In a recent Ohio OVI case, the police cruiser video played a critical role in getting all OVI charges dismissed.  

The majority of Central Ohio police departments employ cruiser video cameras that can capture the traffic violation, interactions with the officer and any field sobriety tests during the traffic stop.  We obtain cruiser videos regularly for our clients as part of the discovery process.  If the cruiser video contradicts the police officer’s testimony on a crucial issue, this can be an invaluable piece of evidence for defending against OVI charges. 

What Happened During the OVI Stop

In this case (State v. Pate, 2014-Ohio-2029), the officer pulled over the driver around 2:00 am.  He said he pulled her over because her headlights were not on.  The officer said he smelled alcohol when he approached the car.  When asked, the driver admitted to having two beers.  

The officer then asked the driver to close her eyes and recite the alphabet.  She did “okay” with this test (which is not a sanctioned NHSTA test).  Regardless, he asked her to step out of the car and submit to field sobriety tests. However, the officer admitted on cross-examination that the driver got out of the car without falling or stumbling and that her speech was not slurred or mumbled.

Walk & Turn

The officer testified that the driver did not perform the walk-and-turn test correctly. Rather, she “stepped off the [imaginary] line four times [while being instructed],” “turned incorrectly and stumbled a little bit when she turned,” and “did not touch heel to toe.”

However, on cross-examination, the officer admitted that he didn’t know that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) allows a 1/2 inch space between heel and toe during the walk and turn test.  And the officer didn’t know how much space was between the driver’s heel and toe here during her walk and turn. 

One Leg Stand Test

On the one-leg-stand test, she put her leg down and stopped counting when she got to “three.”  But when asked to continue, she lifted her foot and kept counting to 14.   The officer noted that she “was also swaying while she was performing the test while trying to balance.” But the officer couldn’t say on cross-examination how much she was swaying.

Alphabet Test

Finally, the officer asked her to again recite the alphabet outside of her car.  She swayed slightly while reciting the alphabet, but kept her balance and did recite the alphabet correctly.  

He arrested her for OVI. 

The Motion to Suppress

At the motion hearing, the key piece of evidence was the video of the stop.  Although the officer said he pulled her over for having no headlights, the video showed that the driver did in fact have her headlights on when she was pulled over.   As a result, the stop was deemed unreasonable and all evidence taken by the officer (the field sobriety / breath tests) were thrown out.   All OVI charges were dismissed.

If you are facing an OVI charge and would like to investigate your possible defenses, contact our office at (614) 361-2804.  The video evidence is often key to our client’s defense.  If the initial stop was not supported by reasonable suspicion (a valid traffic stop) or if the field sobriety tests were not administered correctly, there may be grounds to challenge the OVI in court. 

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