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Ohio Supreme Court returns DUI case to lower court on appeal

A municipal court judge in Elyria has been told to take another run at a case of alleged drunk driving. This time, the judge is under orders to hold a hearing into whether the case shouldn't be dismissed for inadmissibility of evidence. That's the effect of a near-unanimous decision by the Ohio Supreme Court last week.

Whether or not a dismissal results won't be known until the matter is revisited. But the decision by the high court does serve to reinforce that the onus is on the prosecution, not the defense, to prove that evidence used to seek a conviction against anyone charged with DUI or any other crime is legitimate.

The case stems from an August 2011 stop and the subsequent no contest plea by a Columbia Station woman. According to court records, the woman's attorney had sought at the trial to challenge evidence of field sobriety tests administered during the stop.

The motion not only raised questions about whether the tests were improper because they had not been video recorded as called for by national standards. It also sought to prevent statements that the defendant made from being used against her.

Prosecutors argued, and the trial judge agreed, that the motion should be rejected because the defense hadn't provided enough detail about how police might have violated the standards. The defendant then pleaded no contest and was fined $600 and was ordered to attend a driver's intervention program.

What the Supreme Court ruled on appeal, though, is that the trial court judge shouldn't have rejected the suppression hearing motion. The decision says the law clearly states that field sobriety test results aren't admissible unless prosecutors show they were done "in substantial compliance" with federal standards. The court also said the defense couldn't have provided more detail of possible violation since no video existed.

The decision doesn't mean the evidence is suppressed, but legal observers say it does mean the defense will get to argue its position. And meantime, the conviction has been reversed.

Source: The Chronicle-Telegram, "Ohio Supreme Court rules Elyria judge used wrong standard in DUI case," Brad Dicken, April 18, 2014

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