Eleventh District Court of Appeals Upholds State v. Vega
When you are accused of a DUI/OVI in Ohio, the breath test machine is presumed to be perfect. What is more, your attorney cannot challenge presumed flaws in the machine or the weakness in the science supporting the machine. Such challenges are limited by a 1984 Ohio Supreme Court ruling (State v. Vega) holding that once the Ohio Department of Health certifies a machine, it becomes valid and the defendant loses the ability to argue defenses based on the underlying science of the machine. This author has made it a long-standing goal to fight this case and has done so for over 15 years.
This ruling has been questioned recently due to the adoption of a faulty machine (Intoxilyzer 8000) that has been found unreliable in other states. Just such a challenge was brought in State v. Miller, 2012-Ohio-5585, a case out of the Portage County Municipal Court, Ravenna Division. Justin C. Miller was pulled over for speeding on November 24, 2011 and subsequently arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). At trial in April, Miller’s attorney demanded that the state prove its Intoxilyzer 8000 breath testing machine was reliable. Prosecutors cited the 1984 court decision State v. Vega saying any challenge to the scientific validity of the machine was automatically invalid. A Portage County Municipal Court judge believed this was insufficient and refused to admit the breath test evidence. The state appealed.
“We disagree,” Judge Diane V. Grendell wrote for the court. “The municipal court’s ruling in the present case was not a tentative or precautionary ruling, but determined that ‘the defendant’s breath test shall not be admitted during the trial.’ Any doubt as to the finality of this ruling is removed by the court’s dismissal of the charge of operating a vehicle with a prohibited breath alcohol concentration.” If the state can prove its employees followed the regulations on the books, its job was done. Attacks could then not be used to suppress the evidence. Instead, any proof of unreliability would have far less impact and could only be considered as a factor in the weight of the evidence.
“In subsequent decisions, the Ohio Supreme Court reaffirmed its holding in Vega,” Grendell wrote. “The court has emphasized that, when regulations are promulgated pursuant to R.C. 4511.19 and 3701.143, it must be presumed that the Director of Health acted upon adequate investigation and that the courts ‘must defer to the department’s authority and not substitute our judgment for that of the Director of Health.'” The three-judge panel remanded the case to the lower court instructing it to accept the Intoxilyzer 8000 as reliable but to respond to the specific challenges raised by Miller. “Because the instrument is presumed to be a reliable breath testing instrument, appellee had the burden to produce evidence that the Intoxilyzer is not reliable,” Judge Cynthia Westcott Rice wrote in a concurring opinion. “I write separately to acknowledge that it is the defendant’s, not the state’s, burden to go forward, once the presumption of reliability has been triggered.”
DUI attorney Charles M. Rowland II dedicates his practice to defending the accused drunk driver in Dayton, Springfield, Kettering, Vandalia, Xenia, Miamisburg, Huber Heights,Beavercreek, and throughout Ohio. He has the credentials and the experience to win your case and has made himself the Miami Valley’s choice for DUI defense. Contact Charles Rowland by phone at 937-318-1DUI (937-318-1384), 937-879-9542, or toll-free at 1-888-ROWLAND (888-769-5263). For after-hours help contact our 24/7 DUI HOTLINE at 937-776-2671. For information about Dayton DUI sent directly to your mobile device, text DaytonDUI (one word) to 50500. Follow DaytonDUI on Twitter @DaytonDUI or Get Twitter updates via SMS by texting DaytonDUI to 40404. DaytonDUI is also available on Facebook,www.facebook.com/daytondui and on the DaytonDUI channel on YouTube. You can also email Charles Rowland at: CharlesRowland@DaytonDUI.comor write to us at 2190 Gateway Dr., Fairborn, Ohio 45324.