An arrest for allegedly driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol typically comes after what can be hours of detention. Making that distinction between detention and arrest up-front can seem overly technical, but it matters very much to both Columbus DUI lawyers and drivers accused of the offense the state laws call operating a vehicle while intoxicated (OVI).
Everything that happens between the time a police officer or state trooper stops a driver for suspicion of DUI/OVI and the moment of arrest must be done according to strict rules. When a law enforcement officer fails to follow the rules, a dedicated DUI defense attorney will call attention to each error as potential grounds for having the charge dismissed or changed to a lesser offense.
Before reading more-detailed discussions of what happens in the time leading up to a drunk or drugged driving arrest in Columbus or Franklin County, understand that drivers always have the right to contact an OVI defense attorney. Police cannot deny a suspect the opportunity to call a lawyer for advice and representation, but they can continue questioning a suspect and conducting assessments of intoxication.
What Happens During a Traffic Stop or at a DUI Checkpoint
A driver must stop when signaled to do so. The driver must also turn over his or her license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance when asked. Disobeying those orders will get a driver arrested on charges that have nothing to do with alcohol or drug use.
A driver and all passengers must also exit a vehicle when asked. Expect a pat-down, which is legal for officers’ safety. Also, expect to be asked many questions. Ignoring most while answering a few briefly and directly. Officers listen for slurred speech, and they tend to interpret arguments as either an indication of guilt or actual threats.
A driver does not have to comply with requests to blow into handheld breath-testing devices or to perform field sobriety tests. Refusing politely will not bring charges.
If an officer asks to search the vehicle, a driver can legally say no. Be aware, however, that officers can look through the windows and enter the vehicle if they spot bottles, drug paraphernalia, or weapons.
Contacting a Columbus Ohio DUI attorney during an extended traffic stop or checkpoint session could benefit a suspect who has questions about his or her rights.
What Happens at a Police Station or Hospital
Law enforcement officials only need reasonable suspicion to take a driver into custody under suspicion of operating a vehicle while intoxicated. When they do transport a suspect to a police station or hospital, they may place the person in cuffs but still not make an official arrest.
All breath, blood, and urine testing for alcohol and drugs must be conducted at state-licensed facilities. Before each test, an officer must ask the suspect’s permission to take samples, inform the suspect of his or rights to refuse, and explain the consequences of refusing. Except in very limited circumstances, officers and clinic staff cannot use force to draw blood.
When a driver declines to participate in breath, blood, or urine testing, the officer will usually make an administrative license suspension (ALS). That takes effect immediately and prevents the suspect from legally driving any private or commercial vehicle. Working with a knowledgeable Ohio OVI attorney to appeal an ALS is essential, especially if a driver wants to get his or her commercial driver’s license reinstated. Appeals are handled as legal proceedings, with the CDL process being conducted according to special rules administered by the Bureau of Motor Vehicles.
Note that if an officer fails to follow the script for explaining testing procedures or if any testing samples are mishandled, strong grounds for contesting the arrest and the validity of any evidence will exist.
What Happens After Arrest
The officer who places a DUI/OVI suspect under arrest must clearly inform the person that he or she is being arrested. This is when the officer must remind the accused of his or her rights to remain silent and to retain an OVI attorney. Insist on legal representation, even if the only option is a public defender. People accused of crimes can change lawyers at any time.
Expect to spend at least one night in jail following a drunk or drugged driving arrest. Also, expect a quick court hearing. State rules require an OVI arraignment hearing within five days of arrest. A judge will read the charges against the defendant, the prosecutor will outline the evidence, and the defendant will be asked to enter a plea.
Pleading not guilty or declining to enter a plea allows the driver to go to trial or to work out a plea deal while being represented by a DUI defense lawyer of his or her choosing. The arraignment is also the time to state the intention to appeal an administrative license suspension.
Ohio, in April 2016, increased the penalties for a first-time OVI conviction to include a 13-month license suspension. Unde the new law, judges will also have added reasons to impose the mandatory use of an ignition interlock device, which is a breath-testing mechanism that stops a vehicle’s engine if any alcohol can be detected on the driver’s death.
The Columbus, Ohio-based OVI defense attorneys with Tyack Law offer free consultations to all people accused of driving under the influence in Franklin County. Call us at (614) 221-1342 or get in touch with us online by filling out this contact form.