It’s a normal Saturday evening. You are out with a few friends, unwinding from the work week, or maybe it’s just you and your spouse treating yourselves to a well deserved dinner at a local restaurant while a sitter watches the kids. Maybe you consumed two glasses of wine. Maybe you consumed a couple beers. Later, you begin your drive home. You see flashing lights in your mirror. What do you do? The way that you answer this question will change your future.
This situation – or one very similar – often applies to the first-time OVI or DUI offender. Your choices mean everything at this critical point. You’ll probably have a dozen questions running through your mind.
- The officer wants me to take a chemical test. Should I?
- Am I allowed to refuse?
- What happens if I refuse?
- The officer has asked me to get out of the car. Must I?
- The officer wants me take coordination tests, do I have to? Do I want to? What happens if I don’t?
- Will any of these things help me? Will they hurt me?
- Am I required to answer the officer’s questions?
- If I don’t submit to any tests, can I still be arrested?
What Are My Rights?
At Minnillo & Jenkins, we understand your fear. You are (most likely) not a lawyer. You cannot be expected to know the answers to these questions. Luckily, you are protected as long as you understand a few basic concepts.
Generally, you are not required to answer questions, submit to chemical tests, or perform coordination tests. The manner of your refusal(s) can be extremely important, however. Refusing any or all of the tests does not prevent an officer from arresting you and charging you with OVI.
First, you must understand that refusing a chemical test will result in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for a period of at least one year. This is called an Administrative License Suspension, or as it is commonly known, an ALS suspension. There are limited ways to challenge this type of suspension once it is imposed. Also, Ohio law allows for a forced blood draw under certain circumstances, meaning that a judge can sign an order (warrant) authorizing the taking of a sample of your blood whether you consent or not. (Missouri v. McNeely, U.S. Supreme Court No. 11-1425.) Though this rarely occurs, it is information worth knowing.
Next, you must understand that refusing these tests, both chemical and coordination, will very likely result in you being arrested for OVI. However, if you are at the point of being asked to take a breath test and coordination tests, this is a likely scenario either way.
It’s ESSENTIAL that you understand the following: if you admit to anything, the State of Ohio WILL use it against you. You ARE NOT REQUIRED to admit anything, as stated above. The 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution affords you protection from making self-incriminating statements, meaning that you don’t have to admit to drinking or anything else for that matter. You have the right to remain silent. This is usually a good idea.
What to Do
Should You Take the Tests?
This information should not be construed to mean that you should never comply with any of the aforementioned requests. At times, a low breath test result or competent performance on the coordination tests can actually help a person’s case.
You should understand, however, there is great risk involved in such actions. If you submit to a chemical test, and that test exceeds the legal limit, the State of Ohio will use that test against you. Unless your attorney can prevent them from doing so by finding some fault with the machine used to perform the test – or the process of obtaining the test itself – this can be critically damning evidence, undermining any real chance of winning your case at trial.
In addition, many police vehicles are equipped with motor vehicle recording devices, commonly known as MVRs. Therefore, if a person attempt the coordination tests and stumbles, falls, or has other issues with motor coordination, this video evidence will be used by the state. This evidence often can make or break a case.
Your Best Option: Call A Lawyer
The best thing you can do when stopped for an OVI offense is call an OVI lawyer like Minnillo & Jenkins. You are allowed to ask for a lawyer. You are allowed to state to the officer that you do not wish to take any tests without first talking to an attorney, because you do not know your rights. If it’s 4:00 a.m., and you can’t get an attorney to answer the phone, you can refuse to take tests because you cannot reach your attorney.
Understand what this means: you are not refusing because you believe you will fail. You are not refusing because you want to avoid trouble. You are refusing because you are in a scary situation, outside your own expertise, and the law affords you the RIGHT to speak with an attorney at every critical juncture of your case.
Don’t leave a decision this important to chance. Call David Gast at Minnillo & Jenkins Co. LPA, and rest assured that your case is handled properly.