Ohio Breath Test Law; the 3-hour Rule
Substantial Compliance Requires Collection Within Three Hours.
R.C. 4511.19(D) sets forth a three-hour time limitation for the collection of bodily substances for alcohol and/or drug testing. This rule is a change from Ohio‘s previous law which gave the State only two hours in which to obtain a sample.
The time requirement has been adopted by the Ohio Supreme Court in Cincinnati v. Sand, 43 Ohio St.2d 79, 330 N.E.2d 908 (1975) and more definitively at Newark v. Lucas, 40 Ohio St.3d 100, 532 N.E.2d 130 (1988), where the court held that tests in test cases (cases involving a violation of the prohibited alcohol level) the would only be admissible when drawn within the time limitations of the statutes. What about in refusal cases?
After some confusion following the Lucas decision, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in State v. Mayl, 106 Ohio St.3d 207, 833 N.E.2d 1216 (2005) that the state must show substantial compliance with R.C. 4511.19(D) and the Department of Health regulations before the test results are admissible. A door for use outside of the three-hour limitation exists, however. In Columbus v. Taylor, 39 Ohio St. 3d 162, 529 N.E.2d 1382, the Court gave trial court’s broad discretion to allow in retrograde extrapolation evidence if properly supported by an expert. In State v. Hassler, 115 Ohio St.3d 322, 875 N.E.2d 46 (2007), the Supreme Court back-tracked on its Mayl decision in an aggravated vehicular homicide case, allowing in expert-supported testimony of a blood test drawn more than seven (7) hours after an accident. This may be a return to the Lucas rule or it may be a case that is limited only to aggravated vehicular homicide cases.
DUI trial counsel will need to establish a time-line of the incident. A common scenario in which the three-hour limitation is raised is in situations where the police did not witness operation of the vehicle, like in an accident. Another possible issue that trial counsel can raise is a challenge to the “beyond the three hour test” is an Evidence Rule 403 argument that the probative value of the evidence is outweighed by the unfair prejudice of its admission.
Sources for this article include Intoxication Test Evidence, Fitzgerald & Hume and Ohio Driving Under the Influence Law, 2009-2010 ed., Weiler & Weiler