Ohio DUI Case Impacted by Police Errors

The DUI defense of Lawrence Prather was boosted by a judge’s decision to prevent the introduction of key drunk driving evidence. Summit County Common Pleas Judge Judy Hunter issued her ruling to dismiss blood test results from trial in response to a series of errors on the part of law enforcement.

Prather, of Akron, Ohio, lost control of his vehicle and crashed shortly after leaving a party with friends. His passenger, Dustin Kalstrom, was killed in the accident. Prather was taken by ambulance to a local medical center with non-life threatening injuries.

Though a blood sample indicated that Prather’s BAC was twice the legal limit, prosecutors were kept from introducing that evidence because Akron Police failed to collect the sample within a time frame mandated by law. Court records show that police missed a statutory two-hour deadline by 21 minutes.

Ohio law specifies the time limit so an accurate blood alcohol level can be determined closest to the time of a suspected alcohol related accident. Earlier this year, state legislators amended the law, increasing the time frame for blood collection to three hours. Because Prather’s accident occurred prior to the new law, however, it has no bearing on his case.

The errors on the part of the Akron Police did not stop there. They did not mail Prather’s driver’s license to Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles in Columbus within a mandated 48 hours so it could be suspended. That allowed Prather to continue driving while his DUI case is pending in court.

The mother of the accident victim, Doris Kalstrom, laments the mishaps, saying, “It’s more frustrating than anything else. Mistakes were made, and nobody seems to be trying to correct them.” Her frustration stems not only from her tragic experience but also from the knowledge that law enforcement officers do not seem to be learning from the past.

In a DUI related accident prior to Prather’s, Akron police collected blood samples at a medical center that does not have a lab certified by the Ohio Department of Health. The law requires lab certification before collected evidence can be admitted in a court of law. As a result, county prosecutors were forced to negotiate a plea agreement with DUI defense attorneys.

Though informed of this error by prosecutors and given the location of a certified lab, Akron police returned to the same medical center in the Prather case. DUI defense attorneys would have been able to void the results, even if the collection of Prather’s blood had taken place within the mandated time frame.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to reconsider her ruling, but there are no plans to appeal her decision to a higher court.

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