The Fourth District upholds the dismissal of OVI charges against a person who admitted to taking prescription medications, because the State did not "present some evidence of how the particular medication actually affects the defendant or that the particular medication has the potential to impair a person's judgment or reflexes."
Lunsford was cited for operating a motor vehicle under the influence of a drug of abuse, operating a vehicle while under the influence while possessing a commercial driver's license, and a marked lane violation after he was observed driving erratically and admitted to taking prescription medications (Lortab and Xanax) the prior day. The 4th District upheld the trial court's dismissal of the OVI charges because there was insufficient evidence that there was a nexus between the ingestion of prescription drugs and his impaired driving.
The State had argued on appeal "that it is legally sufficient to show that the driver ingested prescription drugs and was impaired, i.e. there is no requirement to show that the drug ingested has a potential to impair a person's judgment or reflexes." The Court reviewed its decision in State v. Husted, 2014-Ohio-4978, 23 N.E.3d 253 (4th Dist.) for its holding that, "there must be some 'evidence how the unspecified drug actually affects a person *** or that the particular drug has the potential to impair a person's judgment or reflexes.'" The Court also adopted the following reason from State v. May, 2014 Ohio 1542 (2d Dist):
The essence of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a) is to prohibit impaired driving while under the influence. It is certainly not intended to criminalize the operation of a vehicle by a person taking a cholesterol or blood pressure medication, let alone an anti-narcoleptic or ADHD prescription, unless that drug negatively influences the defendant's driving abilities. And in many situations, especially those involving prescription drugs, this can only be proved by direct testimony linking the influence of the drug to the driving. This could be established through the testimony of an expert who is familiar with the potential side effects of the medication, or perhaps of a layperson (such as a friend or family member) who witnessed the effect of the particular drug on the defendant-driver.
The Court pointed out that alcohol is different because laypeople possess a better understanding of when a person is intoxicated. In the end the 4th District held:
When prosecuting a charge of driving under the influence of a drug of abuse, the state must present some evidence of how the particular medication actually affects the defendant or that the particular medication has the potential to impair a person's judgment or reflexes.