Arrested for OVI in Ohio? How You Act is Important
Your behavior with law enforcement can be vital to the officer’s decision making. Investigating officers are given a great deal of discretion in handling any situation. They may simply be seeking information to put in their report or they may be deciding whether or not to issue a citation. At the initial stage you must know your rights in order to protect yourself and, if necessary, aid your attorney in presenting your case to a jury. At this point it is vital to remember anything you say or do will be used against you. Arguing with the officer, complaining or bad-mouthing the officer does not help you and may give the officer an excuse to arrest you. Given the increased utilization of in-car cameras, the jury may also be allowed to observe your behavior and demeanor at the scene. Stay calm and in control of your emotions and treat the officer the way you would wish to be treated. Above all – KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!
When a police officer pulls behind you he or she is observing your driving. The following is a list of symptoms in descending order of probability that the person observed is driving while intoxicated. The list is based upon research conducted by the National Highway Traffic Administration:
1. Turning with a wide radius
2. Straddling center of lane marker
3. “Appearing to be drunk”
4. Almost striking object or vehicle
6. Driving on other than designated highway
8. Speed more than 10 mph below limit
9. Stopping without cause in traffic lane
10. Following too closely
12. Tires on center or lane marker
13. Braking erratically
14. Driving into opposing or crossing traffic
15. Signaling inconsistent with driving actions
16. Slow response to traffic signals
17. Stopping inappropriately (other than in lane)
18. Turning abruptly or illegally
19. Accelerating or decelerating rapidly
20. Headlights off
Speeding is not usually a symptom of impaired driving because it requires the use of quicker judgment and reflexes, thereby making it more reflective of sobriety. Take particular note of when you notice the officer behind you and any landmarks that you see. How long you were followed may be an issue that will be raised at trial. Obviously, it is important to obey the speed limit and observe all traffic laws. If you suspect that the officer is looking for a reason to pull you over, don’t give him one. Most importantly, do not panic and run from the officer. It is not a crime to leave a bar at night but it is a crime to flee and/or elude the officer. By obeying all traffic laws you are not giving the officer a reason to pull you over and you may not be stopped. If you are stopped, do not assume that the officer already has his or her mind made up. Take note of the exact location of the stop as your attorney may be able to challenge certain aspects of the case based on the physical environment of the stop. Again, stay calm and in control.
When the officer arrives at your car window he/she is understandably concerned about safety. Keep your hands where the officer can see them, do not run and do not touch the officer. The officer usually begins the stop by asking if you know why he pulled you over, and may ask if you’ve had anything to drink. You are not required to answer potentially incriminating questions. A polite “I would like to speak with an attorney before I answer any questions” is a good reply. On the other hand, saying that you had one or two beers is not incriminating: it is not sufficient to cause intoxication — and it may explain the odor of alcohol on the breath.
Interfering with or obstructing an officer is a crime and you can be arrested for it. You must present the officer with your driver’s license and identification upon request. Upon being stopped under suspicion of drunk driving, the officer will try to stick his head near your face and attempt to have a conversation with you. He is seeking to ascertain if you have an odor of alcohol about your breath or person. The officer is also seeking to determine if your speech is slurred. By getting a good look at your face, the officer can determine if your eyes are blood-shot or glassy. Not surprisingly, finding an odor of alcoholic beverage, slurred speech and glassy eyes will prompt the officer to ask you to step outside the vehicle to take some field sobriety tests. You have every right to refuse the standardized field sobriety tests! These tests are being conducted so as to be used against you in court. Common field sobriety tests include the HGN, a test of your eyes, the Walk and Turn test and the One Leg Stand test.
If the officer asks you to exit the vehicle you have a choice. If you do not wish to exit, you are forcing the officers hand. He or she may arrest you and take you to the station. If you do exit, the officer may ask you to take the field sobriety tests sited above. If you do not take the tests then law enforcement has less evidence against you. If you feel you are impaired a trip to the station will be less intrusive than a conviction. Refusing to cooperate with the field sobriety tests will not result in an automatic license suspension, but refusing to take a blood, breath, or urine test at the station most certainly will. By knowing that you have a right to refuse field sobriety tests, you may be able to limit the evidence against you at trial.
Once outside the vehicle, an officer has the right to pat you down for his own safety. Do not resist this search but make it clear to the officer that you are not consenting to any further search. It is not a crime to refuse to answer questions, but doing so will arouse police suspicion. Remember, if an officer is questioning you he or she is seeking evidence to use against you. Do not make any incriminating statements. A common tactic used by some experienced officers is the “it’s all over now, I’ve arrested you, let’s be honest” approach. They are seeking to solicit information to bolster the arrest and use against you in court. If you feel you are being treated unreasonably, or that your rights are being violated, the scene is not the proper place to argue the point. You can discuss the officer’s behavior with an attorney or file a complaint with the Internal Affairs Department later. A common technique that an officer will use will be to ask you “how many beers have you had?” The best answer is simply to refuse to answer the question and ask the officer if there is anything else that you can help him/her with. Again, by knowing your rights you will gain a measure of control over this intimidating situation.
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