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Ohio Court of Appeals Overturns DUI Conviction for Failure to Establish that Driver’s Impairment was Caused by Drugs

In this case, the Defendant was found guilty of two counts of driving under the influence (“DUI”) and one count of impeding the flow of traffic.

At trial, the officer testified that he and his partner observed the defendant’s vehicle stopped in the middle of the road. As the officer approached the car, he noticed the driver’s door was open and the defendant was seated in the driver’s seat, making car noises and moving the steering wheel as if he were driving. The ignition was off, but the keys were in the ignition.

The officer testified that the defendant was incoherent, disoriented, and did not know where he was.   When asked to perform field sobriety tests, the defendant was unable to follow directions and was unable to stand on his own.  He was arrested him for DUI and transported to the central jail for a chemical test.

The officers suspected the defendant was under the influence of drugs. At the jail, the defendant refused to provide a urine sample.

Also at trial, the defendant testified that someone else parked his car and left it in the road.  He said he was trying to start the car when the police arrived.   He was found guilty at trial.

On appeal, the defendant argued that the prosecution failed to meet its burden at trial.

He was charged with operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a drug of abuse, which states: “No person shall operate any vehicle * * * within this state, if, at the time of the operation * * * [t]he person is under the influence of * * * a drug of abuse.”

Because there was no physical evidence (he refused the tests), the court was left with only circumstantial evidence to prove impairment.

The Court of Appeals ultimately reversed the defendant’s DUI on sufficiency grounds.  The state failed to prove that the defendant’s impairment was caused by drugs. There were no drugs found in the vehicle or on the defendant.   Although he admitted that he had taken some medication, he did not identify the medication by name.  The decision noted that it could have been aspirin.

Without a nexus between the defendant’s impaired condition and a drug of abuse, the DUI conviction could not be upheld and was overturned.   Cleveland v. Turner, 8th Dist. No. 99183, 2013-Ohio-3145 (July 18, 2013).

If you have been charged with driving while under the influence of drugs or alcohol, contact a Columbus DUI attorney to discuss your options and potential defenses.