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Honesty and cooperation can go a long way in a traffic stop

A drunk driving conviction bring severe penalties including fines, jail time and loss of license. A conviction for operating a vehicle impaired (OVI) can also impact you socially from your personal relationships to your employment status. Now, imagine experiencing these life-altering consequences only to have a court exonerate you months later.

That’s exactly what happened to a 22-year-old North Royalton man arrested for OVI in the fall of 2018. The arresting officer’s report stated the defendant showed bloodshot eyes, slurred speech and other physical signs of intoxication and that the vehicle smelled of alcohol. He added the defendant’s body swayed and had trouble following instructions.

The defendant confessed he had three beers over six hours during the traffic stop but was cognizant enough to recite his driver’s license number from memory. He also remembered to hit “record” on his cell phone.

However, the court dropped the charges after the defendant’s cellphone video recorded during the stop contradicted the officer’s report. This led the judge to remark that the defendant performed the field sobriety test flawlessly.

The ruling declared that the defendant’s arrest was unconstitutional for violating his 14th amendment rights and that the officer only should have cited him for excessive window tint and a burned-out license plate light. These violations are much less severe than a OVI.

What you can learn

There are a few key takeaways from this that you can apply if you find yourself in a similar situation. Here are a few tips:

  • Cooperate with the police. Being honest and cooperative likely gave the court a positive impression of the defendant. Had he lied or otherwise behaved uncooperatively, he may have had a tougher time proving his innocence.
  • Consider everything evidence. It’s unlikely that the defendant would have beaten his OVI charges without recording the field sobriety test. Courts have ruled that the law doesn’t entitle police to privacy in public and may only ask you to stop recording in extreme cases like interfering with an investigation.
  • Know your rights. Some people think that you must comply with a field sobriety test when, in fact, you must only submit to a blood test. Refusing to take a blood test is an automatic suspension of license in Ohio.

This situation cost the defendant his job, vehicle impound charges and the potential for jail time, fines and a permanent mark on his record. Proving his innocence would have been difficult without the cell phone video.

Traffic stops are stressful, especially for a suspected OVI, but learning your rights ahead of time and cooperating can make a difference in the outcome of your case.