While every drunk or drugged driving case in and around Franklin County presents different facts, each goes through six distinct stages. Knowing your rights and what to expect during the early stages of the legal process for a case concerning the legal charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI) could help you avoid harsh penalties.
An Ohio-based OVI defense attorney with The Maher Law Firm provides only brief discussions of each stage here. You can learn more, or get help with your current drunk or drugged driving case, by calling (614) 205-2208. The initial phone consultation is free, and you can also reach us online.
Traffic Stop or DUI Checkpoint
A police officer or state trooper must have a valid reason for pulling you over as you drive. Law enforcement personnel look for weaving, running stop signals and speeding or driving very slowly as signs that a driver might be OVI.
If you enter the cones or barriers that mark a DUI checkpoint, you must stop and show an officer your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance if your vehicle is chosen to stop. Note that you do not have to enter the checkpoint if you spot it in time or know where it will be. Never, however, break a traffic law while trying to avoid a checkpoint at the last second.
You must exit your vehicle if ordered to do so, but you can legally refuse to participate in field sobriety tests. You can also refuse to let an officer search your vehicle without a warrant, but he or she is allowed to look through the windows and enter the vehicle if evidence of illegal activity or weapons is plainly visible.
Saying as little as possible can help you, but do not act rude or confrontational. Saying, “I prefer not to answer,” will be received much better than, “I know my rights!”
Custody & Breath, Blood, and Urine Testing
An officer can take you into custody for any suspicion of intoxication or other criminal activity. He or she will transport you to a testing facility and ask you to voluntarily submit to chemical tests for alcohol and drug use or they may test you on the scene.
The officer must explain to you that you have the right to refuse to provide breath, blood, and urine samples. You also have the right at this point to call a Columbus OVI defense attorney to discuss whether complying with the testing procedures is a good idea given the existing circumstances.
If you refuse to provide testing samples, the officer will issue an administrative license suspension or ALS. The ALS will make it illegal for you to drive.
Arrest and Charging
An officer can make an arrest for OVI at any time, but he or she will generally only do so after trying to have you perform the field sobriety tests. If you get to this step, it is likely you will be placed under arrest. You may be released thereafter in to the custody of a sober person or you may be taken to jail.
Ohio law requires that a person who has been charged with OVI must appear in court to enter a plea. The arraignment should take place within five days of the arrest. The defendant has the right to be represented by a Columbus, Ohio, OVI defense attorney, to stand with a public defender, or to represent him or herself. Whatever choice is made at that time, the defendant can hire a lawyer later.
During this first hearing, a judge will read the official charge. Pleading not guilty or entering no plea allows the defendant to go to trial on the facts. Pleading guilty moves the defendant into the sentencing and penalty phase.
The arraignment is also the time to appeal an administrative license suspension. An appeal for a personal license will be heard by the court. An appeal for a commercial driver’s license will often be handled by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
If you choose to go to trial, you can work with a Columbus OVI defense attorney to challenge all of the following:
You and your lawyer will have access to all the evidence the prosecutor intends to use.
Trial and Sentencing
At trial, the officer who arrested and charged you will be asked to share his or her account of what happened. That testimony can be questioned. You can also have witnesses and experts testify on your behalf.
A conviction for OVI will result in a license suspension that lasts at least one year, the assessment of several hundred dollars in fines and fees, a jail sentence or house arrest, and other penalties at the judge’s discretion.