When it comes to drunk driving, the primary discouraging factor used is usually related to criminal penalties for an alleged offense such as jail and fines. The far more serious threat of an operating vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs (OVI) offense in Ohio is actually the tremendous risk that driving drunk places other people in.
We were recently reminded of this face because of a variety of recent news stories. WSYX-TV reported on September 29, 2020, that the Franklin County Sheriff's Office was investigating two fatal crashes less than 10 hours apart.
According to WSYX, a 22-year-old woman was killed in a crash along State Route 104 near the Franklin/Pickaway County line after a 25-year old man went left of center and struck her car head-on. Chief Deputy Jim Gilbert told WSYX, “we are obviously aggressively investigating this crash as a drunk driving-impaired driver situation. We had members of the Franklin County Prosecutors office actually come out the scene. We obtained a search warrant related to him being transported to the hospital."
"Indicators at the scene by first responding officers and fire/EMS and investigators indicated he was impaired and subsequently a warrant was received for us to take his blood at the hospital,” Gilbert told WSYX.
WSYX reported that Franklin County said they expect a record number of fatal crashes in 2020, with a number year-to-date now totaling 29. The amount was a half dozen more than the year to date last year at 23, and the Franklin County Sheriff's Office (FCSO) said the 31 fatal crashes for all of 2019 was likely to be surpassed.
About 10 hours later, deputies were called to another fatal accident on SR 317 east of Parsons Avenue. Deputies said the driver of a 2015 Chevrolet Colorado, a compact pickup truck was killed after he was hit by a Volvo Semi Tractor-trailer that investigators said was struck head-on.
FCSO said neither of the drivers were wearing their seatbelts at the time of the crash on 317. Investigators also said neither driver in the fatal on 104 were wearing seatbelts.
On October 7, 2020, WCMH-TV reported that fatal crashes were on the rise in Franklin County. With fatalities on the rise in Franklin County, law enforcement agencies were planning to be on the road more often for the rest of the year.
According to WCMH, there were 89 fatal crashes and 94 deaths in Franklin County in the first nine months of this year, or 16 more than this same time span last year. There were 14 fatal crashes on I-270, the most of any roadway in Franklin County.
WCMH reported that 62 percent of people involved in fatal crashes were not wearing a seatbelt. The Ohio State Highway Patrol, Columbus Police, and the Franklin County Sheriff’s Office were reportedly going to be out in full force.
According to WCMH, the pandemic suspended sobriety checkpoints. Protests also required more law enforcement presence in downtown Columbus taking officers and patrol units away from highway posts.
“We spent some time at the statehouse with the protests and some other type of things and that does decrease the amount of people you see on the road because we’re pulled in other areas,” said Lieutenant Michael Akers, commander of the Ohio State Highway Patrol.
“We’re getting ready to get into the holiday season once November hits with Thanksgiving, and this ban, once it’s lifted, it goes back to the normal hours of the bars being open until two in the morning,” said Franklin County Chief Deputy Jim Gilbert. “We know we’re going to probably see an increase. So, I hope it doesn’t happen but we are probably going to see a large uptick to where our numbers are right now.”
While sobriety checkpoints may have been suspended, it is important to remember that the Associated Press reported on May 13, 2020, that Ohio Supreme Court justices agreed to hear a case concerning whether a passerby’s tip was enough to make a driving under the influence (DUI) stop. The decision in that case could have major implications for how people can alert authorities to potential crimes.
Trooper Jacques Illanz was in a gas station in November 2017 to investigate a nearby accident when a customer called out to him and pointed to Sherry Tidwell, who was backing her car out of a parking space, according to court documents. The passerby yelled to the trooper, “Hey, stop that vehicle, that lady is drunk.”
Illanz motioned for Tidwell to stop, but when she continued moving slowly, the trooper got in front of her vehicle. When Tidwell rolled down her window at his request, her eyes were bloodshot, her speech was slurred, and the inside of her vehicle smelled of alcohol, according to Illanz’s testimony.
She was arrested after a field test showed a blood-alcohol level more than two times the legal limit for driving. The customer, who had been told by the gas station clerk to alert the trooper, left without identifying himself, Illanz said.
Two lower courts ruled that Illanz did not have the “reasonable suspicion” to stop Tidwell and that he had acted only on an anonymous tip of uncertain credibility. An appeals court ruled that the passerby’s shout to the trooper did not justify him in stopping Tidwell.
No oral arguments had been scheduled.
When it comes to drunk driving in Ohio, even a first OVI charge can carry serious penalties. Criminal charges may be increased to felony OVI when an alleged offender also happens to be involved in an automobile accident.
Under Ohio Revised Code § 2903.08, any person who causes serious physical harm to another person while operating a motor vehicle in violation of the state OVI law commits aggravated vehicular assault. This is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $10,000.
Ohio Revised Code § 2903.06 establishes that a person who causes the death of another person while operating a motor vehicle in violation of the state OVI law commits aggravated vehicular homicide. Aggravated vehicular homicide is a second-degree felony punishable by up to eight years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000.
If you were arrested for an OVI offense in Columbus or a nearby community in Franklin County after being involved in a motor vehicle accident, you will need to find yourself an experienced criminal defense attorney. Sabol | Mallory will be able to immediately step in and work on making sure that you face the fewest punishments possible for your alleged offense.
Our firm has been largely dedicated to helping people all over Ohio with OVI charges. Call (614) 300-5088 or contact us online to receive your own free consultation that will allow us to take a longer look at your case.