OVI Checkpoints

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            It is one of the last Friday nights in the summer in Cleveland, Ohio where very soon, as all those in Northeast Ohio know, the weather will turn cold and gray for an extended number of months tempting many folds to hibernate until the late spring fall. Is there a better way to enjoy one of the last warm weather Friday nights than bar hopping in downtown Cleveland? A downside of these warm nights is the OVI checkpoints that local law enforcement officials set up to try to catch those who are drunk driving. 

            These checkpoints may be set up close to or in the vicinity of your planned route to or from the downtown Cleveland area.  This is because the Ohio Supreme Court, while establishing guidelines for the checkpoints, has ruled that sobriety checkpoints are valid.  The first of these guidelines is that the area of the checkpoint must have a lengthy history of alcohol-related accidents or drunk driving.  So, if there have been frequent drunk driving arrests in a certain area, then a checkpoint can be set up in that area.

            Additional requirements include the need to staff and organize the checkpoint, which falls under the responsibility of the local law enforcement department setting up the checkpoint.  All officers working the checkpoint must be instructed on the proper procedure an hour or two in advance of the checkpoint.

            Local law enforcement must also notify residents of the checkpoint at least a week prior to establishing the checkpoint.  Then shortly before the checkpoint begins, the organizer of the checkpoint must issue an advisory that details the exact location and the times it will begin and end. 

            The checkpoint itself will be marked with reflective signs and marked police cars will be next to the signs.  The checkpoint will be lit up using portable lights, flares and emergency vehicle lights.  Not all cars that approach and pass the checkpoint will be stopped.  The officers working the checkpoint must be certain that cars selected to stop are random.  If your vehicle is stopped at a checkpoint, you can then expect the officer to check for signs of impairment.

            Checking for signs of impairment involves the field sobriety tests developed by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.  The three main tests include the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test, the walk and turn, and the one-legged stand.  The HGN test involves following an object with your eyes as the officer checks the eye movement reaction.  They are looking for a “bounce” of the eye at certain angles.  The walk and turn involves walking in a straight line as officers watch for signs of imbalance.  The one-legged stand involves standing on one leg for thirty seconds while an officer watches for signs of intoxication.  Any performance of these tests outside of the NHTSA standards (which you won’t know) will also be used as a sign of intoxication.

            If you fail any of the sobriety tests, the officer will likely see probable cause to arrest you and charge you with an OVI.  If you find yourself in this situation, be sure to contact the Bangerter Law Office.