Statute of Limitations Can be Used to Get Ohio DUI Dismissed

Article By Jeremiah Denslow | October 11, 2016

Ohio Revised Code section 2901.13 sets forth the statute of limitations for all Ohio criminal and traffic offenses. The law states that prosecution for an Ohio DUI shall be barred unless it is commenced within the following periods after an offense is committed: (a) for a felony DUI, six years; (b) for a misdemeanor DUI, two years. That means a good DUI lawyer should be able to get the case dismissed if the police wait too long to file charges against an Ohio DUI suspect.

The statute of limitations rarely comes into play in an Ohio DUI case because most citations are issued at the time of the offense, or in the moments immediately after. However, in some situations, the police don’t immediately charge a suspected Ohio DUI driver on the night of the incident. Sometimes, the police delay the case. When the police delay a DUI case, it is generally because law enforcement is waiting on results from a blood test or urine test that a suspected DUI driver took as part of the DUI investigation.

In these cases, law enforcement generally arrest a suspect at the location of the DUI traffic stop, drive the suspect to another location for blood testing or urine testing, and then release the suspect. They don’t immediately file the drinking and driving citation with the local court as they would in breath testing cases or (A)(1)(a) cases because they aren’t yet sure if they have a solid case. Rather, they are forced to wait for the DUI test results.

When the test results come back from the lab, law enforcement would normally file the DUI citation in the local court soon after. However, in rare situations, the lab may lose track of the blood/urine sample or the police may lose track of the test results for months or even years after the offense. In those rare cases, a DUI defendant may be able to utilize the statute of limitations as a defense to their DUI charge.

Unfortunately for this line of defense, a close review of Ohio’s statute of limitations reveals that the prosecution merely has to be commenced, not completed, within the time limitations set forth above. The statute goes on to state that a prosecution is commenced on the date an indictment is filed, a warrantless arrest is made, or on the date a citation is issued. Since virtually all DUI prosecutions start with an arrest immediately after a traffic stop or a citation given after a failed breath test, this would seemingly render the statute of limitations useless in most Ohio DUI cases.

Fortunately, some Ohio appellate courts have determined that an arrest and release does not amount to the commencement of prosecution. (This is helpful for a good DUI lawyer trying to utilize the statute of limitations defense.) As a result, even though DUI suspects are typically arrested at the time of the DUI incident, given appellate case law for guidance, the trial court may be willing to overlook that fact in reviewing a motion to dismiss based upon the statute of limitations.

If a motion to dismiss based upon the statute of limitations doesn’t work, a good DUI lawyer will also explore a dismissal based upon the government’s failure to comply with the constitutional right to a speedy trial. As stated above, the analysis starts with the question of whether a prosecution commenced or started at the time of the DUI incident and arrest. If the court determines that it DID NOT start at that time, then the prosecutor is required to file misdemeanor DUI charges within two years of the incident. In Ohio felony DUI cases, charges must be filed within six years from the date of the offense. If the case is filed later than that, a good DUI defense lawyer can get the case dismissed.

On the other hand, if the trial court believes that prosecution commenced at the time of the DUI incident and arrest, the prosecution is forced to comply with an Ohio defendant’s speedy trial rights. In Ohio DUI cases, the speedy trial time is set forth by Ohio Revised Code section 2945.71. For misdemeanor DUI, the speedy trial time is ninety days. For felony DUI, the speedy trial time is two hundred seventy days. As you can see, the speedy trial time is much quicker than the statute of limitations—a mere ninety days. As such, while the statute of limitations can be a good way to get a DUI case dismissed, most top DUI lawyers will find greater success with a strategy based upon a violation of a DUI defendant’s right to speedy trial than a violation of the statute of limitations.

If you’re reading this because you’re a defendant in an Ohio DUI case, please consult with an Ohio lawyer well-versed in Ohio DUI cases. While the Ohio DUI laws may seem straight forward, there is more to them than meets the eye. For example, the two different types of Ohio DUI defenses discussed above aren’t found anywhere in the Ohio DUI statute. Rather, like many other helpful DUI defense tools, they are hidden elsewhere in the tens of thousands of pages of Ohio law. For a thorough analysis of your DUI case, it’s important to find an Ohio DUI lawyer who has a full understanding of all Ohio DUI laws and regulations.

There are over 1 million laws in the United States. I am a top Ohio DUI/OVI defense lawyer who devotes his entire practice to ONE. Because of my experience and concentrated focus, I know the Ohio DUI/OVI laws better than most attorneys in the state. I am passionate about Ohio DUI/OVI defense and I get results, however, I only accept a limited number of clients. If you’re serious about your case and want a top Ohio DUI/OVI lawyer on your team, call me anytime.