specific factors determine when prosecutors will charge you with petty theft versus grand or aggravated theft.

What is Petty Theft?

Under Ohio law, prosecutors will charge you with petty theft when you allegedly obtained services or took property worth less than $1,000, so long as the items are not a vehicle, firearm, or drugs. If you took one of these items or if you stole property or services from an individual with a disability, an elderly person or a service member, then you may be charged with a harsher offense than petty theft.

The Consequences of a Petty Theft Conviction

Petty theft is the lowest theft crime you can be charged with and is a first-degree misdemeanor. All other theft charges are felonies of a certain degree. Upon conviction of a first-degree misdemeanor, you may be sentenced to spend up to 180 days in the county jail and pay up to $1,000 in fines. You will also have a criminal record that can affect going to college, getting a good job, and renting an affordable apartment.

Options for First-time Offenders

When you are a first-time petty theft offender, which means you have no previous criminal convictions, there may be another option for you instead of jail time, such as a pretrial diversion program or a plea agreement. Diversion programs can differ greatly from county to county. However, the basic premise is the same. Instead of proceeding with a trial, you and the prosecutors agree to a program that includes supervision, community service, restitution, and possibly other elements for a set period of time.

Depending on your circumstances, you may be required to complete drug or alcohol testing, education or rehabilitation. If the courts believe your crime was motivated by addiction, you may be eligible for Intervention in Lieu of Conviction (IILC). Through this specific diversion program, you can receive court-supervised addiction treatment. This includes counseling, testing, community service, restitution, and remaining drug and alcohol-free for at least 12 months.

If you complete all elements of the diversion or IILC program successfully, the petty theft charges against you are dropped and you will not end up with a criminal record. However, if you do not complete the program, you will be found guilty of petty theft and can be punished to the fullest extent of the law.

Depending on the circumstances surrounding your arrest and your background, you may not be eligible for a pretrial diversion program. In this case, your attorney can attempt to negotiate a plea agreement with the prosecutor. As a first-time offender, your attorney may be able to negotiate an arrangement in which you avoid jail time and instead submit to probation, fines, restitution, and community service. It is not always possible to avoid a conviction. However, a skilled attorney can help you minimize the consequences of a conviction.

Call a Columbus Petty Theft Lawyer Today

Being charged with a crime for stealing is scary, particularly when prosecutors are saying you will go to jail and have to pay hefty fines that you cannot afford. Instead of being intimidated by the prosecutor’s worst case scenario, contact Luftman, Heck & Associates to learn about your legal options. Our experienced legal team is ready to analyze your situation and develop a strong defense for trial.

Give us a call at to schedule a free consultation.

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Categories: Legal Blog, Theft & Fraud

If you are pulled over for speeding, there is always the chance that you could be charged with additional violations, such as failure to wear a seatbelt or failure to display a valid front license plate. If you end up with multiple violations on one ticket, there is a chance that the court fees you face will end up costing you as much as the fines for your violations. While it seems unfair, the law regarding court fees in Ohio allows municipal courts to charge fees for each individual offense, even if all your violations are handled as one case.

Costs of Prosecution

The Ohio Revised Code provides that in all criminal cases the judge shall include the costs of prosecution into any judgment against the defendant. The Ohio Supreme Court has defined the costs of prosecution to be the statutory fees to which officers, witnesses, jurors, and others are entitled for their services in an action or prosecution. In addition to the costs of the actual prosecution, these standard court fees also include some state mandated fees such as those for funding public defenders and providing aid to the victims of crime.

The Ohio Supreme Court has noted that the legislature’s purpose in imposing court costs on the defendant convicted of a crime is to finance the court system and not to punish the defendant for each charge. Accordingly, the court fees you pay for the costs of prosecution are charged on a per case basis and not for each individual violation.

Special Project Fees

The danger of facing court fees for each charge on a ticket comes from what are called special project fees. Special project fees are authorized by the Ohio Revised Code and allow a municipal court to charge a fee on the filing of each criminal cause if it determines additional funds are necessary to acquire and pay for special projects of the court. These special projects can include the acquisition of additional facilities, the rehabilitation of existing facilities, the acquisition of equipment, hiring and training of staff, mediation or dispute resolution services, or the employment of magistrates.

