Frequently Asked Questions

Answers From Union County Lawyers

What is a "disability" for purposes of social security?

The definition of "disability" is the inability "to engage in any substantial gainful activity by reason of any medically determinable physical or mental impairment which can be expected to result in death or which has lasted or can be expected to last for a continuous period of not less than 12 months." 42 U.S.C. Secs. 423(d)(1)(A) & 1382(c)(a)(3)(A).

Who determines whether I'm disabled?

Claims examiners at the state disability determination agency initially decide whether you are medically eligible for social security disability. If you are denied benefits at the state level then an appeal to the federal level will result in a hearing before an administrative law judge.

How long will a social security disability claim take to process?

It can take from a few months to years. The processing of your claim depends on many factors.

Can I still be working when I file for social security disability?

In some circumstances with some limitations.

Can I be receiving temporary total disability under workers' compensation and still file and receive social security disability if approved?

Yes. However there may be an offset between the two sources.

Can I apply for employment while seeking social security disability?

If you secure employment, make sure you keep track of the exact dates that you worked, the amount of money you received, and any difficulties you encountered while working.

What does "Date Last Insured" mean?

The "Date Last Insured" on the decision letters refers to the last date a person is eligible to "file" for social security disability benefits. The applicant must have worked at least 5 out of the last 10 years to be eligible.

When can I apply for Medicare if I am already receiving Social Security Disability?

If a person has received social security disability for 24 months, they can apply for Medicare in the 25th month.

What can I do to help with my Social Security case?

Submit all medical records you have to Social Security when you first apply.

Continue to get medical treatment and do not miss appointments.

If you are denied - Appeal immediately.

If you see a new doctor, have a hospital stay or go for a new test, inform the Social Security office immediately.

Be active in your case. Stay in contact with your lawyer or representative.

Keep a journal of your day to day life and how your condition affects you. Note how your daily living is affected by your disability. This includes, but is not limited to basic daily activities, sleeping patterns, side effects from your medications, etc.

If you don't already have a lawyer, consult with a lawyer who handles Social Security disability cases.

FAQ: Bankruptcy

Can I keep my car(s)?

You can keep your car if: 1) there is no equity in the car or 2) you still owe money on the car and you continue to make payments and "reaffirm" the debt. If you still owe money on the car but do not want to keep it, you can include the car loan in your bankruptcy and return the car to the lender.

Can I save my house from foreclosure?

Yes, if you file a Chapter 13 and make up your late payments over a period of three to five years. Once you are caught up, you can begin your regular mortgage payment.

How much does it cost?

The Federal Courts sets the cost for filing bankruptcy applications with the court, which are called "filing fees", and which do not vary. The actual Filing Fee for a Chapter 7 case is $299. In addition, there will be attorney fees, which vary on a case-by case basis depending on the complexity of the circumstances and other issues. In addition, there is a fee for credit counseling and a credit report.

The actual Filing Fee for a Chapter 13 is $274 as well as attorney fees, which again vary on a case-by case basis depending on the complexity of the circumstances and other issues. In addition there is a fee for credit counseling and a credit report. Whether you file a Chapter 7 or a Chapter 13, your attorney will be able to tell you what the total cost of filing will be when you meet with him for the first time. The initial consultation is offered at no charge.

Will bankruptcy stop wage garnishments?

With the exception of alimony or child support, creditors cannot garnish your wages once you file bankruptcy.

Why can't I file Bankruptcy in the county I live in?

Bankruptcy is under the federal court's jurisdiction and is filed in the district court for the county you live in. Debtors that live in the following counties file in the Southern District, Eastern Division in Columbus: Athens, Belmont, Coshocton, Delaware, Fairfield, Fayette, Franklin, Gallia, Guernsey, Harrison, Hocking, Jackson, Jefferson, Knox, Licking, Logan, Madison, Meigs, Monroe, Morgan, Morrow, Muskingum, Noble, Perry, Pickaway, Pike Ross, Union and Washington.

Those debtors that live in the following counties file in the Southern District of Ohio, Western Division in Dayton: Butler, Champaign, Clark, Clinton, Darke, Greene, Miami, Montgomery, Preble, Shelby, and Warren County.

If you live in a county not listed, you may have to file in another district.

Can I file on credit cards only?

No. When you file bankruptcy, you are required to fully disclose all assets and all debts. This does not necessarily mean that you will lose everything though.

Do I have to go to court?

You will likely only have to participate in one or two meetings, which do not take place in a courtroom. The first meeting will include the bankruptcy trustee, any creditors who wish to attend, your attorney, and you. If you file a Chapter 13, there is an additional course you must attend at the Trustee's office prior to your court hearing.

Will bill collectors keep calling me or take any other sort of action after I file my bankruptcy?

Once you have filed bankruptcy, federal law prohibits your creditors from taking any action to collect the debt.

If you're married, can only one spouse file for bankruptcy?

When one spouse has a large amount of debt in his/her name only, that may be appropriate. However, if both people are liable for any debt that is going to be discharged, they should file together. If both do not file, payment will be required from the other spouse for the entire amount.

Will everyone know that I've filed for bankruptcy?

Although bankruptcy is a public proceeding, the bankruptcy itself is not normally published in the newspaper since there are so many filed on a daily basis. It is very likely that the only ones that will know about your filing are your attorney and your creditors. On the other hand, any law suits filed against you in Common Pleas or Municipal Court may be published in the local paper. All bankruptcies are published in a newspaper called The Daily Reporter which is a publication is for attorneys, judges and other legal staff.

Can you get rid of back taxes through bankruptcy?

Not usually, but there are exceptions. If it is going to be possible, all your returns have to be filed and the taxes owed should be at least three years old.

What documentation will I need to provide to my attorney?

There are a number of things you will need to bring with you to your appointment... click here for the list .

FAQ: Criminal Law

Should I talk with law enforcement?

Do not discuss any potential criminal matter with a law enforcement officer or anyone else, unless you have discussed your case with a criminal defense attorney first. Politely tell the law enforcement officer that you do not want to discuss anything with them without talking to an attorney first.

When the officer allows you the opportunity to use the telephone - use it immediately. Make a call to any attorney you know. If you don't know an attorney, ask to use the yellow or business pages to find one or ask to call the telephone company's directory assistance number. A good place to start in the phone book might be under the listing for your local criminal law bar association. Make the call even if you don't know or have a lawyer, if your lawyer is beyond local distance dialing, or your arrest time is not during regular business hours of most law offices.

Here, you should know that most law offices answer their phone even after closing through use of an answering service. Many of these services can actually connect you directly to an attorney at his home.

Upon reaching an attorney on the telephone be sure to ask the office for a chance to speak with the lawyer in private. Where the law enforcement officers refuse to allow you privacy, they violate your right to an attorney. Absent giving you privacy, the police provide you with only a warm body to talk to on the telephone. This is so because the lawyer, in order to maintain the attorney-client privilege and to protect your right to remain silent, must tell you not to say anything. Here, it is axiomatic that a lawyer can only give you proper advice where you can first tell him what has happened (i.e., he applies the law to the facts and he accordingly advises you what to do).

Keep in mind that both our Federal and State Constitutions guarantee that you have the right to remain silent and for most people who find themselves cited with a traffic or criminal violation wish they had used it! If the law enforcement officer has not advised you that you are under arrest, ask him or her if you are presently under arrest or if you are free to leave.

