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Media > Newsletters > Law Enforcement Bulletin > November 2013 > Driving and Intoxication (Disorderly Conduct): State of Ohio v. Vause

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Driving and Intoxication (Disorderly Conduct): State of Ohio v. Vause

Question: Do you have probable cause to arrest an individual for disorderly conduct if she is intoxicated, even if she is polite and cooperative?
Quick Answer: Yes, if her condition poses a potential of physical harm to self, others, or property.

State of Ohio v. Vause, Fifth Appellate District, Ashland County, Sept. 18, 2013
Facts: Sgt. Jerry Bloodhart of the Ashland Police Department pulled over a wrong-way driver and made an OVI arrest. Gretel Vause, the passenger, was obviously intoxicated. Bloodhart asked if there was anyone who could pick her up. Vause gave Bloodhart a telephone number for a relative, but that individual refused to pick her up. Bloodhart believed Vause was unable to care for herself and unable to walk the 11 miles home. At that point, Bloodhart arrested Vause for disorderly conduct and took her to jail.
Vause argued Bloodhart did not have probable cause to arrest her for disorderly conduct because she was not passed out, was polite and cooperative, answered Bloodhart’s questions, and gave her identification without issue. Bloodhart argued he arrested Vause because she was intoxicated, no one would come get her, and she was a danger to herself if she tried to walk home. The court determined that Bloodhart properly arrested Vause for disorderly conduct based on the facts and circumstances.
Importance: Disorderly Conduct (R.C. 2917.11 (B)(2)) includes voluntarily intoxicated people who create a condition that risks physical harm to persons or property. To charge on a disorderly, the person must be more than just drunk. They must actually do something (or in this case, not be able to do something) that causes the risk of harm. In this case, Bloodhart used his professional judgment to determine that Vause’s conduct, if allowed to walk home, would create risk of harm to herself.
Keep in Mind: Consider the alternative. If Bloodhart had let Vause walk home and she was injured or killed, he could have faced a dereliction of duty allegation. (See State of Ohio v. Beggs, Fifth Appellate District, Delaware County, Aug. 6, 2013, in the September Law Enforcement Bulletin). Your decision to either arrest a passenger for intoxication or let her walk away has potentially lasting consequences for that individual and yourself, regardless of the outcome of a legal action.