Probable Cause to Arrest for an OVI (Operating a Vehicle While Impaired) Requires Indications/Observations of Impairment

Signs of drinking are insufficient to justify an arrest for an OVI (operating a vehicle while impaired) at a sobriety checkpoint, without also observing signs of impairment such as erratic driving or behavior.

State v. Hopp, 2016 Ohio 8027 (9th Dist.).

December 7, 2016

Hopp was stopped at a sobriety checkpoint in Summit County.  Neither erratic driving or behavior was observed; however, the deputy arrested Hopp for an OVI after giving field sobriety tests and reportedly observingthe odor of alcohol, bloodshot eyes, Mr. Hopp acknowledging having only a couple drinks, and speech that was "slightly, slightly slurred. Not real bad, but slightly."

Hopp filed a motion to suppress, which the trial court granted with respect to the field sobriety tests because the State failed to produce evidence pertaining to the NHTSA standards for conducting these tests.  It denied the rest of Hopp's motion, however.

The 9th District agreed with Hopp, however.  It concluded that the State lacked probable cause to arrest Hopp.  Without an observation of erratic behavior or driving, the remaining observations were insufficient to warrant an arrest.  The court pointed out, "The law does not prohibit driving after drinking alcohol; instead, it prohibits driving when impaired by alcohol."