Where the officer indicates that you are under arrest then you should immediately inform him of your desire to have an attorney present for any further questions. Do not refuse or agree to discuss anything with the officer. Rather, tell the officer you want advice from a lawyer to help you decide if you will discuss the matter with them. Never volunteer any information to them and, stick to your right not to incriminate yourself.

To further explain, a law enforcement officer, absent any belief that criminal activity is afoot, has a right to walk up to any person in a public place and talk to them. However, the person may simply walk away. Indeed, our law is clear that the person's action in walking away cannot be used as evidence that he is guilty of something, i.e., that the invocation of a constitutional right cannot be equated to guilt. In such cases where the officer, through use of his law enforcement status, either impliedly or expressly detains the person, he violates the individual's right not to be unreasonably seized.

To lawfully justify a brief detention of a person, the officer must have a specific and articulate reasonable suspicion that the person is presently involved in criminal activity. This justification cannot be legally made on the basis of a simple hunch or a gut feeling. The detention must be narrowly limited in both its duration and scope so as to allow the officer to maintain the status quo so that he may dispel or affirm his reasonable suspicions. If the officer waits too long or unreasonably proceeds beyond the purpose for his initial detention, then he again violates the person's constitutional right not to be unreasonably seized.

Finally, where the officer actually arrests the person he must have a greater quantum of evidence than merely a reasonable and articulate suspicion, but probable cause to believe a crime has occurred. "Probable cause" has been defined by our courts as a measure of evidence that would lead a reasonable person, based on that person's experience and training, to believe that a crime has occurred. This probable cause standard can also be stated that there is some evidence as opposed to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that is required to convict a person of a crime, or the preponderance of the evidence standard (i.e., 51%) to win a civil lawsuit.

In any situation where an officer detains a person on less evidence than a reasonable and articulate suspicion or arrests a person on less evidence than probable cause, he violates that person's constitutional rights not to be unreasonably seized. The remedy for this violation is to exclude from the prosecution's case any and all evidence that was derived from the violation.

What is the difference between a felony and misdemeanor charge?

Felonies tend to be more significant criminal charges as well as have more significant penalties imposed than misdemeanor charges. Felonies carry a minimum possibility of imprisonment in a state correctional facility for more than six months, while misdemeanors carry a maximum possible penalty of local jail time for up to six months. Further, felony charges are generally heard in the Common Pleas Court, while misdemeanors are heard in Municipal Courts.

What is the maximum sentence for misdemeanors?

First Degree Misdemeanor (M-1): up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Second degree Misdemeanor (M-2): up to ninety days in jail and/or a fine of up to $750.

Third Degree Misdemeanor (M-3): up to sixty days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

Fourth Degree Misdemeanor (M-4): up to thirty days in jail and/or a fine of up to $250.

Minor Misdemeanor (MM): punishable by a fine of up to $150 and possibly community service.

What is the maximum sentence for felonies?

First Degree Felony (F-1): Up to 10 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $20,000.

Second Degree Felony (F-2): Up to 8 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $15,000.

Third Degree Felony (F-3): Up to 5 years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Fourth Degree Felony (F-4): Up to 18 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000.

Fifth Degree Felony (F-5): Up to 12 months in prison and/or a fine of up to $2,500.

What is the procedure for a criminal case?

A criminal case begins with a complaint alleging a charge and a short statement of the facts creating grounds for the offense. For a misdemeanor this may be a traffic ticket or other similar summons and complaint. For a felony this may be a city/state affidavit signed by a law enforcement officer or indictment issued by the grand jury.

What happens prior to indictment?

A felony charge can be brought by two methods:

  • The first is by a law enforcement officer issuing a city/state affidavit in the municipal court and a preliminary hearing will be held. At the preliminary hearing you will be given the choice to:
  • have a hearing and have the judge determine if there is probable cause (some evidence of the allegations) to allow the prosecutor to proceed;
  • to waive the preliminary hearing and consent that there is some information on which to base these allegations. If you waive the hearing, or go forward with the hearing and the judge determines that there is probable cause, your case will be bound over to be presented to the grand jury.
  • The second method in which a felony charge can be brought about is through the issuance of an indictment by the grand jury. When the facts surrounding your case are presented to the grand jury, the grand jury will again use the probable cause standard (i.e. is there some evidence?) to determine if formal felony charges shall be brought against you. If the grand jury does not find some evidence behind the allegations, then a "no bill" will be issued and no indictment will be forthcoming. If the grand jury finds there is some evidence forming a legitimate basis for the charges then the grand jury will issue an indictment formally charging you with this offense.

What is an arraignment?

Whether you have a misdemeanor complaint or felony indictment, you will be presented with a copy of it and summoned, or arrested, and will be required to appear for arraignment in either the Common Pleas Court (for a felony) or municipal court (for a misdemeanor). At the arraignment the judge is required to inform you of the charges against you as well as the maximum penalties that correspond to the charge. At the arraignment you will enter a plea of "not guilty", "no contest" or "guilty". Bond will be addressed, and a scheduling conference or pretrial conference date will be set about 30 45 days from the arraignment. The prosecutor will provide your attorney with the discovery in your case and will begin discussing plea bargains and sentencing recommendations.

What is a pretrial conference?

At the scheduling conference or pretrial conference we must inform the judge 1) if you are changing your plea or are taking the matter to trial; 2) if there are any plea bargains; 3) disclose any potential witnesses and evidence; and 4) hear any pending pretrial motions filed on your behalf. If your decision is to take your case to trial, the court will set a trial date. If you enter into a plea bargain/sentencing recommendation it will happen at this hearing. If you decide to change your plea, in some cases your case will be set for a separate sentencing hearing and the court will order you to participate in a pre-sentence investigation prior to the sentencing hearing. The pre-sentence investigation is essentially an in-depth background check that will be presented to the court and can be very influential in the courts determination of its sentence.

What should I expect at trial?

The county in which your case is to be heard will determine the length of your trial. The jury trial process can be a lengthy one depending on the county in which we are presenting your case and the issues being discussed. If you decide that you want a jury trial, your trial fees will have to be paid in full five days prior to the jury trial date. Payment for jury trial is not an option. Therefore, start budgeting for trial now.

The first thing we deal with is the motions in limine to exclude/preclude or limit evidence. Next the jury selection or "voir dire" process begins. In this process questions are posed to prospective jurors regarding their bias, prejudices and fitness to stand as a juror in a case. In Ohio, we have eight person juries in misdemeanor cases, twelve person juries in felony cases and usually one or two alternate jurors as backup depending on the length of the trial.

After the jury is selected then both the prosecutor and defense attorney has the option of delivering an opening statement. After the opening statement, the prosecution, since it has the burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt, starts calling their witness against you. After each witness of the prosecution and before their next witness is defense counsels opportunity to cross-examine the witnesses the state places against you.

Like a skilled surgeon cutting open a patient to expose the problems, our cross-examination of the states witnesses should do no less. Rigorous cross-examination is the only engine for truth in a criminal trial. The State will rest after their last witness and the defense may or may not put on a case. Depending on the state of the case, we may or may not call any witnesses to stand. It is important to provide your attorney with the names of all witnesses you believe are pertinent to your case early in your discussions so they are not precluded from being called at trial. After we put on our case, the prosecution has an opportunity to call rebuttal witnesses. After that, the judge, the prosecution and defense will discuss how to instruct the jury on the applicable law. Once that has been accomplished both counsel will engage in closing argument.

After closing argument, the jury will then be sent to deliberate and attempt to reach a verdict. Sometimes during deliberations, jurors will pose questions to the court and counsel will argue about the appropriate responses. The deliberation process will yield one of two outcomes, a verdict or an inability to reach a decision resulting in a hung trial/mistrial. All jurors must agree in order to convict and it will take only one juror to hang the jury requiring a mistrial. Depending on how the vote went the prosecutor has the option of re-trying the case at a future date, offering a plea bargain to a reduced charge, or dismissing the case. The court could also dismiss the case should the prosecutor not want depending on the split of the jurors.

What do I do if I have not retained an attorney by the arraignment?

In most courts, the judge will grant you a reasonable continuance if you ask for time to consult with an attorney if you have not already done so. If you do not have an attorney after the arraignment hearing, as soon as possible begin your search for an attorney familiar with that specific court and one who specializes in that specific area of law.

How should I dress for court?

You are required to appear at all scheduled hearings and should remember to dress appropriately. If you are scheduled to appear in court, wear a suit, pants with a shirt and jacket, or pants with a shirt and tie. Women should dress professionally as well. Please do not wear sunglasses, a baseball cap or shorts. When going to court dress and act like you would when applying for a job or attending a funeral.

What can I expect from my attorney?

Your attorney should be willing to discuss the specific facts of your case with you, the law surrounding your case, your possible defenses, and the procedure of your case. You are entitled to have your telephone calls returned in a reasonable time period and your questions answered. You are entitled to copies of all correspondence, to and from the prosecutor, the court as well as other possible witnesses. You are entitled to copies of all pleadings filed at the court and all entries from the court. You are also entitled to an attorney who advocates your position, but also advises you of the realities of your case so that you can make an informed decision. Your attorney should treat you as if he/she would want to be treated.

What will this process cost?

Depending on the facts of your case and its outcome, there may be penalties, fines, court costs, reinstatement fees to the BMV, restitution, supervision fees for probation and cost of your jail stay and/or alcohol program to pay as well as your attorney fees.

You may be offered you an hourly rate fee or a flat fee schedule depending on your preference and the facts of your case. Each case is unique and requires a different fee schedule. As a result a more accurate estimate of your attorney fees will be provided after an office consultation.

FAQ: OVI/Traffic

What do I do if I am stopped by a law enforcement officer?

First, don't drink alcohol or use drugs and then drive! No one likes drunk or impaired drivers as they are clearly a danger to themselves and others. No sane person wants to be on the receiving end of a 3,500 pound projectile being piloted by an intoxicated person.

Second, recognize that law enforcement officers perform a very difficult and dangerous job, and that we all owe the good officers an extreme debt of gratitude for their efforts. However, it should be remembered that law enforcement officers have a great deal of discretion in deciding whether or not to arrest a person. Experience has proven time and time again, that a person's lack of manners and overt rudeness is the quickest way to being handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a patrol car. In reality, for an officer making an arrest for an OMVI/OVI/DUI, it is strictly his/her opinion that the crime has been committed. Like all jobs that human beings perform, there will be some officers that are better at it than others. Law enforcement officers are not only subject to making human mistakes, but to unconscious psychological influences which almost always gravitate toward guilt.

In addition, law enforcement work is very competitive and obviously officers like to win their cases. Experience has shown that more than a few officers have misrepresented facts and told falsehoods to win their case. In determining the reason for a OVI/OMVI/DUI arrest, one should keep an open mind to the possibility of other motivations of the officer than simply that the driver was intoxicated. For example, recent evidence has demonstrated that most officers who make numerous traffic and OVI/OMVI/DUI arrests actually receive increased pay as a result of their subsequent court appearances for those arrests. In some cases, in addition to receiving benefits of a private patrol car for his sole use, and having his days off and work hours fixed, some officers receive an amount of extra money equal to his regular pay for court appearances, i.e., his salary increases.

What do I do if the officer signals me to stop by turning on his emergency lights?

Drive to the right lane as cautiously and quickly as possible, and continue there until you can either safely park on the shoulder of the road or in a parking lot. If you drive too long with out indicating your awareness of the officer's overhead lights he will note that you could not pay attention to all aspects of your driving. Also, if you jerk the steering wheel and slam on the brakes, the officer will note that you could not smoothly and safely operate the vehicle. Next, put your vehicle in park, shut off the engine and radio, turn on your emergency flashers and roll down your window. Such quick and cautious actions on your part will indicate that your normal mental faculties are not impaired.

After being stopped, should I get out of the car?

No. Not unless asked to do so. Have your license, registration and proof of insurance ready to hand to the officer.

Is there anything I should do before getting out of my vehicle?

Take a deep breath, compose your thoughts and treat the officer with the respect that you would a clergy person, judge or other well-respected person.

If asked, should I admit to drinking an alcoholic beverage?

This is a tough question, but the answer is generally "yes" if you have consumed an alcoholic beverage. You will likely have an odor of an alcoholic beverage on your breath so it makes no sense to deny that you have had a drink. In fact, if you make a denial with the odor of an alcoholic beverage present, it is only human nature for the officer to find that you are less than credible. The officer would then likely be suspicious that you are trying to hide how many drinks were consumed.

Do I admit to how many, where and when?

It depends. Any admission more than "two" will likely result in your arrest. This is especially true where the officer fails to ask "when?". As an example, four beers can be interpreted much different than four beers over eight hours. In this regard, the truth has resulted in many non-intoxicated drivers being arrested, and has subsequently cost them a small fortune for bond, automobile towing, time off from work and an attorney to prove their innocence.

If I'm not going to answer, what do I do?

Keep in mind that both our Federal and State Constitutions guarantee that you have the right to remain silent and for most people who find themselves cited with a traffic or criminal violation wish they had used it! Politely ask the officer why he stopped you and if you are presently under arrest. A person can be under arrest and yet not be told so.

Where the officer indicates that you are under arrest then you should immediately inform him of your desire to have an attorney present for any further questions. Do not refuse or agree to perform police field sobriety exercises. Rather, tell the officer you want advice from a lawyer to help you decide if you will refuse or agree to perform them.

On the other hand, should the officer say you are not under arrest, then a different approach is in order. Politely ask: "Am I going to be written a traffic ticket?" And if so, "Will I be free to leave upon your completion of it?" Where the officer says: "Yes" to both questions, count your blessings, remain still and non-threatening. Be courteous and only speak when spoken to. Never volunteer information as that will only serve to prolong your roadside stay. Should he again ask about alcohol consumption, inform him of your choice not to answer any questions but those related to the specific traffic offense and, stick to your right not to incriminate yourself.

If the officer says "You're not under arrest, but you cannot leave", this is close to the typical OMVI/OVI/DUI scenario. Here, the safe thing to do is to inform the officer that you would prefer not to answer any more questions and would like to have a lawyer present. Be polite and not talkative! By doing this, you have in effect "punted the ball" to the officer. He must now choose to let you go or to prolong his investigation. Again, if he lets you go count your blessings and drive safely. Where he prolongs your roadside stay, he must be careful not to violate your federal and state constitutional rights to not be unreasonably seized. The invocation of your rights to remain silent and to an attorney's presence will make it more difficult for the officer to avoid violating your constitutional right to not be unreasonably seized.

