July 1, 2016

Partly cloudy

Ohio Supreme Court rules Elyria judge used wrong standard in DUI case

Corrine Codeluppi will get her day in court to argue that field sobriety tests she was given during her August 2011 arrest weren’t administered properly.

The Ohio Supreme Court on Thursday ruled that Elyria Municipal Court Judge Lisa Locke Grave improperly dismissed a motion to suppress evidence filed by the Columbia Station woman’s lawyers without a holding a hearing.

The nearly-unanimous Supreme Court decision said that Codeluppi’s attorneys raised questions about how the tests were given by the North Ridgeville police officer who pulled over Codeluppi and asked for a hearing to explore the issue. The request also asked that statements Codeluppi made not be used against her.

Prosecutors countered that because the defense didn’t explain how the officer had violated standards for administering field sobriety tests, the motion should be thrown out.

Locke Graves agreed, and denied the motion to suppress evidence. Codeluppi pleaded no contest to DUI and was fined $600 and ordered to serve three days in a driver’s intervention program.

But the Supreme Court concluded that the standard Locke Graves was using was incorrect. There is no need for defense attorneys to explain their basis in “excruciating detail,” Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger wrote in the decision.

“The question is whether the language used provides sufficient notice to the state,” Lanzinger wrote.

The Supreme Court determined that Codeluppi’s attorneys had met that burden by explaining there were concerns about the arrest, especially that there wasn’t police video of the arrest or the tests, something that is common in most DUI cases.

Without that evidence, Lanzinger wrote, there was no way for Codeluppi’s attorneys to provide more detailed reasons for asking to suppress the evidence.

The law is clear, Lanzinger wrote, that “the results of the field sobriety tests are not admissible at trial unless the state shows by clear and convincing evidence that the officer administered the test in substantial compliance (with National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) standards.”

Lorain defense attorney Paul Griffin, who filed a legal brief supporting Codeluppi on behalf of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, praised the Supreme Court’s decision.

“The burden of proof is on the prosecution to show why these things are admissible, not on the defense to show why these things shouldn’t be admissible,” he said.

The Supreme Court decision doesn’t guarantee that the evidence will be suppressed, Griffin said, but it will reverse Codeluppi’s conviction and allow her lawyers the chance to argue their position in court.

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com.

About Brad Dicken

Brad Dicken is the senior writer for the Chronicle-Telegram. He covers courts and county government, and has been with the Chronicle since 2001. He can be reached at 329-7147 or BDicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter.