If you’ve recently been charged with driving under the influence in Ohio, you may wonder if there’s any hope to defend yourself. After all, isn’t an OVI test result final? Despite what the officer told you on the side of the road or at the station, DUI tests are not open and shut. While designed to be accurate, they are tools that can and do produce false or misleading results for many reasons.
How Lawyers Fight DUI Tests
Identifying a faulty DUI assessment without knowing what to look for can be tricky. After all, you were probably stressed and intimidated as officers shined a light in your eyes or told you to blow into a strange device. Fortunately, there are several things that a skilled defense attorney will look for and ways to challenge the results of these tests. This could potentially lead to reduced OVI charges or even dismissal.
1. Challenge the Traffic Stop
Before diving into the test, it’s essential to determine if the police had a valid reason to stop you in the first place. If there was no legitimate cause for the traffic stop, any subsequent evidence of criminal activity obtained—including OVI test results—can be thrown out.
Standard traffic stop challenges include:
- No observable traffic violations.
- Relying solely on anonymous tips without independent verification.
- Stops made without any specific suspicion of OVI.
2. Question the Probable Cause
Even if you forgot to signal or swerved slightly, a traffic violation does not automatically require you to submit to DUI testing. For an officer to administer a test, they must have probable cause to believe you’re intoxicated.
Typical examples are looking for obvious signs of impairment, such as glassy eyes, slurred speech, empty cans or bottles, and the scent of alcohol. Any subsequent test results may be challenged if this cannot be established.
3. Point Out Field Sobriety Flaws
Police officers commonly use Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) to collect evidence of impairment. However, these tests are subjective and can be affected by various factors:
- Improper Instruction: Officers must adequately explain and demonstrate each FST. Failure to do so can invalidate the results.
- External Factors: Conditions like uneven surfaces, poor lighting, or even the type of shoes you’re wearing can influence your performance on these tests.
- Medical Conditions: Certain conditions can affect your balance, coordination, or eyes, making it unfair to judge your sobriety based on FSTs alone.
- Human Error: Many tests, especially field sobriety tests, rely heavily on human observation. Officers are trained to interpret signs of intoxication, but their judgments can be subjective and prone to bias. What one officer might perceive as “failing” a test, another might view as inconclusive or even passing.
4. Breathalyzers Make Errors
The most common test used in Ohio OVI charges is the breathalyzer. And while roadside breath tests and mobile DUI testing are routine in Columbus, there’s a lot of misinformation about BAC breath tests and when someone is required to blow. It’s essential to keep in mind that no machine is infallible.
- Machine Calibration: Breathalyzers need regular maintenance and calibration. Results can be thrown out if it’s been too long since the last check or the calibration is off.
- Operator Error: The officer administering the test must be trained and should follow the correct procedures. Mistakes here can lead to invalid results.
- Medical Issues: Some medical conditions or diets can produce mouth alcohol, leading to falsely high readings.
Blood & Urine Tests are Faulty, Too
While considered more accurate than breath tests, an experienced lawyer can still successfully challenge blood and urine tests.
- Chain of Custody Problems: Every step must be precisely documented, from drawing the sample to testing it in the lab. Any break in this chain can lead to doubts about the sample’s integrity.
- Testing Mistakes: Labs must follow strict protocols. Errors in storing, handling, or testing the sample can render the results unreliable.
- Sample Contamination: Samples must be free from contamination. If contamination is possible, the results may be thrown out.
Imagine you’re pulled over one evening after having dinner with friends. The police officer claims to smell alcohol and decides to conduct a DUI blood test. You’re taken to the station, and your blood sample is drawn.
However, upon reaching the lab, it was discovered that your sample was not properly sealed, potentially contaminating it. Furthermore, the lab tech realized that a critical step in the testing procedure was skipped. Due to this contamination risk and the procedural oversight, your DUI test results could be invalid. Your entire case may be thrown out if insufficient evidence shows you were drinking and driving without the test.
5. Point to Violations of Your Rights
DUIs, like all criminal charges, must be pursued with respect for your constitutional rights. When these rights are violated, it can significantly alter the case’s trajectory. Likewise, when violations are brought to light, they can provide a strong argument against using illicit evidence collected.
For instance, the subsequent test and results can likely be excluded if your rights were violated during a DUI stop.
While specific instances where you feel as though your rights were violated should be discussed with an attorney, some common violations include:
- Not informing you of your Miranda rights.
- Denying access to an attorney.
- Holding you for an extended period without formal charges.
The Importance of OVI Representation
Having a knowledgeable defense attorney by your side can be the difference when you are charged with OVI after submitting to a DUI test.
Criminal defense attorneys, especially those with substantial DUI experience, are familiar with the intricacies of the law, testing, and police procedure. They know where mistakes are most often made, how to identify them, and can craft a defense tailored to what happened in your unique situation.
Sometimes, even if the evidence is strong, a skilled attorney can use weaknesses in the testing to negotiate a better deal for you, such as reduced charges or penalties. A typical example is when your BAC result may be on the fringe of a higher-tier OVI. Your lawyer may be able to suggest that outside factors or roadside conditions factored into the seemingly higher BAC. This could spare you from mandatory time in custody or preserve your driving privileges.
Ultimately, facing a DUI charge is stressful, and knowing that you have a competent advocate in your corner can alleviate some of that stress.
DUI Tests Aren’t Foolproof. Do Don’t Go It Alone
The high stakes in OVI cases are hefty fines, loss of driving privileges, and even jail. While saving money by defending yourself or accepting your fate without a fight might be tempting, this can be a costly mistake. The legal system is complex, and you may miss opportunities for a better outcome without proper representation.
Remember, every case is unique. Just because you failed an OVI test doesn’t mean you’re without options. An OVI/DUI defense attorney from Luftman, Heck & Associates can analyze your case, challenge evidence, and work towards the best possible outcome. Call LHA at (614) 500-3836 for a free, confidential case evaluation.