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Drunk Driving Charges Prosecuted Aggressively

Law Enforcement officers keep vigil on Ohio roadways for suspected drunk drivers. But, some drivers convicted on the charges test under the legal blood-alcohol limit on breathalyzer and field sobriety tests.

Imagine going out to happy hour after a long day and having a couple of drinks with friends. On your way home you get pulled over for speeding or a tail-light violation and the police officer asks whether you've been drinking. You agree to a breathalyzer test because you think you're not drunk. But, you still could be charged with driving while impaired or operating a vehicle while intoxicated even though your blood alcohol level registered less than the legal limit. This scenario is not as uncommon as one might think.

Columbus defense attorney, John Saia, has been practicing law for more than twenty years. He says more drivers are being charged even though they test under the limit of .08 percent. "I have witnessed a guilty verdict being returned by a jury where the breath test was .05. So its very possible under Ohio law to be convicted of driving while impaired even though you've tested under the legal limit." Says Saia.

The case Saia refers to occurred in Delaware County. Saia adds that being convicted of driving while impaired is just as bad for your record as a D-U-I. "Its the same degree of offense and its still considered a drunk driving offense. I bet most people don't realize that. Most people don't." Saia says.

Delaware County prosecutor, David Yost, defends the law. Yost says a set legal limit is not true and those who drive under the legal limit can still be charged and convicted. "Its an urban myth that there is a quote, unquote legal limmit. There are multiple provisions of the Ohio law. One of which says that if you test over .08 you're presumed to be operating a motor vehicle under the influence. However, even if you're below that you can still operatea motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol and the question is whether you were impaired or not." Says Yost.

Yost characterizes the breathalyzer and the field sobriety test as "very reliable" and its used in courts statewide. New legislation is pending in the Ohio Senate that would create harsher punishments for drivers who refuse to take a breathalyzer test when asked.