Drugged Driving Defense: What Does The State Have To Prove
Drugged Driving Defense – It Can Happen To You!
You are getting older. So you are prescribed DrugX by your physician. You take DrugX responsibly, but a police officer stops you and because you exhibit some evidence of impairments (bloodshot eyes or constricted pupils..). The officer arrests you for drugged driving and the prosecutor allows the officer to testify as to the effects of DrugX. With the “expert” testimony of the officer a jury finds you guilty. Is the officer’s opinion enough, or must the State prove that the impaired driving was caused by DrugX? [Ed. note: Call Drugged Driving Defense Lawyer Charles Rowland].
In State v. Hammond, an officer was using the latest tool given to Ohio law enforcement officers – ARIDE (Advanced Roadside Impaired Driving Enforcement). It is being used to augment an officer’s observations in standardized field sobriety tests to prove impairment by a variety of prescription and illicit drugs. Here, “a relatively inexperienced state trooper testified affirmatively to leading questions on redirect examination that Hammond’s consumption of prescription drugs impaired his ability to operate a motor vehicle to a noticeable degree.”
A urine test revealed the presence of N-Desmethyldiazepam, Oxazepam, and Temazepam in the 70 year-old defendant. The Defendant’s wife testified he takes medications for blood pressure, cholesterol, sleep and pain. She further testified he had been taking those medications for 15 years, and they did not impair his driving. She explained he suffered two strokes, he has degenerative disc disease, he has an artificial ankle, and he walks with a cane.
A Drugged Driving Trial
A bench trial was held before a judge. Without proving a nexus between the drug and the impairment, all the court heard were the officer’s conclusory and definitive opinion that the old man was impaired. Amazingly, the judge found the Defendant guilty. Upon appeal, the court reversed holding that the prosecution must prove a nexus between the drug(s) ingested and the impaired driving ability. The court commented the prosecution could prove that nexus with either expert testimony regarding the potential side effects of the medication or testimony from a non-expert regarding the side effects of that particular medication on that particular defendant.
We conclude the state failed to establish the required nexus between Hammond’s impaired condition and the prescription medications he took. We sustain Hammond’s first assignment of error, reverse the judgment of the trial court, and remand the cause to the trial court to vacate her OMVI conviction and sentence.
The prosecution did not introduce either type of evidence in this case. The officer was not an expert: he was not qualified to testify regarding the side effects of N-Desmethyldiazepam, Oxazepam, and Temazepam. The officer also did not have personal knowledge of how those medications effect Hammond. Without such testimony, the prosecution failed to prove the requisite nexus between the drug(s) ingested and Hammond’s impaired driving ability. Therefore, the evidence was insufficient to prove Hammond’s guilt, so the conviction was overturned.
My takeaway from this case is that ARIDE is faulty and dangerous. If this man can be found guilty based on nothing more than an inexperienced officer’s opinion, none of us are safe from a false conviction. Drugged driving defense is a new phenomena. A better solution must exist than allowing police to target anyone, and anytime for arrest.