Evidence of Sobriety – Independent Lay Witnesses

Ohio Rule of Evidence 701 allows a lay person to testify as to opinions that are based on the person’s own perception and that are relevant.  In a prosecution for OVI, commonly known as DUI or drunk driving, lay testimony about sobriety or lack thereof is common.

The Ohio Supreme Court has determined that almost any witness, even without expert qualifications, can render an opinion about sobriety because it is common to most people’s experience.  However, there should be some foundation, such as whether the witness has prior experience with those under the influence, and based on that experience and opportunity to observe the defendant, whether the witness therefore has an opinion about the defendant’s sobriety or lack thereof.

In most DUI trials, the arresting officer is usually the person rendering an opinion in this regard.  Most police officers in Columbus will be qualified as expert witnesses when it comes to determining whether someone is under the influence, but not always.  The defense has its own opportunity to present lay testimony on the subject of intoxication.  This can be powerful and persuasive evidence.

For instance, the defendant was out with his wife after having dinner and a few drinks when he is stopped by the police for speeding.  The wife has had experience with people in general who are under the influence, and in particular with her husband.  She has also had an opportunity, prior to and during the defendant’s driving, to observe his demeanor, his speech, his ability to operate the vehicle, and generally to form an opinion as to whether he was intoxicated.  The wife therefore becomes an independent lay witness on the subject of her husband’s sobriety.

If you’ve been charged with DUI in Columbus, contact an experienced DUI lawyer to begin preparing your defense by calling (614) 454-5010.

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