To further explain, a law enforcement officer, absent any belief that criminal activity is afoot, has a right to walk up to any person in a public place and talk to them. However, the person may simply walk away. Our law is clear that the person's action in walking away cannot be used as evidence that he is guilty of something, i.e., that exercising your constitutional right cannot be equated to guilt. In cases where the officer, through use of his law enforcement status whether implied or directly expressed, detains the person, he violates the individual's right not to be unreasonably seized.

To lawfully justify a brief detention of a person, the officer must have a specific and articulate reasonable suspicion that the person is presently involved in criminal activity. This justification cannot be legally made on the basis of a simple hunch or a gut feeling. The detention must be narrowly limited in both its duration and scope so as to allow the officer to maintain the status quo so that he may dispel or affirm his reasonable suspicions. If the officer waits too long or unreasonably proceeds beyond the purpose for his initial detention, then he again violates the person's constitutional right not to be unreasonably seized.

Finally, where the officer actually arrests the person he must have a greater quantum of evidence than merely a reasonable and articulate suspicion, but probable cause to believe a crime has occurred. "Probable cause" has been defined by our courts as a measure of evidence that would lead a reasonable person, based on that person's experience and training, to believe that a crime has occurred. This probable cause standard can also be defined as that there is some evidence as opposed to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that is required to convict a person of a crime, or the preponderance of the evidence standard (i.e., 51%) to win a civil lawsuit.

In any situation where an officer detains a person on less evidence than a reasonable and articulate suspicion or arrests a person on less evidence than probable cause, he violates that person's constitutional rights not to be unreasonably seized. The remedy for this violation is to exclude from the prosecution's case any and all evidence that was derived from the violation.

When you find yourself in the typical OMVI/OVI/DUI scenario (i.e., where you're being detained for a OMVI/OVI/DUI investigation but you're not yet arrested) it is best to be polite, to invoke your rights to remain silent, and to have an attorney present, to not accidentally incriminate or convict yourself, and to let the officer do the best he can with the evidence he can legally develop.

Do I submit to the field sobriety tests?

First, immediately inform the officer and all officers thereafter, that you want to remain silent until such time as you can contact an attorney and have a private consultation with him as to everything the officer will ask you, except for bail. Make sure to tell the officer(s) that you are neither refusing nor agreeing to cooperate with them. Rather, tell them that your decision to refuse or agree will be based upon the advice you receive from your lawyer.

Sometimes officers will say "you can't have a lawyer yet". The "you can't have a lawyer" statement may or may not be true depending on the circumstances of your case. But, you will have no way of verifying its truth until you speak to your lawyer. Thus, the best thing to do is to remain polite but firm in your requests to speak to an attorney. Simply put, do not take "no" for an answer.

Second, you must understand the field sobriety tests and how the officer will use them. The Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) that are approved by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) are composed of three main tests: (1) the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN), (2) the Walk and Turn Test (WAT), and (3) the One Leg Stand (OLS). According to the research behind these tests, when the tests are administered correctly, the HGN only has a 77% likelihood of determining if a person's alcohol content is greater than the legal limit, the WAT only has a 68% likelihood of determining if a person's alcohol content is greater than the legal limit, and the OLS only has a 65% likelihood of determining if a person's alcohol content is greater than the legal limit. There are no other tests recognized by NHTSA, the courts or the legislature for determining a person's blood alcohol content.

The officer may attempt to have you perform other tests such as the alphabet and finger-to-nose tests, but depending on the court and facts of your case, these may be admissible in a trial to describe speech, balance and other symptoms of intoxication that a normal lay person would associate with impairment. However, some judges will allow officers to testify that a person's performance on the SFSTs correlate to a specific alcohol content. Therefore, by performing the SFSTs you may giving the officer more evidence to find probable cause to arrest you. You must know that it is almost a sure thing that if you refuse to perform the SFSTs the officer will arrest you. If your refuse to submit to the SFSTs you will likely be required to fight your arrest and OVI/OMVI/DUI charge in court. The decision to participate in the tests are a decision you must make on the spot under the circumstances in which you find yourself. Make certain to follow the advice above regarding the inquiry as to whether or not you are under arrest or are free to leave.

Finally, if you decide to submit to the SFSTs they are required to be administered in a specific manner and may be affected by a person's health or the environment. The officer is required to ask about certain medical or physiological impairments a person may have prior to each test. It is important to bring up your health conditions when asked by a law enforcement officer at this time. This goes to your credibility. If you bring up a health related problem in court for the first time, especially after the officer asked you on the roadside, your testimony may be somewhat suspect if the two statements are not consistent. If you advise the officer of various ailments, he may still ask you to perform the test. If you submit to the test it is important to listen to the officer's directions carefully and do not begin the tests until they tell you to. Do not think that you can perform the test because you saw someone perform the test on television. The correct way to perform the tests is not advertised and the tests are actually portrayed incorrectly in every pro law enforcement advertisement that this author has viewed.

Do I submit to the breathalyzer test or submit a blood or urine sample?

Again, immediately inform the officer, and all officers thereafter, that you want to remain silent until such time as you can contact an attorney and have a private consultation with him as to everything the officer will ask you, except for bail. Be aware that many law enforcement offices record the telephone conversations. Be careful to tell the officers that you are neither refusing nor agreeing to cooperate with them. Rather, tell them that your decision to refuse or agree will be based on the advice you receive from your lawyer.

Again, officers may say "you can't have a lawyer yet". However, remain firm because you may not understand the severity of your position until after consulting with an attorney. Thus, the best thing to do is to remain polite but firm in your requests to speak to an attorney. Simply put, do not take "no" for an answer.

When the officer allows you the opportunity to use the telephone use it immediately. Make a call to any attorney you know. If you don't know an attorney, ask to use the yellow or business pages to find one or ask to call the telephone company's directory assistance number. A good place to start in the phone book might be under the listing for your local criminal law bar association. Make the call even if you don't know or have a lawyer, if your lawyer is beyond local distance dialing, or your arrest time is not during regular business hours of most law offices.

Here, you should know that most law offices answer their phone even after closing through use of an answering service. Many of these services can actually connect you directly to an attorney at his home.

Upon reaching an attorney on the telephone be sure to ask the officer for a chance to speak with the lawyer in private. If law enforcement officers refuse to allow you privacy, they violate your right to an attorney. Absent giving you privacy, the police have only provided you with only a warm body to talk to on the telephone. This is because the lawyer, in order to maintain the attorney-client privilege and to protect your right to remain silent, must tell you not to say anything. Here, it is obvious that a lawyer can only give you proper advice where you can first tell him what has happened (i.e., he applies the law to the facts and he accordingly advises you what to do).

In regard to submitting to a breathalyzer test or giving a urine or blood sample, Ohio's OVI law imposes a stricter penalty for refusing to give a sample after being requested to do so, if you have a prior OVI within the past 20 years. At least in the authors' opinion, it is wrong to advise a person to take a test on a machine which is incapable of being independently verified as accurate and reliable. It is equally wrong to advise a person to submit to such a test where law enforcement fail to preserve, and in effect, destroy the breath specimen they will ostensibly use to prove you guilty. Personally, we're not going to take a test that can't be rechecked to determine its validity.

Arguably, the best indicator of a person who has not lost the normal use of his mental faculties is the fact that he simply won't take the breath test. Here, we believe a person would have to be drunk to agree to take a police test that is so enmeshed in debate about its non-reliability and inaccuracies and where the police machine's own manufacturer doesn't warrant it fit for any particular purpose including breath testing.

