Bloodshot Eyes, the Odor of Alcohol and an Admission to Drinking are Sufficient for Probable Cause - DUI News - 10/18/2016

The Fifth District Holds that, although bloodshot eyes and the odor of alcohol are not enough for reasonable suspicion to conduct field sobriety tests, if there is an admission to drinking there is probable cause to arrest regardless of field sobriety tests.

State v. Wagner, 2016 Ohio 5798 (5th Dist.).

September 12, 2016

Wagner was stopped for driving 52mph in a 35mph zone.  Once stopped, the officer observed a strong odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, and an admission of drinking.  The officer started field sobriety tests, concluding that 6 out of 6 cues were noted on the HGN test, after which Wagner became unsteady and stopped the tests.

Wagner challenged the HGN test as well as probable cause.  The trial court did not agree with him.  On appeal, the Fifth District did not address the HGN test, instead concluding that probable cause to arrest for an OVI may exist without field sobriety tests.  Bloodshot eyes, the odor of alcohol, an admission to drinking and speeding were sufficient for probable cause as the court explained.  The fact that Wagner was unsteady only added to the probable cause.  As a result, the Fifth District denied Wagner's appeal.

This decision was interestingly issued on the same date the Fifth District issued a decision concluding that the odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes are not enough to justify giving field sobriety tests.  For Wagner, he admitted to alcohol use.