What Constitutes “Operation” Under Ohio’s DUI Law?

DUI laws in Ohio prohibit the “operation” of a vehicle while under the influence or with a prohibited level of drugs or alcohol.  Ohio Revised Code Section 4511.01(HHH), defines “operation” as “to cause or have caused movement of a vehicle, streetcar, or trackless trolley.”  This definition requires movement, not potential movement.

In most DUI cases the arresting officer has observed some movement by the vehicle prior to making the traffic stop.  However, there are cases where officers come across an immobile or inoperable vehicle and it becomes a serious issue as to whether the prosecution can prove “operation.”  There are two common situations where this issue can arise:  1) when a vehicle is incapable of being moved, due to snow, ice, or mud; and 2) when a vehicle cannot be moved due to some mechanical failure.

Whether a person’s conduct constitutes “operation” often depends on the particular facts of the case.  It is clear though that if some movement of the vehicle is or was made, even mere inches, it is operation.  If a vehicle cannot move due to some mechanical failure, it is the defendant’s burden to prove at trial that the vehicle was inoperable.

If you’ve been charged with operating a vehicle under the influence in Columbus, contact an Experienced DUI Attorney at (614) 454-5010.

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