Under such circumstances, only a drunk, insane, uneducated, or coerced person would submit to a breath test where the penalty for failure might result in 180 days confinement, a $2,000.00 fine and a year's driver's license suspension, not to mention other social and automobile insurance consequences, as opposed to a possible ninety day suspension for test refusal. In other words, we would argue that, knowing the above, a person demonstrates no loss of his normal mental faculties by refusing the test, but does so by agreeing to take it. Clearly, considering all the consequences and facts noted, it cannot be reasonable and prudent judgment to take such a non-preserved test.

Let us add one other "believe it or not" fact here just for emphasis. Most law enforcement officers join in our opinion and would not take the breath test either! However, this decision should be made only after speaking with an attorney with specific knowledge of the local customs of the court in the county in which you are in and the facts of your case.

What do I do after being released?

Immediately go to a hospital or laboratory and have your blood drawn and tested for your alcohol level. Make certain that the person drawing the blood sample uses a non-alcoholic sterilization technique and that you record the name of the person who draws the blood and who tests the blood.

This independent analysis of your blood alcohol content can be used to determine your blood alcohol content at the time you were stopped and the results should be provided to your attorney immediately.

What do I do if I have not retained an attorney by the arraignment?

In most courts, the judge will grant you a reasonable continuance if you ask for time to consult with an attorney, if you have not already done so. If you do not have an attorney after this arraignment hearing, begin your search for an attorney familiar with that court and who specializes in that specific area of law as soon as possible.

What can I expect from my attorney?

Your attorney should be willing to discuss the specific facts of your case with you, the law surrounding your case, your possible defenses, and the procedure of your case. You are entitled to have your telephone calls returned in a reasonable time period and your questions answered. You are entitled to copies of all correspondence, to and from the prosecutor, the court as well as other possible witnesses. You are entitled to copies of all pleadings filed at the court and all entries from the court. You are also entitled to an attorney who advocates your position, but also advises you of the realities of your case so that you can make an informed decision.

It is my opinion that your attorney should treat you as if he/she would want to be treated.

What will this process cost?

Depending on the facts of your case and the outcome, there may be penalties, fines, court costs, reinstatement fees to the BMV, restitution, supervision fees for probation and cost of your jail stay and/or alcohol program as well as increases in your insurance premiums. An example of these penalties and fees are:

First Degree Misdemeanor (M-1): up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Second degree Misdemeanor (M-2): up to ninety days in jail and/or a fine of up to $750.

Third Degree Misdemeanor (M-3): up to sixty days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

Fourth Degree Misdemeanor (M-4): up to thirty days in jail and/or a fine of up to $250.

Minor Misdemeanor (MM) is punishable by a fine of up to $150 and possibly community service.

Alcohol Education Program (AEP)/Drivers Intervention Program (DIP): $350.00

Reinstatement Fees to BMV: $425.00

I am willing to offer you an hourly rate fee or a flat fee schedule depending on your preference and the facts of your case. Each case is unique and requires a different fee schedule as a result I will be able to more accurately advise you of the estimate of your attorney fees after an office consultation.

What are the mandatory minimum penalties allowed by law?

The minimum statutory penalties allowed by law for OVI offenses in violation of R.C. § 4511.19(A)(1)(a) (e) is as follows:

First offense within six years: three consecutive days in jail, which in some courts may be substituted with an alcohol education program (AEP); a $250.00 fine; a six month operator's license suspension for which you can receive limited driving privileges after the first 15 days; and six points on your operator's license. Most courts will also impose probation.

Second offense within six years: 10 consecutive days in jail; a $350.00 fine; a one year operator's license suspension with 30 days of not having any limited driving privileges; impoundment of your license plates for 90 days; impoundment of your vehicle for 90 days; immediate seizure of the vehicle; and six points on your operator's license. Most courts will also impose probation.

Third offense within six years: 30 consecutive days in jail; $550.00 fine; a one year operator's license suspension without any privileges for the first 180 days, immediate seizure of the vehicle; six points on your operator's license; and ultimately forfeiture of the vehicle being driven. Most courts will also impose probation.

The minimum statutory penalties allowed by law for OVI offenses in violation of R.C. § 4511.19(A)(1)(f) (i) and (A)(2) are as follows:

First offense within six years: six consecutive days in jail, which in some courts three days may be substituted with an alcohol education program; a $250.00 fine; a six month operator's license suspension for which you can receive limited driving privileges after the first 15 days; and six points on your operator's license. Most courts will also impose probation.

Second offense within six years: 20 consecutive days in jail; a $350.00 fine; a one year operator's license suspension with 30 days of not having any limited driving privileges; impoundment of license plates for 90 days; impoundment of vehicle for 90 days; immediate seizure of the vehicle; and six points on your operator's license. Most courts will also impose probation.

Third offense within six years: 60 consecutive days in jail; a $550.00 fine; a two year operator's license suspension without any privileges for the first 180 days, immediate seizure of the vehicle; six points on your operator's license; and ultimately forfeiture of the vehicle being driven. Most courts will also impose probation.

Please note that a sentencing on an OVI/OMVI/DUI charge in Ohio, can be greater than the mandatory minimum. The mandatory minimum penalty is simply that the minimum

FAQ: OVI/Traffic

What do I do if I am stopped by a law enforcement officer?

First, don't drink alcohol or use drugs and then drive! No one likes drunk or impaired drivers as they are clearly a danger to themselves and others. No sane person wants to be on the receiving end of a 3,500 pound projectile being piloted by an intoxicated person.

Second, recognize that law enforcement officers perform a very difficult and dangerous job, and that we all owe the good officers an extreme debt of gratitude for their efforts. However, it should be remembered that law enforcement officers have a great deal of discretion in deciding whether or not to arrest a person. Experience has proven time and time again, that a person's lack of manners and overt rudeness is the quickest way to being handcuffed and placed in the back seat of a patrol car. In reality, for an officer making an arrest for an OMVI/OVI/DUI, it is strictly his/her opinion that the crime has been committed. Like all jobs that human beings perform, there will be some officers that are better at it than others. Law enforcement officers are not only subject to making human mistakes, but to unconscious psychological influences which almost always gravitate toward guilt.

In addition, law enforcement work is very competitive and obviously officers like to win their cases. Experience has shown that more than a few officers have misrepresented facts and told falsehoods to win their case. In determining the reason for a OVI/OMVI/DUI arrest, one should keep an open mind to the possibility of other motivations of the officer than simply that the driver was intoxicated. For example, recent evidence has demonstrated that most officers who make numerous traffic and OVI/OMVI/DUI arrests actually receive increased pay as a result of their subsequent court appearances for those arrests. In some cases, in addition to receiving benefits of a private patrol car for his sole use, and having his days off and work hours fixed, some officers receive an amount of extra money equal to his regular pay for court appearances, i.e., his salary increases.

What do I do if the officer signals me to stop by turning on his emergency lights?

Drive to the right lane as cautiously and quickly as possible, and continue there until you can either safely park on the shoulder of the road or in a parking lot. If you drive too long with out indicating your awareness of the officer's overhead lights he will note that you could not pay attention to all aspects of your driving. Also, if you jerk the steering wheel and slam on the brakes, the officer will note that you could not smoothly and safely operate the vehicle. Next, put your vehicle in park, shut off the engine and radio, turn on your emergency flashers and roll down your window. Such quick and cautious actions on your part will indicate that your normal mental faculties are not impaired.

