FAQ - DUI / OVI Investigations (Part 1)
Q: What are the four phases of an Ohio DUI / OVI investigation before the arrest?
A: The four phases of the DUI/OVI investigation up to and including arrest are: 1) The Vehicle In Motion Phase; 2) The Personal Contact Phase; 3) The Pre-Arrest Screening Phase; and 4) The Arrest.
Q: What clues do officers look for during the ‘vehicle in motion’ phase?
A: During the ‘vehicle in motion’ phase, officers look for certain clues that a vehicle is being operated by an intoxicated driver. Some of the common clues include: 1) the vehicle is weaving; 2) the vehicle is going outside the lane and/or making unsafe lane changes; 3) the vehicle is making wide or improper turns; 4) the vehicle is hitting or nearly hitting objects; 5) the vehicle has problems stopping; 6) the vehicle changes speed erratically; 7) the vehicle responds slowly to traffic signals; 8) the vehicle’s headlights are off; and 9) the vehicle is performing recklessly.
Q: What clues do officers look for during the ‘personal contact’ phase?
A: During the ‘personal contact’ phase, after the vehicle is pulled over, officers make observations while first interacting with a driver. Before approaching a vehicle, officers discern if a driver has any difficulty responding to the cruiser lights and safely stopping the vehicle. Once an officer starts approaching a vehicle to interact with a driver, the officer is looking for clues that the driver is intoxicated. Those clues include: the odor of alcohol, the condition of the driver’s eyes, slurred speech, level of coordination, and overall attitude, just to name a few. In order for an officer to further detain a driver for a DUI / OVI investigation, the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver is intoxicated.
Q: What assessments do officers perform during the ‘pre-arrest screening’ phase?
A: The ‘pre-arrest screening’ phase is also known as the field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests assist officers in determining whether a driver likely to test over the legal limit. The three standardized field sobriety tests are: the walk and turn, the one leg stand, and the horizontal gaze nystagmus. Although officers do not inform drivers, individuals are not legally required to perform field sobriety tests. However, there are pros and cons to taking or refusing the tests.
Q: How do officers conclude whether to arrest an individual for DUI / OVI?
A: For an officer to arrest and/or charge a driver for drunk driving in Ohio, an officer must have probable cause to believe the individual operated a vehicle intoxicated. An officer must base that conclusion on the totality of the circumstances. All of the evidence indicating that a driver is intoxicated, as well as all the evidence indicating that a driver is not intoxicated, should be considered by the officer. If an officer concludes a driver is intoxicated, the officer will inform the driver that her or she is being placed under arrest for DU I /OVI, and the driver is typically handcuffed. If the arrest is not justified by probable cause, any evidence obtained after the arrest should be thrown out.
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