September 18, 2014

Elyria
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Warrant seeking blood sample in vehicular homicide case misplaced

Chris DeWitt

Chris DeWitt

ELYRIA — A search warrant for the blood of an Elyria man facing vehicular homicide and other charges for allegedly causing a fatal crash last year has disappeared.

Without the warrant for Christopher DeWitt’s blood, defense attorney Brian Darling argued Monday the results of the blood test shouldn’t be admitted in the case against his client.

Prosecutors contend that DeWitt, 21, was high on marijuana at the time of the May 16, 2013, crash that claimed the life of 28-year-old Dale Welty.

DeWitt was driving a Ford F-350 south on Baumhart Road in Brownhelm Township when he veered left of center and his pickup sideswiped a northbound 2001 Pontiac Grand Am driven by Brandon Danicki.

The pickup then crashed head-on into Welty’s 1994 Honda Civic. The pickup overturned, went off the side of the road and struck a guardrail, according to the Ohio Highway Patrol.

Troopers said they found marijuana at the scene in a lunchbox belonging to DeWitt.

Danicki and a passenger in DeWitt’s truck weren’t injured, but DeWitt was transported to MetroHealth Medical Center in Cleveland, where he was treated and released.

While he was hospitalized, prosecutors in Lorain County prepared a search warrant to get his blood and a trooper took the document to Cuyahoga County Common Pleas Judge Dick Ambrose to get it approved.

The trooper took the signed warrant to the hospital and the blood was drawn. The trooper returned the warrant to Ambrose’s home and gave it to his wife.

Ambrose testified Monday in a hearing before Lorain County Common Pleas Judge John Miraldi that wasn’t the usual protocol, so he took the document with him to work, but has no idea what became of it.

He said he recalled the visit from the trooper and signing the warrant. Ambrose said a draft copy of the document shown to him in court appeared familiar, but he didn’t recall the specific details from a year ago.

After the hearing, Darling said that there were actually two blood draws performed on his client, one of which prosecutors contend his client gave consent for, which DeWitt denies, and the one the warrant was obtained for.

One of the tests shows DeWitt had 36.29 nanograms of marijuana in his system, while the other shows a level of 49.54 nanograms, Darling said. The legal driving limit for marijuana in Ohio is 50 nanograms or less, Darling said.

But even though his client was under the legal limit, he still could be considered impaired, Darling said.

He also said that it can be hard to determine how long before a test someone smoked marijuana because traces of the drug linger in the system for a long time. Darling said DeWitt denies smoking marijuana on the day of the crash, although he declined to say when his client last used the drug.

Lorain County Prosecutor Dennis Will said even if the warrant isn’t found, he doesn’t believe it will preclude the use of the blood test in the case against DeWitt. He said there’s no evidence that anything was deliberately done improperly with the warrant.

“There’s case law to argue it is permissible,” Will said. “The blood would still be admissible because it was taken in good faith.”

Contact Brad Dicken at 329-7147 or bdicken@chroniclet.com. Follow him on Twitter @BradDickenCT.


  • Mark B

    I would argue that because there were monograms in his system , that does not mean he was impaired and I would make the courts prove otherwise. If he was not impaired at the time than it has no factor.

    • Joe Smith

      “I would argue that because there were monograms in his system”
      What does his initials have to do with this?
      Just kidding Mark!

  • Dave Zech

    I say He is still guilty of the Accident . The Drug charges may have to be dropped but that does not get him out of the fact he Caused the accident, and the Homicide.

    • Bill

      Huge difference if the drug charges can’t be used against him though.

    • me101

      The difference is 6 months or 15 years! They screwed the case up. This guy got lucky!

  • Joe Smith

    “But even though his client was under the legal limit, he still could be considered impaired, Darling said.”
    I never understood this, what’s the sense of having a legal limit if you can still be charged? What is the “legal” portion of legal limit?
    Its like if a road is posted 45 MPH and you are driving 45MPH that you can still get a speeding ticket.

    • me101

      The difference is in the sentencing, not the crime. It is misleading, but even one beer can get you an impaired ticket.