After being stopped, should I get out of the car?

No. Not unless asked to do so. Have your license, registration and proof of insurance ready to hand to the officer.

Is there anything I should do before getting out of my vehicle?

Take a deep breath, compose your thoughts and treat the officer with the respect that you would a clergy person, judge or other well-respected person.

If asked, should I admit to drinking an alcoholic beverage?

This is a tough question, but the answer is generally "yes" if you have consumed an alcoholic beverage. You will likely have an odor of an alcoholic beverage on your breath so it makes no sense to deny that you have had a drink. In fact, if you make a denial with the odor of an alcoholic beverage present, it is only human nature for the officer to find that you are less than credible. The officer would then likely be suspicious that you are trying to hide how many drinks were consumed.

Do I admit to how many, where and when?

It depends. Any admission more than "two" will likely result in your arrest. This is especially true where the officer fails to ask "when?". As an example, four beers can be interpreted much different than four beers over eight hours. In this regard, the truth has resulted in many non-intoxicated drivers being arrested, and has subsequently cost them a small fortune for bond, automobile towing, time off from work and an attorney to prove their innocence.

If I'm not going to answer, what do I do?

Keep in mind that both our Federal and State Constitutions guarantee that you have the right to remain silent and for most people who find themselves cited with a traffic or criminal violation wish they had used it! Politely ask the officer why he stopped you and if you are presently under arrest. A person can be under arrest and yet not be told so.

Where the officer indicates that you are under arrest then you should immediately inform him of your desire to have an attorney present for any further questions. Do not refuse or agree to perform police field sobriety exercises. Rather, tell the officer you want advice from a lawyer to help you decide if you will refuse or agree to perform them.

On the other hand, should the officer say you are not under arrest, then a different approach is in order. Politely ask: "Am I going to be written a traffic ticket?" And if so, "Will I be free to leave upon your completion of it?" Where the officer says: "Yes" to both questions, count your blessings, remain still and non-threatening. Be courteous and only speak when spoken to. Never volunteer information as that will only serve to prolong your roadside stay. Should he again ask about alcohol consumption, inform him of your choice not to answer any questions but those related to the specific traffic offense and, stick to your right not to incriminate yourself.

If the officer says "You're not under arrest, but you cannot leave", this is close to the typical OMVI/OVI/DUI scenario. Here, the safe thing to do is to inform the officer that you would prefer not to answer any more questions and would like to have a lawyer present. Be polite and not talkative! By doing this, you have in effect "punted the ball" to the officer. He must now choose to let you go or to prolong his investigation. Again, if he lets you go count your blessings and drive safely. Where he prolongs your roadside stay, he must be careful not to violate your federal and state constitutional rights to not be unreasonably seized. The invocation of your rights to remain silent and to an attorney's presence will make it more difficult for the officer to avoid violating your constitutional right to not be unreasonably seized.

To further explain, a law enforcement officer, absent any belief that criminal activity is afoot, has a right to walk up to any person in a public place and talk to them. However, the person may simply walk away. Our law is clear that the person's action in walking away cannot be used as evidence that he is guilty of something, i.e., that exercising your constitutional right cannot be equated to guilt. In cases where the officer, through use of his law enforcement status whether implied or directly expressed, detains the person, he violates the individual's right not to be unreasonably seized.

To lawfully justify a brief detention of a person, the officer must have a specific and articulate reasonable suspicion that the person is presently involved in criminal activity. This justification cannot be legally made on the basis of a simple hunch or a gut feeling. The detention must be narrowly limited in both its duration and scope so as to allow the officer to maintain the status quo so that he may dispel or affirm his reasonable suspicions. If the officer waits too long or unreasonably proceeds beyond the purpose for his initial detention, then he again violates the person's constitutional right not to be unreasonably seized.

Finally, where the officer actually arrests the person he must have a greater quantum of evidence than merely a reasonable and articulate suspicion, but probable cause to believe a crime has occurred. "Probable cause" has been defined by our courts as a measure of evidence that would lead a reasonable person, based on that person's experience and training, to believe that a crime has occurred. This probable cause standard can also be defined as that there is some evidence as opposed to proof beyond a reasonable doubt that is required to convict a person of a crime, or the preponderance of the evidence standard (i.e., 51%) to win a civil lawsuit.

In any situation where an officer detains a person on less evidence than a reasonable and articulate suspicion or arrests a person on less evidence than probable cause, he violates that person's constitutional rights not to be unreasonably seized. The remedy for this violation is to exclude from the prosecution's case any and all evidence that was derived from the violation.

When you find yourself in the typical OMVI/OVI/DUI scenario (i.e., where you're being detained for a OMVI/OVI/DUI investigation but you're not yet arrested) it is best to be polite, to invoke your rights to remain silent, and to have an attorney present, to not accidentally incriminate or convict yourself, and to let the officer do the best he can with the evidence he can legally develop.

Do I submit to the field sobriety tests?

First, immediately inform the officer and all officers thereafter, that you want to remain silent until such time as you can contact an attorney and have a private consultation with him as to everything the officer will ask you, except for bail. Make sure to tell the officer(s) that you are neither refusing nor agreeing to cooperate with them. Rather, tell them that your decision to refuse or agree will be based upon the advice you receive from your lawyer.

Sometimes officers will say "you can't have a lawyer yet". The "you can't have a lawyer" statement may or may not be true depending on the circumstances of your case. But, you will have no way of verifying its truth until you speak to your lawyer. Thus, the best thing to do is to remain polite but firm in your requests to speak to an attorney. Simply put, do not take "no" for an answer.

Second, you must understand the field sobriety tests and how the officer will use them. The Standard Field Sobriety Tests (SFST) that are approved by the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) are composed of three main tests: (1) the Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (HGN), (2) the Walk and Turn Test (WAT), and (3) the One Leg Stand (OLS). According to the research behind these tests, when the tests are administered correctly, the HGN only has a 77% likelihood of determining if a person's alcohol content is greater than the legal limit, the WAT only has a 68% likelihood of determining if a person's alcohol content is greater than the legal limit, and the OLS only has a 65% likelihood of determining if a person's alcohol content is greater than the legal limit. There are no other tests recognized by NHTSA, the courts or the legislature for determining a person's blood alcohol content.

The officer may attempt to have you perform other tests such as the alphabet and finger-to-nose tests, but depending on the court and facts of your case, these may be admissible in a trial to describe speech, balance and other symptoms of intoxication that a normal lay person would associate with impairment. However, some judges will allow officers to testify that a person's performance on the SFSTs correlate to a specific alcohol content. Therefore, by performing the SFSTs you may giving the officer more evidence to find probable cause to arrest you. You must know that it is almost a sure thing that if you refuse to perform the SFSTs the officer will arrest you. If your refuse to submit to the SFSTs you will likely be required to fight your arrest and OVI/OMVI/DUI charge in court. The decision to participate in the tests are a decision you must make on the spot under the circumstances in which you find yourself. Make certain to follow the advice above regarding the inquiry as to whether or not you are under arrest or are free to leave.

