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What Does It Mean If I Pleaded Not Guilty to My Ohio OVI/DUI Charge?

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It is important to understand the process of what will happen once you have been charged with a DUI (OVI) violation.  Once you have been arrested and charged with a DUI (OVI) violation, the next step in the legal process is the arraignment.  Your arraignment is your time to enter your plea whether it is guilty, not guilty, or no contest.

A not guilty plea in criminal proceedings is “a general denial of the accusation, which puts the prosecutor to the proof of every material fact alleged.”  Not Guilty, The Law Dictionary.  In other words, pleading not guilty allows you the opportunity not only to deny the crimes you are alleged to have committed but also to present a defense/defenses to such crimes.

Pleading not guilty does not automatically mean you have to go to trial.  If you hire a criminal defense lawyer, he or she can help you negotiate with the prosecution to reach a settlement before going to trial.

While pleading not guilty comes with benefits, specifically the ability to deny the accusations and combat the prosecution’s evidence, you can still be found guilty of the DUI (OVI) charge.  It is important to be aware of the potential penalties for a DUI/OVI conviction so that you can make a fully informed decision regarding what plea you want to enter.

Am I Likely to Win My Case if I Plead Not Guilty?

The answer to this question depends on what your definition of winning is.

One manner of winning your case may take the form of an acquittal.  An acquittal is “a declaration that a person charged with a crime is not guilty of that crime.”  Acquittal, Bouvier Law Dictionary.  An acquittal follows a trial and a judge or jury reaching the verdict of not guilty.  This version of winning involves going to trial and achieving the desired outcome.

Another form of winning your case may be having the charges against you dropped.  Unlike winning by acquittal, you would avoid the time and expense of a trial.  If the charges against you are dropped or the case is dismissed, then it is as if you were never arrested and charged with the crime.

If either of the options is unattainable, you could still get a win in that you could get your charges reduced.  In order to have your charges reduced, you may have to plead guilty to a lesser charge.  However, you would still avoid the harsher liability and penalties of a DUI (OVI) conviction.

Your likelihood of winning depends on the strength of the prosecution’s evidence as well as the skill of your defense lawyer.  Defense lawyers do not just dream up frivolous defenses but rather they use their extensive knowledge of the law to ensure that the prosecution meets their burden of proof on every element of the crime.

Types of Evidence

It is important to understand what kind of evidence can be used against you at trial and correspondingly how your lawyer can disprove such evidence.

Officer Testimony

  • It is probably not surprising that many DUI (OVI) charges follow officers’ decisions to conduct traffic stops after noticing irregular driving. If you were swerving or not driving in a single lane, then the prosecution can use the officer testimony as eyewitness evidence of behavior that commonly indicates intoxication.
  • The officer can testify regarding your behavior during the traffic stop as well. The officer may have noticed a specific scent on your breath or in the vehicle generally linked to alcohol or another drug.
  • The officer can testify about your personal statements during the traffic stop. Anything you say to the officer prior to your arrest can be used against you at trial.  If you admit to having a few drinks but state that you are not drunk, the prosecution can use this evidence against you.
  • It is your lawyer’s duty to develop defenses to refute the evidence or to create doubt in the interpretation of the evidence. For example, your lawyer can present a contrary reason for your behavior.  Your lawyer can also look for evidence of his or her own to attack the specific officer’s credibility or reliability.

Test Results

  • Field Sobriety Tests
    • A field sobriety test is “any objectively reliable means for assessing a person’s mental impairment that may be administered by a police officer at or near the place of a stop, in order to determine the likelihood a person is influenced by alcohol or drugs.” Field Sobriety Test, Bouvier Law Dictionary.  This type of test may be similar to what you have seen on television shows and in movies where police officers make individuals walk in a straight line or recite their ABCs backward.  The test generally will assess whether an individual’s senses are functioning properly and are not impaired due to excessive consumption of alcohol or drugs.
  • Breath Tests
    • A breath test refers to “a test of the alcoholic content of the breath, employed in determining intoxication or degree of intoxication of a motor vehicle driver.” Breath Test, Ballentine’s Law Dictionary (2010).
    • A police officer can administer a breath test with the use of a breathalyzer, which is “a machine that determines blood alcohol content from expelled breath.” Breathalyzer, Bouvier Law Dictionary.
  • Blood Tests
    • A blood test is most commonly conducted if an individual was involved in an automobile accident and was subsequently hospitalized.
  • While these tests may seem like unquestionable evidence of your guilt, your lawyer can challenge many aspects of the test. Your lawyer can argue the reliability of a specific kind of test or testing device.  Your lawyer can challenge the way in which the test was administered.  Your lawyer does not have to wait for trial to present these challenges to the prosecution’s evidence.  Your lawyer can use these arguments to get the evidence excluded from trial or to negotiate with the prosecution to avoid a trial altogether.

More questions?  Contact our offices today for further information regarding plea options for your DUI charge.