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Is “Drinking After Driving” A Valid DUI Defense?

Driving Under the Influence In Cincinnati, Ohio

Ohio courts use the phrase “operating a vehicle under the influence” (OVI) to describe what most jurisdictions call “driving under the influence” (DUI).

If you are faced with defending an Ohio OVI/DUI charge, you need an attorney that is willing to fight for you through every stage of your case.  Choosing the right attorney is can help your chances of defending an Ohio DUI/OVI charge.

Ohio drunk driving charges can turn your life on its head — if convicted, be forced to pay significant fines, lose your license, or even face jail time. Fortunately, experienced Cincinnati DUI lawyers understand that you are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

The “Drinking After Driving” Defense

“Drinking after driving” may be a potential defense strategy in cases where the police interview you at a later point in time when it is no longer obvious that you were driving under the influence.

Your Cincinnati DUI lawyer should explain to you that if you consumed alcohol after driving and prior to arrest, then the police officer’s investigative observations of your behavior later, and the alcohol test results later, cannot be an accurate reflection of your level of alcohol or impairment at the time of driving, which is actually the only legally relevant point in time.

For example, if you were drinking roadside, this may be a violation of the open container law, but if you weren’t actually driving, or if you drank subsequent to driving, then these facts allow a Cincinnati DUI attorney to mount a solid defense on your behalf.

What is The The Drinking After Driving Defense?

In essence, the drinking-after-driving defense states that you were sober at the time you were actually behind the wheel, and that, only later (after you stopped your car) did you begin to drink.  That is, you may have been intoxicated at the time officers found you, but you were not intoxicated when you were driving.

This is a potential defense strategy because, in Ohio, only driving under the influence or being in physical control of a motor vehicle while intoxicated is illegal.  Importantly, is perfectly legal to be impaired in your home, in a parked car (when not in physical control of the automobile), or even (for the purposes of DUI) on the side of the road. Drinking after you stop the car is not a DUI.

What Are Common Fact Scenarios Where The Drinking-After-Driving Defense Might Apply?

  • Scenario One: A man is on his way to a sports bar late one night. On a dark road, he clips a motorcyclist who forgot to turn his lights on. All the man hears is a bang, and when he stops and looks in the mirror, he sees nothing and assumes it was a raccoon or a small animal. An hour later, police track his vehicle to the bar and find him there, drunk. The man will have a strong argument that he only started drinking when he reached the bar and did not drive under the influence.
  • Scenario Two: A woman is driving home from a movie. She’s not familiar with the part of town the movie was playing, and she keeps looking down at her phone to check Google Maps for directions home. As she does this, she swerves into the other lane and almost hits an oncoming motorist. There is not an accident, but the motorist calls the police and reports a swerving driver. When the woman gets home, she decides to unwind by having some wine. Forty minutes later the police show up and arrest her for OVI, but they have no idea when she started drinking.  The woman will have a strong argument that he only started drinking when she got home and did not drive under the influence.
  • Scenario Three: A man gets into a serious car accident. He is shaken but is mostly uninjured.  The other driver, however, has a seriously injured passenger. The other driver calls 911, but the man begins to feel panicked, unsure how his insurance company might react to his latest accident. He takes out a small hip flask and begins drinking vodka to steady his nerves, in the hopes of preventing a serious panic attack. When police arrive on the scene, they see the man drinking vodka and arrest him for OVI — even though he may not have been drinking behind the wheel.  The man will have a strong argument that he only started drinking after the accident took place, and that, while he was drinking in his car, he never once operated his vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.

Here, in all three scenarios described above, your Cincinnati DUI lawyer should have a strong argument that the “drinking after driving” defense applies.