The Ohio Supreme Court has determined that based on the law’s plain language a municipal court can charge a special projects fee on the filing of each criminal cause in addition to other court costs.

The Use of Special Projects Fees Varies Widely

The Cleveland Plain Dealer recently examined the use of special project fees and found that since the law allows each municipal court to establish its own fees, the application of fees varies widely even within the same county. As an example, the newspaper found that in Lake County three municipal courts utilized special project fees in completely different ways. One court imposed fees only once regardless of how many charges were on a ticket, another imposed special project fees for each charge, and the third charged project fees in different ways based on whether any of the charges were dismissed.

How a Columbus Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

If you are driving through a municipality that aggressively utilizes special project fees, you could end up facing hundreds of dollars in courts fees along with the already substantial fines imposed for any violations. You will want a Columbus traffic attorney who is experienced with traffic offenses to help defend you and prevent the court fees from adding up.

Luftman, Heck & Associates has experienced Columbus criminal defense lawyers who have handled all manner of traffic cases ranging from speeding to DUIs. Call us today at for a free and confidential consultation.

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Categories: Legal Blog, Traffic Offenses

The holidays are a time to get together and celebrate with family and friends, but those celebrations also bring along the risks associated with drinking and holiday travel. Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day are considered three of the most dangerous days of the year for being on the road. People frequently drink on those three holidays and travel is even more common than at other times of the year. Because of this, holiday DUI arrests tend to increase as well.

If you are arrested for a DUI / OVI this holiday season, contact our experienced Columbus DUI attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates today at .

Thanksgiving Traffic Deaths and OVIs Declined

Statistics recently released by the Ohio State Patrol show that traffic fatalities over the Thanksgiving holiday period declined for the second straight year. After an increase in 2014 saw the number of traffic fatalities over the Thanksgiving holiday reach 24 the number of traffic fatalities dropped down to only 7 for the 2016 Thanksgiving holiday. The Ohio State Patrol also reported a decrease in crashes of over 20 percent and a decrease of over 8 percent in OVI stops in comparison to the same holiday period in 2015.

Record Traffic for Christmas and New Year’s

The decrease in traffic incidents over Thanksgiving is encouraging, but the calendar and a projected record number of holiday travelers provide reason to believe holiday traffic may be more dangerous than usual for Christmas and New Year’s Day. Travel projections released by the American Automobile Association (AAA) state that an expected 93.6 million people will drive between Christmas Eve and January 2nd, which would be a 1.5 percent increase over 2015. The record number of drivers will have one less day to be on the road since both Christmas and New Year’s Day both fall on a Sunday, further increasing holiday congestion.

Increase in New Year’s Drunk Driving Incidents

With more people on the road, the danger created by a drunk driver only increases. Ohio State Patrol statistics for the 2015-2016 New Year’s holiday provide reason for Ohio drivers to be even more cautious this holiday season. The State Patrol reported an alarming 18.7 percent increase in OVI stops over the prior year’s New Year’s holiday period. The patrol district including Columbus and most of its suburbs had the most OVI incidents in the state last year, with a total of 71 from December 31, 2015, through January 3, 2016.

How a Columbus Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

As Christmas and New Year’s Day approach, the dangers of travel will increase as people look to reunite with family and friends. You can also expect an increased law enforcement presence on the roads as the Ohio State Patrol and local police departments work to keep the roads as safe as possible. But with an increase in law enforcement comes an increase in the risk of facing a drunk driving charge if you drink before beginning any holiday travels of your own. If you’ve been charged with OVI you need a Columbus criminal defense attorney with experience handling drunk driving cases who knows the best ways to defend you.

Luftman, Heck & Associates has experienced criminal defense attorneys who have handled hundreds of drunk driving cases and have worked hard to obtain the very best outcomes for our clients. We represent our clients on a wide variety of criminal charges, including drug possession and driving under the influence.

