October 25, 2014

Medina
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Drunken driving case is returned to municipal court

AKRON — An appellate court on Monday overturned a municipal judge’s ruling in May that a 25-year-old man’s arrest for drunken driving by Hinckley Township police a year earlier was improper.

Michael F. Horvath, of North Royalton, was charged in Medina Municipal Court with two counts of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and failing to drive in marked lanes.

Horvath’s attorney, David Sheldon, argued the charge should be thrown out because police had no reason to stop Horvath. Municipal Judge Dale H. Chase granted the motion and city prosecutors appealed.

Hinckley police Officer David Stepka testified at a suppression hearing that he saw a vehicle in front of him on Ridge Road swerve in “a serpentine-like motion,” “pretty much going from the center line to the fog line” at about 3 a.m. May 25, 2012, according to the 9th District Court of Appeals’ ruling.

“Officer Stepka testified that he typically initiates a traffic stop under these circumstances because such driving at that hour is often indicative of drunk driving,” the appellate judges wrote.

Stepka said Horvath’s eyes were glassy and bloodshot and that he smelled of alcohol. Horvath admitted to drinking two beers, Stepka said, and failed sobriety tests. Stepka then arrested Horvath.

The appellate judges said Chase erred by failing to consider all of Stepka’s testimony in his judgment entry.

“The trial court granted the motion on the sole basis that ‘driving on one of the lines indicating the lane markings of the highway but not over the lines does not constitute a (traffic) violation,” the appellate judges wrote.

The appeals court reinstated the case and sent it back to Chase’s courtroom.

Contact reporter Nick Glunt at (330) 721-4048 or nglunt@medina-gazette.com.