Standardized field sobriety tests are administered during most DUI/OVI cases in Columbus and Delaware, Ohio. The general standard used for admitting these tests as evidence in court is that the field sobriety tests must be administered in substantial compliance with the officers’ training manual. An example of where this standard was applied and the evidence was found to be inadmissible can be found in the case of Middleburg Heights v. Gettings.
In this case, a state highway trooper stopped the defendant for weaving. The trooper smelled the odor of alcohol coming from the defendant, and observed the defendant with bloodshot/glassy eyes and slurring his speech. The trooper administered all three standardized field sobriety tests, despite the defendant informing the trooper that the defendant had knee problems. The trooper arrested the defendant and the defendant blew over the legal limit. The defendant filed a motion to suppress, arguing that the field sobriety tests were inadmissible and that the trooper lacked justification to arrest him. Both of these motions were overruled.
These motions were appealed and the appellate court held differently. When a motion to suppress is filed, the defendant places the burden on the prosecution to prove that the field sobriety tests were administered in substantial compliance with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) standardized field sobriety tests manual. This requires the prosecution to have the trooper testify as to his or her training in standardized field sobriety tests, introduce the NHTSA manual as evidence, and ask the trooper certain details about the tests were administered.
Here, the prosecutor did not elicit any testimony from the trooper on the trooper’s training in standardized field sobriety tests, did not introduce the NHTSA manual into evidence, and did not ask the trooper about how the tests were administered. Instead, the prosecutor only asked if the tests were performed in substantial compliance with the NHTSA manual, which the trooper said they were.
The Court of Appeals held that the trooper’s testimony was insufficient to prove the standardized field sobriety tests were properly administered. The court further stated that the trooper was aware that the defendant had knee problems, yet still required the defendant to perform the Walk and Turn and One Leg Stand tests. The court held that the field sobriety tests were inadmissible.
So, what do we learn from cases such as Gettings? When the prosecution is responsible for proving that the standardized field sobriety tests are administered in substantial compliance with the NHTSA standards, satisfying that standard is not possible unless the prosecutor elicits testimony regarding what those standards are. Moreover, the prosecution must admit the NHTSA manual into evidence, instead of relying on the officer’s claim of what is in the manual.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio DUI/OVI Defense Attorney
If you have been charged with DUI/OVI in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Attorney David Johnson of Johnson Legal, LLC will discuss your case and assist you in fighting the charges. Call (614) 987-0192 or send an email to schedule a consultation regarding your DUI/OVI case.