I AM NOT DRUNK! YOU ARE THE DRUNK ONE! A Look At How A Lay Witness Can Land You An OVI Conviction

I always feel like…somebody’s watching me!  Man I am really on a 1980s music kick right now!  Somebody’s Watching Me, by Rockwell along with the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson on the chorus.  Once again, for whatever reason, this song played in my head while I read the case of State v. Romes, 2016-Ohio-5772.

Romes, without a doubt was having one hell of a night until he made that fatal mistake of getting into his vehicle.  Romes was out celebrating a friend’s birthday at a local tavern.  During this little par-tay, a couple was enjoying a little romantic evening out and started observing Romes at the bar drinking heavily.  The woman, Ms. Brummer, was also friends with the same friend Romes was there in celebration.

The tavern closed at 2:30 a.m., and all of the patrons begin to descend out to the parking lot, to end the night and begin the early stages of their foreseeable hangovers.  In this group is Romes, Ms. Brummer, and her man.  As Ms. Brummer and her man left the tavern in their vehicle, they noticed that Romes had pulled off the road and into the gravel behind the tavern.

Being a good tavern buddy, Ms. Brummer pulls up alongside of Romes vehicle to assess the situation.  Unfortunately for Romes, he was slouched over his steering wheel.  Ms. Brummer, however, manages to wake Romes up.  During their conversation, Ms. Brummer noticed that Romes has slurred speech.  Now at this point, Ms. Brummer tries to get Romes to come with her and her man friend because they believed he was intoxicated.  Romes refuses, but instead agrees to drive to another friend’s house just down the road to sleep it off.

Romes follows Ms. Brummer and they eventually make it to the house.  Leaving Romes behind, Ms. Brummer and her man friend are at a stop sign when the felt a forceful hit from the rear of their car.  And wouldn’t you know it; it was their good buddy Romes!

Romes gets out of his car and tells Ms. Brummer that he was “sorry [he] drank so much.”  According to Ms. Brummer, Romes’ speech was still slurred and he appeared disoriented.  Not wanting to stick around to wait for police, Romes took off from the scene of the accident.  A bit latter, a trooper shows up on the scene and gets a very lovely story from Ms. Brummer about what just happened.

With some damning information in hand, the trooper takes off for Romes’ residence.  Upon arrival, Romes answers his door for the trooper.  The trooper noticed that that Romes had “extremely bloodshot and glassy eyes” and slurred speech.  In addition, the trooper further observed Romes carrying a whiskey in one hand and a beer in the other hand.  So, with his own observations and the information he received from Ms. Brummer, the trooper issued Romes with an OVI citation.

To make matters even better for Romes, Romes spilled his guts to Ms. Brummer’s mother!  During a phone call conversation, Romes kept apologizing about the accident.  Specifically, Romes told her that he had too much to drink, he should not have been driving, and he did not mean to hurt anyone.  When discussing why he left the scene of the accident, Romes stated that he wanted to get back home to set out bottles of alcohol to make it look like he was drinking at home.

Wow!  Do you need a drink after reading those facts?!?  I know I do, and I had to type them out!

Alright, so we all know how this went at trial…Romes was convicted of OVI.  A true shocker.

On appeal, Romes argued that his OVI conviction is based on insufficient evidence because the trooper never actually saw him operating a car and the testimony provided by Ms. Brummer and her mother is unreliable.

Are you ready?!?!  Because here comes the part where I discuss law!  Yay!!

Let’s start with the basics!

To prove impaired driving ability, the state can rely on physiological factors (e.g., odor of alcohol, glossy or bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, confused appearance) to demonstrate that a person’s physical and mental ability to drive was impaired.  State v. Peters, 2008-Ohio-6940.

There is no prerequisite that an officer observe erratic driving in order to effectuate an arrest for driving under the influence.  State v. Kurjian, 2006-Ohio-6669.  To boot, virtually any lay witness, without special qualifications, may testify as to whether or not an individual is intoxicated.”  State v. Delong, 2002-Ohio-5289.

Based on that very fascinating case law, the appellate court found that a rational trier of fact (trial court/jury) could have concluded that Romes was intoxicated at the time that he operated his vehicle.

Here is my take away from this alcohol induced Jerry Springer show, TAKE AN UBER!!  Remember, Romes had a way out of this mess by just getting in the car with Ms. Brummer!

Romes was convicted of OVI based on some other tavern patrons’ observations!  Don’t be that guy!

In closing, be safe and responsible during your beer drinking adventures!



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