Finally, if you decide to submit to the SFSTs they are required to be administered in a specific manner and may be affected by a person's health or the environment. The officer is required to ask about certain medical or physiological impairments a person may have prior to each test. It is important to bring up your health conditions when asked by a law enforcement officer at this time. This goes to your credibility. If you bring up a health related problem in court for the first time, especially after the officer asked you on the roadside, your testimony may be somewhat suspect if the two statements are not consistent. If you advise the officer of various ailments, he may still ask you to perform the test. If you submit to the test it is important to listen to the officer's directions carefully and do not begin the tests until they tell you to. Do not think that you can perform the test because you saw someone perform the test on television. The correct way to perform the tests is not advertised and the tests are actually portrayed incorrectly in every pro law enforcement advertisement that this author has viewed.

Do I submit to the breathalyzer test or submit a blood or urine sample?

Again, immediately inform the officer, and all officers thereafter, that you want to remain silent until such time as you can contact an attorney and have a private consultation with him as to everything the officer will ask you, except for bail. Be aware that many law enforcement offices record the telephone conversations. Be careful to tell the officers that you are neither refusing nor agreeing to cooperate with them. Rather, tell them that your decision to refuse or agree will be based on the advice you receive from your lawyer.

Again, officers may say "you can't have a lawyer yet". However, remain firm because you may not understand the severity of your position until after consulting with an attorney. Thus, the best thing to do is to remain polite but firm in your requests to speak to an attorney. Simply put, do not take "no" for an answer.

When the officer allows you the opportunity to use the telephone use it immediately. Make a call to any attorney you know. If you don't know an attorney, ask to use the yellow or business pages to find one or ask to call the telephone company's directory assistance number. A good place to start in the phone book might be under the listing for your local criminal law bar association. Make the call even if you don't know or have a lawyer, if your lawyer is beyond local distance dialing, or your arrest time is not during regular business hours of most law offices.

Here, you should know that most law offices answer their phone even after closing through use of an answering service. Many of these services can actually connect you directly to an attorney at his home.

Upon reaching an attorney on the telephone be sure to ask the officer for a chance to speak with the lawyer in private. If law enforcement officers refuse to allow you privacy, they violate your right to an attorney. Absent giving you privacy, the police have only provided you with only a warm body to talk to on the telephone. This is because the lawyer, in order to maintain the attorney-client privilege and to protect your right to remain silent, must tell you not to say anything. Here, it is obvious that a lawyer can only give you proper advice where you can first tell him what has happened (i.e., he applies the law to the facts and he accordingly advises you what to do).

In regard to submitting to a breathalyzer test or giving a urine or blood sample, Ohio's OVI law imposes a stricter penalty for refusing to give a sample after being requested to do so, if you have a prior OVI within the past 20 years. At least in the authors' opinion, it is wrong to advise a person to take a test on a machine which is incapable of being independently verified as accurate and reliable. It is equally wrong to advise a person to submit to such a test where law enforcement fail to preserve, and in effect, destroy the breath specimen they will ostensibly use to prove you guilty. Personally, we're not going to take a test that can't be rechecked to determine its validity.

Arguably, the best indicator of a person who has not lost the normal use of his mental faculties is the fact that he simply won't take the breath test. Here, we believe a person would have to be drunk to agree to take a police test that is so enmeshed in debate about its non-reliability and inaccuracies and where the police machine's own manufacturer doesn't warrant it fit for any particular purpose including breath testing.

Under such circumstances, only a drunk, insane, uneducated, or coerced person would submit to a breath test where the penalty for failure might result in 180 days confinement, a $2,000.00 fine and a year's driver's license suspension, not to mention other social and automobile insurance consequences, as opposed to a possible ninety day suspension for test refusal. In other words, we would argue that, knowing the above, a person demonstrates no loss of his normal mental faculties by refusing the test, but does so by agreeing to take it. Clearly, considering all the consequences and facts noted, it cannot be reasonable and prudent judgment to take such a non-preserved test.

Let us add one other "believe it or not" fact here just for emphasis. Most law enforcement officers join in our opinion and would not take the breath test either! However, this decision should be made only after speaking with an attorney with specific knowledge of the local customs of the court in the county in which you are in and the facts of your case.

What do I do after being released?

Immediately go to a hospital or laboratory and have your blood drawn and tested for your alcohol level. Make certain that the person drawing the blood sample uses a non-alcoholic sterilization technique and that you record the name of the person who draws the blood and who tests the blood.

This independent analysis of your blood alcohol content can be used to determine your blood alcohol content at the time you were stopped and the results should be provided to your attorney immediately.

What do I do if I have not retained an attorney by the arraignment?

In most courts, the judge will grant you a reasonable continuance if you ask for time to consult with an attorney, if you have not already done so. If you do not have an attorney after this arraignment hearing, begin your search for an attorney familiar with that court and who specializes in that specific area of law as soon as possible.

What can I expect from my attorney?

Your attorney should be willing to discuss the specific facts of your case with you, the law surrounding your case, your possible defenses, and the procedure of your case. You are entitled to have your telephone calls returned in a reasonable time period and your questions answered. You are entitled to copies of all correspondence, to and from the prosecutor, the court as well as other possible witnesses. You are entitled to copies of all pleadings filed at the court and all entries from the court. You are also entitled to an attorney who advocates your position, but also advises you of the realities of your case so that you can make an informed decision.

It is my opinion that your attorney should treat you as if he/she would want to be treated.

What will this process cost?

Depending on the facts of your case and the outcome, there may be penalties, fines, court costs, reinstatement fees to the BMV, restitution, supervision fees for probation and cost of your jail stay and/or alcohol program as well as increases in your insurance premiums. An example of these penalties and fees are:

First Degree Misdemeanor (M-1): up to six months in jail and/or a fine of up to $1,000.

Second degree Misdemeanor (M-2): up to ninety days in jail and/or a fine of up to $750.

Third Degree Misdemeanor (M-3): up to sixty days in jail and/or a fine of up to $500.

Fourth Degree Misdemeanor (M-4): up to thirty days in jail and/or a fine of up to $250.

Minor Misdemeanor (MM) is punishable by a fine of up to $150 and possibly community service.

Alcohol Education Program (AEP)/Drivers Intervention Program (DIP): $350.00

Reinstatement Fees to BMV: $425.00

I am willing to offer you an hourly rate fee or a flat fee schedule depending on your preference and the facts of your case. Each case is unique and requires a different fee schedule as a result I will be able to more accurately advise you of the estimate of your attorney fees after an office consultation.

What are the mandatory minimum penalties allowed by law?

The minimum statutory penalties allowed by law for OVI offenses in violation of R.C. § 4511.19(A)(1)(a) (e) is as follows:

First offense within six years: three consecutive days in jail, which in some courts may be substituted with an alcohol education program (AEP); a $250.00 fine; a six month operator's license suspension for which you can receive limited driving privileges after the first 15 days; and six points on your operator's license. Most courts will also impose probation.

Second offense within six years: 10 consecutive days in jail; a $350.00 fine; a one year operator's license suspension with 30 days of not having any limited driving privileges; impoundment of your license plates for 90 days; impoundment of your vehicle for 90 days; immediate seizure of the vehicle; and six points on your operator's license. Most courts will also impose probation.

Third offense within six years: 30 consecutive days in jail; $550.00 fine; a one year operator's license suspension without any privileges for the first 180 days, immediate seizure of the vehicle; six points on your operator's license; and ultimately forfeiture of the vehicle being driven. Most courts will also impose probation.