Call us today at for a free and confidential consultation.

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Categories: Alcohol Offenses, DUI, Legal Blog

A legal dispute regarding automated traffic cameras, also called red light cameras, has caused disagreement among courts in Ohio. The Ohio Supreme Court recently announced there is a conflict in decisions made in separate cases where Dayton and Toledo are challenging an Ohio law putting restrictions on automated traffic cameras. The Supreme Court is set to reconcile the conflict with its decision in the Dayton case, which should determine if an automated traffic camera recording is the sole evidence necessary to issue a ticket for traffic violations such as speeding or running a red light.

Red Light Cameras Are Controversial

As the technology developed and became more cost effective, the use of automated traffic cameras has become popular for cities looking to increase enforcement of traffic laws. It is now commonplace to see the boxes containing red light cameras perched along the roadside or right next to traffic signals at busy intersections.

However, automated cameras became a source of complaints, and at the end of 2014 Senate Bill 324 was signed into law. One of the requirements included in Senate Bill 324 was that a police officer needed to be present at the location where a traffic camera was in use in order for that evidence to be valid. This effectively eliminated the usefulness of the cameras.

The requirement to have a police officer present was challenged by municipalities in the state that felt that the requirement infringed on their power to manage their own affairs. In the two cases before the Ohio Supreme Court, there is a split where one appeals court ruled that Senate Bill 324 was unconstitutional and the other ruled that it was a valid law.

Conflict Between State Law and Red Light Camera Use

Automated traffic cameras are still in use in many areas of Ohio without an officer present, which means you can still face a traffic ticket based on evidence collected by a red light camera even though it violates the requirements of Senate Bill 324. Until the Ohio Supreme Court makes a decision, it is important to remember that as you travel throughout Ohio there can be differences in how traffic laws are enforced.

How a Columbus Traffic Lawyer Can Help

Whether you are issued a traffic ticket by an automated traffic camera or by more traditional means, the consequences can be substantial. In addition to heavy fines, a traffic ticket can lead to the suspension of your driver’s license or even jail time depending on your prior traffic offenses. If you want to fight your traffic ticket, you need an experienced Columbus traffic attorney that can help you contest any charges.

The skilled attorneys at Luftman, Heck & Associates have helped several clients facing traffic violations from speeding to DUI and OVI. Let our experience work to help defend you from any traffic charges you might be facing.

Call us today at for a free and confidential consultation.

The December 5th, 2016 announcement of the arrest of Justin Christian was noteworthy in that it brought an end to the almost year-long manhunt for a suspect in two cases where young girls were abducted from their homes. Christian’s crimes were described as “every parent’s worst nightmare” by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine and had placed Northeast Ohio families on edge. However, Christian’s arrest made news in Ohio and throughout the nation not because he was caught, but because of how he was caught. For the first time, the State of Ohio used a familial DNA search to help identify their suspect.

What is Familial DNA Testing?

The process of familial DNA testing involves taking DNA evidence that had been collected during a crime investigation and comparing it to the state DNA database. If there is no direct DNA match, then familial DNA testing can be done in an attempt to identify possible first-degree male relatives of the suspect in the database by comparing Y chromosomes. The results of successful familial DNA testing would then give investigators the name of a father, brother, or son of the suspect. Law enforcement agencies could then use that information to narrow the focus of their investigation.

How Will Familial DNA Testing Be Used in Ohio?

The use of familial DNA testing in the Justin Christian case makes Ohio the 11th state to make use of such testing, joining states like California, Florida, and Michigan. The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation has developed a 12 page set of policies and procedures for the use of familial DNA testing that includes guidelines for which cases qualify for the testing. The criteria for a case that qualifies for familial DNA testing is one that involves a crime that is:

  • Violent, causing serious injury or death; or which demonstrates a continuing threat of imminent and serious harm to one or more members of the community; and
  • Not solvable by traditional methods of investigation.

An exception can be made to the criteria by the Bureau of Criminal Investigation Superintendent for a matter of extreme public safety.

