Can an Error in a DUI Citation Result in Dismissal of DUI charges?

Article By Jeremiah Denslow | October 3, 2016


I recently received a call from a DUI suspect who asked if an error in her traffic ticket would be legal grounds to get the case dismissed. I told her that it’s quite possible, however the error must typically be fairly significant to warrant a dismissal. While I’ve obtained a few juicy deals over the years based upon errors in a citation, those cases are few and far between.

Virtually all Ohio DUI charges are initiated by a traffic citation issued by a law enforcement officer. Once an Ohio driver is issued a citation for drinking and driving, the first step for a DUI lawyer is to physically examine the charging document to determine whether the citation meets the legal requirements for sufficiency.

The Ohio Supreme Court has determined that the name of the violation, in this case DUI, OVI or something similar is required to be written into the citation, along with the numerical section of the Ohio Revised Code involved in the violation. Normally, a driver is given a citation with a box checked next to the acronym “OVI.” The citation further contains two additional boxes next to “OVI,” which allows the charging officer to indicate whether the OVI is a “per se” violation or an (A)(1)(a) violation. The “per se” box would be checked if the suspected DUI driver agreed to take a breath, blood or urine test and submitted a sample above the legal limit. The “under the influence” box would be checked if the driver: (a) refused the test; or (b) tested under the legal limit but the officer felt the suspected DUI driver was driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs nonetheless.

The Supreme Court of Ohio has decided that it’s not necessary for the charging officer to specify whether he believes the suspected DUI driver was under the influence of: (a) alcohol; or (b) drugs. The officer is also not required to specify the type of drugs believed to be involved. The simple phrase DUI or OVI is sufficient for purposes of notice and legal analysis. In addition to the language used in describing the offense, the Ohio Traffic Rules provide that the officer issuing the ticket shall sign and complete the citation, serve a citation upon the suspected DUI driver and file a copy with the court.

Most case law this author reviews demonstrates that the Ohio Supreme Court and lower level appellate courts are reluctant to find an Ohio DUI citation is insufficient as a matter of law. Ohio court rulings in DUI cases generally show that officers are given great flexibility in drafting a DUI or OVI citation and minor errors will be overlooked or justified by the courts. As a result, dismissals at the trial court level, based upon insufficiency of the written citation are few and far between. So….if you’re reading this article as part of an attempt to get your DUI charge dismissed because the written citation is insufficient, don’t hold your breath. Get a good DUI lawyer instead.