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Passage of time curbs underage drinking charges against Ohio man

A northern Ohio man who had been facing 31 charges related to a case involving alleged drinking by minors will only be tried on one count. That's the decision by a judge in North Olmsted.

Some might be tempted to find fault with the court's decision. But some observers are just as likely to point out that the ruling serves to show that navigating the legal system can be a complicated process that shouldn't be attempted without experienced counsel at your side.

The basis of the case is a charge that the 49-year-old man allegedly allowed underage drinking to take place at a party at his home during a 2012 New Year's Eve party. Prosecutors noted that more than 100 people attended the party in question. After subsequent investigation, an additional 30 counts were filed.

As it happens, the man had signed a speedy trial waiver for the initial charge, but not for the others. Thus, during a recent hearing related to the case, the attorney for the defense argued that the prosecution had failed to bring the added charges to trial within the 90 days required by state law.

Prosecutors apparently argued that certain motions in the case had extended the window of opportunity to bring all the counts to trial, but the judge disagreed. Court records made available this week show that the 30 counts were dismissed.

An additional legal issue in this case was the judge's expressed concern that some of the alleged underage drinkers might have been put in the position of incriminating themselves if they testified. The prosecution said he had assured witnesses that the prosecutor's office had no intention of charging them with any crime, but it was noted that no one had been offered formal immunity.

Source: The Plain Dealer, "Former North Olmsted police officer to face only one charge of allowing underage drinking," Patrick Cooley, May 14, 2014

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