The Tenth District Ohio Court of Appeals in Columbus recently upheld a Franklin County Municipal Court judge’s decision throwing out an OVI case. The Court ruled the officer was not credible during his testimony when he explained why he arrested Defendant for Operating a Vehicle Under the Influence (OVI). The Court found that video evidence at the motion to suppress hearing contradicted the officer and determined the officer lack probable cause to arrest the Defendant for OVI. State v. Simmons, 2019-Ohio-559.

NO PROBABLE CAUSE TO ARREST FOR OVI

An officer has probable cause to arrest someone when the facts lead a reasonable officer to believe that an offense has been committed. State v. Burnside, 2003-Ohio-5372

In Simmons, the officer stated that he had probable cause to arrest Defendant based on his observations that Defendant drove erratically, smelled of marijuana, and failed the field sobriety tests.

However, the Court of Appeals went through each element of the officer’s reasoning for probable cause and found the explanations to be lacking:

  • Video evidence showed the officer drove recklessly in an attempt to get Defendant to pull over. The officer did not have his emergency lights activated and Defendant crossed the marked lanes trying to avoid a vehicle he did not realize was an officer.

  • The officer testified that he smelled marijuana, but the officer acknowledged the smell could have come from the Defendant or the passenger in the Defendant’s vehicle.

  • The officer testified that the Defendant failed to pass field sobriety tests, but video evidence showed that Defendant actually passed most of the field sobriety tests shown on camera, and Defendant had no difficulty understanding the directions or communicating with the officer.

In its final decision, the Court of Appeals ruled that the trial court does not need to “blindly” defer to the officer when determining if probable cause to arrest someone is present of not. The trial court may review video evidence that is available and come to a different conclusion than the officer. In the Simmons case, the Court of Appeals determined the trial court was well within its authority to throw out the case for a lack of probable cause.

Written by Anthony Iori, Riddell Law Associate

 

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