Concerns About Familial DNA Testing

The Justin Christian case provides an example of the benefits of familial DNA testing, but use of the testing does raise privacy concerns. By using testing to identify familial relationships, investigators can essentially obtain DNA information on all first-degree male relatives of those already in the Ohio DNA database. Many of those identified will be innocent of any crime, but are implicated solely because of a blood relationship with the suspect. Privacy concerns have lead Maryland to ban the use of familial DNA testing as a violation of Fourth Amendment privacy rights.

How a Columbus Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help

Familial DNA testing is a very powerful investigative tool that can be use used in a manner that helps make the State of Ohio safer, as evidenced by the arrest of Justin Christian. However, it runs the risk of putting innocent citizens under investigation simply because one of their relatives committed a crime. If you feel you’ve been wrongly targeted in an investigation or charged with a crime, you need an experienced and knowledgeable Columbus criminal defense lawyer to protect your rights.

The Ohio criminal defense lawyers at Luftman, Heck & Associates have years of experience handling a wide range of criminal matters and reaching the best possible outcomes for our clients. Call us today at for a free and confidential consultation.

In 2014, the State of Ohio changed the liability requirements for criminal offenses in a way that has been described as making it harder to accidentally commit a crime. The changes made in Ohio’s laws are a leading example in a push for expanded criminal justice reform, both in both state and federal law. The election of Donald Trump as the country’s next president leaves the future of criminal justice reform on the federal level unclear.

What is Mens Rea?

A general legal principle is that two things are required for something to be considered a criminal offense. The first requirement is the commission of a prohibited act or the failure to perform a duty required by law, which is known as the actus reus. The second requirement is that at the time of the action or failure to act an individual must have been in a state of mind that made them culpable for the offense, known as the mens rea. Examples of culpable mental states would be if a person committed the act purposely or if the person acted with such negligence that they should be held criminally liable for the action.

Some Offenses are Strict Liability Offenses

If a prohibited act is committed while in a culpable mental state, then it is a criminal offense. Most criminal laws are structured so both the prohibited action and a mens rea are specified. However, there are some laws that do not require a mens rea and the commission of the act is considered a criminal offense regardless of the mental state. This type of criminal offense is known as a strict liability offense. Drunk driving provides an example of a strict liability offense in Ohio- operating a vehicle while under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a criminal offense regardless of your mental state.

Ohio Senate Bill 361 Clarified Mens Rea Requirements

The bill responsible for Ohio’s criminal justice reform was Ohio Senate Bill 361. The bill was passed unanimously in both houses of the legislature, signed by Governor John Kasich on December 19, 2014, and became effective March 3, 2015. The main purpose of the law was to clarify the mens rea requirement for the commission of crimes in Ohio and to mandate that any criminal offenses created in the future provide a specific statement of the mens rea requirement. Senate Bill 361 became necessary because of an increase in vague laws that could be read to unintentionally create more and more strict liability offenses.

What Does a Trump Administration Mean for Criminal Justice Reform?

The election of Donald Trump provides no clear guidance on possible changes to mens rea requirements on the federal level. Republicans in both the House of Representatives and the Senate have proposed bills in the current term that would standardize mens rea requirements, so it is possible a Republican president could help to move such criminal justice reform measures forward in the next term. However, Trump’s campaign stressed the importance of law and order and a Trump Administration might view increased strict liability offenses in a positive light.

How a Columbus Criminal Defense Lawyer Can Help

No matter what happens on the federal level, most crimes an individual might face are state crimes and Senate Bill 361 provides clarity for mens rea requirements in Ohio. The confusion regarding mens rea highlights just how complex defending yourself against criminal charges has become.

If you find yourself charged with a criminal offense, you want a knowledgeable Columbus criminal defense attorney who understands all of the requirements of the charges against you. Luftman, Heck & Associates have experienced criminal defense attorneys who have handled all manner of cases ranging from traffic offenses to serious felonies.

Call us today at for a free and confidential consultation.

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