A Supreme Court ruling that was handed down today clarified that the state
of Ohio must substantially comply with the Ohio Department of Health regulations
for refrigerating blood in prosecution of
OVI cases. The majority opinion in this case reversed both the trial and appellate
court decisions, and sent the case back to the lower court so that the
defendant could have an opportunity to demonstrate that failure to adhere
to refrigeration standards resulted in unreliable
blood test results.
The case originated on March 6, 2011 when an Ohio State Highway Patrol
Trooper responded to a car-on-pedestrian accident. The pedestrian had
been walking along U.S. Route 6 when fatally struck by a vehicle. The
man driving the vehicle that struck the pedestrian remained on the scene.
When the Trooper arrived, the driver admitted to having six or seven beers
and consented to a blood test.
The driver gave a blood sample at a hospital at 1:50am, and the Trooper
kept it in his vehicle until 6am when his shift ended – so the blood
sample was sitting in the vehicle for over four hours without being refrigerated.
The crime lab tested the sample and determined a blood alcohol level of
.095, which is over the legal limit.
The driver pleaded not guilty, attempting to suppress the blood test evidence
because of how long it was left unrefrigerated. The court sided with the
accused, and suppressed this evidence.
The case was appealed to the Eleventh District Court of Appeals, which
upheld the lower court’s suppression of the blood test evidence.
However, the judges who upheld the suppression of blood test evidence
disagreed on this point: the consequences of violating the refrigeration
One of the judges in the majority said that the failure to comply with
the refrigeration regulation rendered the blood test results inadmissible.
The other judge said that the violation of the blood refrigeration requirement
placed the burden of proof back on the state of Ohio to prove the reliability
of the test at a hearing, the outcome of which hearing would decide whether
the blood test evidence could be used at trial.