In all aspects of the criminal justice system, procedure matters. Police must follow proper procedure when investigating a crime and making an arrest. And courts have to follow proper procedures ensuring that the accused person receives a fair trial and has adequate opportunity defend herself against the charges.
This idea was reinforced by the Ohio Supreme Court in a recent ruling that overturned a woman's drunk driving conviction. The Court ruled that the woman should have been allowed to have a hearing in which to argue for the suppression of evidence.
In order to understand this decision, it helps to have a general overview of the case. In August 2011, the 52-year-old defendant was pulled over by a police officer for alleged speeding. She was eventually charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated. The traffic stop was not recorded, which means that there was no video to show how the police officer conducted the three field sobriety tests.
At her original trial, the woman claimed that the sobriety tests had not been administered in the manner required by national standards. As such, she requested a hearing to argue for suppression of evidence. The court did not grant the hearing, saying that the defendant essentially didn't provide enough details to warrant a hearing. This ruling was later upheld by an appellate court.
Thankfully, however, the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the ruling. The Court clarified that in order to be granted a suppression-of-evidence hearing defendants only need to provide adequate notice of the issues that will be considered. They don't need to describe them "in excruciating detail."
Although the state's highest court did overturn the woman's OVI conviction, this doesn't mean her case is finished. Rather, the Court sent the case back Elyria Municipal Court where the woman will be allowed a hearing to argue for suppression of evidence. This is no guarantee that she will be found not guilty. But if the field sobriety test evidence is suppressed, it could greatly improve her chances of avoiding conviction.
If you are facing criminal charges for drunk driving or any other offense, please remember that you have rights - including the right to a fair trial in which proper procedure has been followed. An experienced criminal defense attorney can make sure your case is handled fairly and correctly.