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Can an empty bottle lead to OVI charges in Ohio?

On Behalf of | Apr 26, 2023 | OUI/OVI |

Before a police officer can arrest you on a drinking and driving (OVI) charge, they must have probable cause that you committed the crime. Police and sheriff’s deputies are trained to gather evidence during a traffic stop to reasonably justify an arrest.

You can probably guess many types of evidence that can add up to probable cause for an OVI arrest: traffic violations, slurred speech, the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath or inside the vehicle, failed breath test and/or field sobriety tests. But you might not know that an empty liquor, beer or wine bottle somewhere in your vehicle could also mean a night in jail and serious criminal charges.

Liquor bottles found in motorist’s purse

In a recent example, a Logan County sheriff’s deputy arrested a woman in a disabled vehicle after allegedly finding empty bottles of flavored whisky in her purse. While a news report about the arrest does not specify, it seems likely that the bottles were miniature “shooter” sized.

According to the article, the deputy says he observed the bottles inside the woman’s purse while she searched for her ID. Generally, an officer would need a search warrant to search a suspect’s bag. It appears the deputy is claiming that the bottles were “in plain view,” which is an exception to the warrant requirement. The woman said she had drunk the bottles the previous night and denied being intoxicated.

After observing the bottles, the deputy had the woman perform field sobriety tests, which she allegedly failed. The deputy also said the woman smelled of alcohol. He then arrested the woman based on the empty bottles, odor and his judgment of her field sobriety test performance.

Options besides a guilty plea may still be available

As you can see, an empty bottle in your vehicle can put you at risk of OVI charges in Ohio. But getting arrested does not mean you will be convicted at trial or that you have no choice but to plead guilty. Depending on the facts of your case, you could have options to get the charges reduced or dismissed.