The minimum statutory penalties allowed by law for OVI offenses in violation of R.C. § 4511.19(A)(1)(f) (i) and (A)(2) are as follows:

First offense within six years: six consecutive days in jail, which in some courts three days may be substituted with an alcohol education program; a $250.00 fine; a six month operator's license suspension for which you can receive limited driving privileges after the first 15 days; and six points on your operator's license. Most courts will also impose probation.

Second offense within six years: 20 consecutive days in jail; a $350.00 fine; a one year operator's license suspension with 30 days of not having any limited driving privileges; impoundment of license plates for 90 days; impoundment of vehicle for 90 days; immediate seizure of the vehicle; and six points on your operator's license. Most courts will also impose probation.

Third offense within six years: 60 consecutive days in jail; a $550.00 fine; a two year operator's license suspension without any privileges for the first 180 days, immediate seizure of the vehicle; six points on your operator's license; and ultimately forfeiture of the vehicle being driven. Most courts will also impose probation.

Please note that a sentencing on an OVI/OMVI/DUI charge in Ohio, can be greater than the mandatory minimum. The mandatory minimum penalty is simply that the minimum

FAQ: Personal Injury/Wrongful Death

What is a Class Action Lawsuit?

A class action lawsuit is an action where a group of people all has the same or similar injuries, which were caused by the same defective product, device, contamination, treatment, incident or occurrence. The group of people files one action and each member of the group is a class member of the lawsuit. It is logical and efficient to have only one action for injuries stemming from the same source, against the same defendant. If the plaintiff's win the lawsuit, the damages will be divided among them in proportion to the injuries each individual has sustained. However, if the defendant wins the case, the class members (plaintiffs) are barred from filing a new claim, as either another class action or an individual action, against the same defendant for the same injuries.

In most cases, class action lawsuits are made up of a group of people with fairly minor injuries. Once added together, these injuries combine and count up, making the lawsuit more practical for injured parties. It is also more cost effective to litigate, what would be small claims, at one time. The court costs, attorneys fees and any witness fees will be absorbed by the group (or often paid from the winnings, only if the plaintiff's win), as opposed to being paid by the individual plaintiff. However, if an individual has been severely injured and/or has the resources to pursue a separate claim, a class action lawsuit may not be the most appropriate choice for that individual. Therefore, it is important to speak to an attorney, knowledgeable in class action litigation, about your situation and the facts of your case if you are interested in initiating or joining a class action lawsuit.

Could I be in a Class Action Suit and Not Know It?

Generally, all persons affected by a class action lawsuit should be notified. The court will order the class action representative (often the named plaintiff in the lawsuit) to notify all persons who may be affected by the action's outcome. In situations where the class is very large, individual notification may not be possible and would be unrealistic to pursue. Depending on the number of possible class action members and the facts of the case, the type of notification must be reasonable. Therefore, notification will often be in the form of a letter, flyer, announced in a magazine, newspaper or television. It may not be possible for every single person to be made aware of the lawsuit, but all reasonable method of notification, specified by the court, should be followed. Consequently, if you are notified of a class option lawsuit that you may be affected by, you will have the right to "opt in" to the lawsuit (join the lawsuit as a class action member) or "opt out" of the lawsuit. Be aware that if the class action has been filed with the court, it may be too late to opt out of the group at the time you are notified and each member of the recognized class will be bound by the court's outcome.

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FAQ: Workers' Compensation

What should I do if I have been injured at work?

If you are injured on the job, you should first report the injury to your employer, ideally in writing, maintaining a copy for your records. Any delay could impair your ability to receive benefits. Seek medical attention as soon as possible.

Next, you must complete a claim form given to you by your employer or your doctor. The employer must provide you with a claim form and you must complete this document completely and specifically in order to receive benefits.

Then, file the claim as soon as possible since any delay on your part could lead to potential snags or holdups in receiving benefits. Immediately reporting injuries and filing a claim as soon as you decide to seek compensation increases the likelihood that benefits will begin quickly. Maintain a copy of the form for your records and provide a copy of the claim form to your employer and your doctor.

Finally, submit the form to the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation for processing.

If you have any concerns or questions, your employer denies your claim, or a dispute arises, you can seek help from the Ohio Bureau of Workers Compensation or a law firm skilled in worker's compensation issues. Although the Bureau of Workers' Compensation may be able to answer some of your questions, they are not allowed to provide you with legal advice. If you have specific questions regarding your claim, it is in your best interest to contact an experienced workers' compensation attorney. We at Bridges, Jillisky, Streng, Weller & Gullifer, LLC are here to help.

Can I sue my employer instead of filing a workers' compensation claim?

In most cases, no. The Ohio Workers' Compensation system was established as a trade-off in which employees gave up the right to sue employers in court for their injuries, in exchange for the right to receive workers' compensation benefits regardless of who was at fault for their injuries. Most employers are required by law to provide workers' compensation coverage for the benefit of their employees. In exchange for providing that coverage, employers are protected from defending personal injury claims brought by employees in civil actions.

Nonetheless, workers' compensation does not prohibit an employee from bringing a claim against his or her employer for an intentional tort, or any injury sustained due to intentional behavior on the part of an employer seeking to harm an employee. Additionally, employees are free to pursue third parties (entities other than the employer) whom they feel are responsible for their work-related injuries. For example, an employee who believes his or her injury was caused by defective equipment may consider filing a lawsuit against the manufacturer of the equipment. An employee who is successful in recovering damages from a third party may either have to pay a portion of the recovery back to the employer to repay the workers' compensation benefits that were received, or the employer may be allowed to become a party to the lawsuit and seek to recover the value of the benefits paid on behalf of the employee.

Can I file a lawsuit if my employer disputes my workers' compensation claim?

Most workers' compensation claims are resolved through an administrative process and not through the court system. Once the administrative process has been exhausted, and the parties have taken every step they can to resolve a claim, including attending administrative hearings, only then can an appeal be pursued into the Common Pleas Court. This can be initiated by either the employer or the employee to determine if the employee has a right to participate in the benefits provided by the workers compensation laws.

What are the rehabilitation rights of injured workers?

The word "rehabilitation" in the area of workers' compensation has two very different meanings. When most people think of rehabilitation, they think of physical therapy or rehabilitative care aimed at overcoming an injury and regaining functionality. There is also vocational rehabilitation. In many cases, injured workers who cannot return to their former employment are entitled to this type of rehabilitation. The amount and type of vocational rehabilitation provided to injured employees varies. Some of the services to which an injured worker may be entitled include:

  • On-the-job training
  • Transferable skills analysis and testing
  • Resume and job application completion services
  • Interview skills and techniques assistance
  • Labor market surveys
  • Job analyses
  • Job search assistance
  • Wage assessment evaluations
  • Vocational rehabilitation counseling
  • Ergonomics assessments
  • Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) reasonable accommodation assistance
  • Medical case management
  • Education and Tuition payments for retraining

The actual vocational rehabilitation benefits to which an injured employee will be entitled are determined by the employee's specific situation, as well as statutory and regulatory limitations.

Workers Compensation is a comprehensive and often complicated system. Bridges, Jillisky, Streng, Weller & Gullifer, LLC are experienced in understanding and applying the Ohio Workers Compensation laws. We frequently represent injured workers before the Ohio Bureau of Workers' Compensation, the Ohio Industrial Commission and in various Common Pleas and Appellate Courts located throughout central Ohio.