In determining whether probable cause to arrest for DUI / OVI in Ohio exists, courts look at the totality of the circumstances. When a person submits to field sobriety tests and fails, most courts hold that probable cause to arrest exists. However, one recent case from the 5th District Court of Appeals, State v. Kopp, found that probable cause to arrest did not exist, even though the person failed field sobriety tests.
Totality of the Circumstances for DUI / OVI in Ohio
Kopp began with an officer observing the rear license plate light on a truck not functioning at 3:00 AM. However, the officer could read the license plate due to the driver’s headlights. The officer ran the license plate and found that the registered owner had an expired license. The officer did not observe any traffic violations, but pulled the vehicle over.
The driver provided a valid Georgia driver’s license to the officer. The officer detected the smell of marijuana and alcohol emanating from the driver’s vehicle. The driver admitted to smoking marijuana recently. The officer also noted that the driver’s eyes were glassy and somewhat bloodshot. The officer then asked the driver to submit to field sobriety testing.
The officer observed two clues during the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) test, three clues on the Walk and Turn (WAT) test, and two clues during the One Leg Stand (OLS) test. Thus, the driver passed the HGN test, but failed the WAT and OLS tests.
The officer also administered several non-standardized field sobriety tests, including a Lack of Convergence (LOC) test, alphabet test, and number test. The officer believed that the driver was impaired by marijuana due to the driver’s right eye not converging and drifting out twice. The driver successfully completed the alphabet test and counting backwards.
The driver was arrested for DUI / OVI and failure to illuminate his rear license plate. The driver’s attorney filed a motion to suppress, and the trial court granted that motion, finding that the officer did not have a sufficient basis to justify a warrantless arrest. The prosecutor then appealed the trial court’s decision.
Probable Cause to Arrest in Ohio for DUI / OVI
The 5th District Court of Appeals reviewed the totality of the circumstances. The court believed that the odors of marijuana and alcohol, the driver’s admission of smoking marijuana, and the clues the officer observed during the field sobriety tests supported a finding of probable cause to arrest.
The court noted, however, that the driver exhibited no impaired driving, was polite, calm and intelligible when speaking, exited his vehicle without issue, and generally exhibited no visible signs of impairment. Thus, based on the totality of the circumstances, the Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s conclusion that the officer did not have probable cause to believe that the driver was operating his vehicle under the influence.
This is ultimately a strange decision as most appellate courts have implied that clues on field sobriety tests is sufficient for probable cause. However, the decision in Kopp suggests that the totality of the circumstances analysis for probable cause to arrest involves more than clues on field sobriety tests.
Columbus and Delaware, Ohio DUI / OVI Attorney
If you have been charged with DUI / OVI in Columbus or Delaware, Ohio, contact Johnson Legal, LLC and speak with an experienced Columbus and Delaware, Ohio DUI / OVI 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.
Johnson Legal, LLC serves the following cities in the central Ohio area for DUI / OVI Defense:
Westerville, Worthington, Columbus, Polaris, Reynoldsburg, Grandview Heights, Shawnee Hills, Bexley, Pickerington, Gahanna, Sunbury, Powell, Upper Arlington, New Albany, Dublin, Hilliard, Lewis Center, Galena, Clintonville, Huber Ridge, Blacklick, Grove City, Delaware, Marysville, Groveport, Newark, Canal Winchester, Obetz, Marion, Mt. Gilead, Pataskala, Granville, Whitehall, Franklin County, Morrow County, Licking County, Knox County, Union County, Madison County and Delaware County