Each year, thousands of police officers are provided a manual compiled by the National Highway Traffic and Safety Administration (NHTSA) with techniques utilized by law enforcement to detect whether someone is driving with a BAC over.08. Police officers are trained in OVI/DUI detection and the proper administration of standardized field sobriety tests to individuals suspected of drunk driving using this manual. This manual is also utilized by prosecutors, defense attorneys and judges during the course of an OVI/DUI case to determine whether an officer has properly arrested someone accused of OVI/DUI.
For the past 4 years, both law enforcement and the legal community have been relying on what was believed to be the most recent and complete version of the Manual; the April 2009 publication of the 2006 Manual. However, while investigating when an updated version of the Manual may be made available, defense attorneys have learned that there is much confusion as to whether the information in the 2009 version of the 2006 Manual is complete and accurate. In fact, National Technical Information Services (NTIS), the government entity responsible for printing the NHTSA Manual, had indicated that the last Manual it compiled for NHTSA was in April 2009 and contained outdated material from the 2004 Manual. Interestingly, NHTSA claims it sent a corrected and updated version of the Manual to NTIS for printing in August of 2009, but NTIS has no record of receiving the correction!
NHTSA has indicated to defense attorneys and NTIS, via email, that NHTSA is in possession of evidence that the August 2009 updated version of the Manual was forwarded to NTIS for publication but refuses to provide that evidence to anyone, including NTIS. Apparently, officers have been making OVI/DUI arrests based upon an incorrect and outdated training Manual for the past several years. Unfortunately, courts throughout Ohio have been taking "judicial notice" of the content of this Manual without determination of the accuracy of the information contained therein.
Jessica D'Varga is an Associate Attorney with The Law Offices of Saia & Piatt, Inc. who handles OVI, criminal, and traffic cases in Ohio.