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State of Ohio v. Justin C. Miller

December 3, 2012

STATE OF OHIO, PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
JUSTIN C. MILLER, DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Criminal Appeal from the Portage County Municipal Court, Ravenna Division, Case No. R2011 TRC 15234.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Diane V. Grendell, J.

Cite as State v. Miller,

OPINION

Judgment: Reversed and remanded.

{¶1} Plaintiff-appellant, the State of Ohio, appeals the judgment of the Portage County Municipal Court, Ravenna Division, granting defendant-appellee, Justin C. Miller's, Motion to Suppress/Motion in Limine. The issue before this court is whether a trial court, in the performance of its role as gatekeeper, may require the State to demonstrate the general scientific reliability of a breath testing instrument where the Ohio director of health has approved such instrument for determining the concentration of alcohol in a person's breath. For the following reasons, we reverse the decision of the court below.

{¶2} On November 24, 2011, Miller was issued a traffic ticket, charging him with Speeding, a minor misdemeanor in violation of R.C. 4511.21(C); Operating a Vehicle while under the Influence ("OVI"), a misdemeanor of the first degree in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(d) (operating a vehicle with "a concentration of eight-hundredths of one gram or more but less than seventeen-hundredths of one gram by weight of alcohol per two hundred ten liters of the person's breath"); and OVI, a misdemeanor of the first degree in violation of R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(a) (operating a vehicle "under the influence of alcohol").

{¶3} On November 28, 2011, Miller entered a plea of "not guilty."

{¶4} On January 17, 2012, Miller filed a Motion to Suppress/Motion in Limine, challenging, inter alia, the results of a breath test taken by Miller at the time of the citation.

{¶5} On April 13, 2012, a hearing was held on the Motion to Suppress/Motion in Limine. Counsel for Miller argued that the State was required to demonstrate the scientific reliability of the Intoxilyzer 8000, the breath test instrument used to determine the concentration of alcohol in Miller's breath. The State presented no testimony, but maintained that a general challenge to the scientific reliability of the Intoxilyzer 8000 was impermissible under the authority of State v. Vega, 12 Ohio St.3d 185, 465 N.E.2d 1303 (1984).

{¶6} On April 16, 2012, the municipal court issued a Journal Entry granting Miller's Motion with respect to the results of the Intoxilyzer 8000. The court stated that "the Defendant's breath test shall not be admitted during the trial in this matter," and, "[t]herefore, Count 2, a violation of ORC 4511.19(A)(1)(d), is dismissed."

{¶7} On April 18, 2012, the State filed its Notice of Appeal.

{¶8} On May 15, 2012, the municipal court stayed all proceedings pending appeal.

{¶9} On appeal, the State raises the following assignments of error:

{¶10} "[1.] The Portage County Municipal Court erred in permitting a general attack on the scientific reliability of the Intoxilyzer 8000 contrary to Ohio statutes and well-established case law."

{¶11} "[2.] The Portage County Municipal Court erred in sua sponte dismissing the per se violation under R.C. 4511.19(A)(1)(d) in count two."

{¶12} The appropriate standard of review where the lower court's judgment is challenged on a purported misconstruction of the law is de novo. State v. Morris, 132 Ohio St.3d 337, 2012-Ohio-2407, 972 N.E.2d 528, ¶ 16. "In determining a pure question of law, an appellate court may properly ...


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