The end of the year is upon us. For many people, this means a time to celebrate and have a few drinks with friends. This year though, you might want to give extra thought to your plans for the night. On December 29th, 2016, the Ohio Supreme Court made a decision about Ohio OVI cases that can have far reaching effects. The Supreme Court ruled that a Police Officer who makes a traffic stop can be qualified as an expert witness in court to determine the driver's drug impairment. There need not be an expert witness to testify as to the effects of the drug or drugs. There need not be any direct evidence or laboratory testing. All there has to be is the subjective word of the Officer on site that you were impaired and operating the vehicle.
What about due process you may ask? Well, lets take a quick look at the source of this decision. In The State of Ohio v. Richardson, Mr. Richardson rear ended another vehicle. He told the officer he had not been drinking. He admitted to being on over the counter pain medication. The officer believed he was taking something much stronger, namely hydrocodone. Mr. Richardson did have a prescription for hydrocodone. However, he stated to police had run out 2 days prior. Mr. Richardson said he was suffering withdrawal symptoms. The defense attorney had an expert witness testify that Mr. Richardson was "acting in the manner of a person suffering from withdrawal." The Supreme Court decided the officer's testimony could outweigh this expert testimony. Instead, the Supreme Court of Ohio made the officer their Ohio OVI expert. A police officer normally has no formal training in this area. And yet it was his testimony that made the Supreme case, and now can prove future cases.
Here is what this means to you: With this ruling in effect, the police get more power. The testimony of one officer is now enough evidence in an Ohio OVI case to reach a guilty verdict. Never talk to police about your medications or driving. Provide ID and that's all. With New Year's just days away, and new police experts being out in full force this weekend, Drive Carefully and if you need legal advice, please contact us before driving.