Ohio DUI Laws -- About to Change in Aug. 2006

Ohio DUI laws . . .they are about to change yet again (technically referred to as "OVI" or Operating a Vehicle Impaired).  There have been more amendments to Ohio's DUI code than any other criminal code section in the past 25 years by a wide margin.   Ohio's sexual predator laws, domestic violence laws, drug laws and other hot legislative topics over the years do not even come close to the changes to Ohio Revised Code 4511.19 (and the Administrative License Suspension found under R.C. 4511.191).

In perhaps the most confusing amendments in history, the Ohio DUI / OVI code is stretching its reach to include drugs of abuse and over the counter medicine.  I will post the specifics of this law on the day it is enacted in a few weeks.

Generally speaking, Ohio DUI laws are going to specify legal limits for active drugs and inactive metabolites in whole blood, serum, and urine.  Also, Ohio DUI laws are expanding from 2 hours to 3 hours the amount of time in which law enforcement may get a blood, serum, urine, or breath sample from a suspected impaired motorist.  More and more states are finding the 2 hour deadline to be too onerous for law enforcement to meet in serious accident cases.  It is wise to expand this time limit since the most serious accidents involving suspected impaired motorists result in medical personnel securing the individuals at the scene (not law enforcement), transporting the individuals to a hospital, and providing immediate medical assistance.  The time spent by medical personnel attending to a suspected impaired motorist comes out of the 2 hour shot clock that law enforcement has to secure a chemical test.  I agree that sound science and practicality justifies a 3 hour time limit.

However, a major flaw in the new DUID (driving under the influence of drugs) laws permits prosecution, conviction, and sentencing for offenders with trace amounts of inactive metabolites found in urine.  By scientific definition, metabolites are non-impairing.  Metabolites are simply remnants of active drug compounds that were in the body in the past.  Marijuana metabolites, by way of example, can be found in the urine 30 days after use. 

Also, the bladder holds urine and the waste of the human body.  Therefore, urine samples with metabolites are simply harmless byproducts found in a harmless part of the body.  It is illogical to permit prosecutor's to allege impairment by way of a metabolite found in urine.  Active THC found in the blood stream leading to the brain and central nervous system is one thing.  But, the metabolites can only prove use in the past.  It will be impossible for a prosecutor prove or a coroner to opine with any degree of scientific certainty that the defendant's brain and central nervous system was impaired on the date and time in question based upon a metabolite level taken from a urine sample.

Sound science is being legislated out of the courtroom again.  This new legislation will produce a flurry of legal challenges in the very near future.