Law Enforcement Accused of Cheating on Ohio DUI Breath Testing Exam
By: Mary Ann Pekara
With the new school year underway, you tend to reflect on your first days of school as you send your anxious children to the bus this fall. You learned a lot of important lessons in the classroom the first day: always write your name on your paper, play nice with others, turn homework in on time and don't cheat.
You may have been taught these simple rules years ago, but they are applicable in everyday life and are important policies that many of us still apply in the real world. After recent events, it seems as if not everyone was paying attention on the first day of class.
At the end of July, Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles released a statement accusing at least 15 people, including highway patrol troopers, Jackson Township police and state employees of running a scandal involving cheating on Ohio DUI testing exams, reported The Independent out of Massillon, Ohio.
According to Charles' report, the officers kept cheat sheets in their uniform pockets when taking the Breath Alcohol Certification Renewal Exam and then lied to investigators about the operation.
Given each year, the Ohio breath test enforcement exam tests the officers' knowledge on how to use breath analysis equipment to administer DUI arrests.
During an interview with The Canton Repository, Perry Township Police Chief Timothy Escola said that the test was easy because it asked the same questions year after year. There was no reason the officers should be using a cheat sheet on an exam like this, Escola added.
Who Was Involved and How Did It Work?
Among the people accused of cheating on the Ohio breath test exam were five sergeants and seven state troopers, with trooper Anthony Maroon of North Canton the alleged ringleader.
Maroon reportedly supplied officers with copies of the answer sheets for the annual Breath Alcohol Certification Renewal Exam on April 4, 2008. After gathering witness statements, the investigation reports that the scandal actually began in March of 2007 when Maroon made copies of his answer sheet and later shared with other officers. The investigation concluded that the troopers cheated on six different dates when the test was offered, according to The Canton Repository.
While first discovering the scheme, test administrator Craig Yanni was also included in the report. According to The Independent, Yanni left the room during the test, allowing troopers the chance to cheat
In the report, Charles recommends that the Highway Patrol punishes the troopers appropriately. The Jackson Township, Montgomery and Blue Ash police departments along with Highway Patrol are conducting their own investigations before coming to any conclusions on what to do with the officers.
A Cause for Concern - Could This Affect Certain Ohio DUI Cases?
The Independent reported that Massillon Law Director Pericles G. Stergios did not believe the accusations of cheating would escalate to criminal charges after reviewing the report.
And Tom Hunter, a spokesman for the Department of Public Safety, said he doubted the scandal would affect Ohio DUI arrests made by the officers because DUI charges are based on a person's inability to pass field sobriety tests instead of blood alcohol tests.
Stergios also agreed with Hunter but told The Independent that defense attorneys could choose to attack the credibility of the accused troopers in related Ohio DUI cases.
Even though DUI charges are based on field tests, it is alarming to hear about officers who could be pulling you over and asking you to take a breath test but needed to cheat in order to be certified to work the equipment.
What kind of credibility should be given to an officer at a DUI trial who says he administered the test but cheated on the examination of knowledge using these tools? It also brings up the question of if these officers are cheating on a simple test they must take every year, what else could they be cheating on?
When other officers reflected on the scandal, they felt that it was unnecessary for the troopers to cheat because the assessment used the same questions every year.
Is the test really serving its purpose if those officers that don't cheat can memorize their answers from year to year? The only thing this examination seems to be testing is whether officers can remember what they wrote from last year.
Driving under the influence is a serious crime that should not be taken lightly. Officials are always warning us about the consequences we will suffer if we take the risk of drinking and driving. We should expect that the officers pulling people over and administering blood alcohol tests would take the matter seriously as well.