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05-11-05 Shelby County judge’s drunk driving charge reduced before Celina ruling

By Margie Wuebker

  Shelby County Common Pleas Court Judge John D. Schmitt experienced court action from a different side of the bench in Celina Municipal Court Friday.

  The 60-year-old Schmitt, who resides in Sidney, initially faced charges of operating a vehicle under the influence (OVI) and a license plate violation.
  Schmit pleaded no contest to an amended charge of operating a vehicle without reasonable control while the license plate violation was dismissed.
  Judge James Scheer imposed a $150 fine, suspended Schmitt's operator's license for a period of one year and ordered him to attend alcohol school. Costs also were assessed to the defendant. The operator's license suspension includes 30 days of "hard time" or a period during which he is not permitted to operate a motor vehicle.
  Acting upon a request from the defendant, Scheer granted driving privileges effective May 25. They are limited to driving to and from employment with Shelby County Common Pleas Court as well as related judicial and professional appointments. Additionally, he is permitted to drive to medical appointments and has several hours each Saturday in which to attend to household needs.  Sgt. C.R. McCruter, a trooper with the Wapakoneta unit of the Ohio State Highway Patrol, stopped Schmitt's 1994 beige Cadillac after noticing the rear license plate was not illuminated as required by law. The traffic stop occurred at 9:23 p.m. April 25 along state Route 219 near Moorman Road, not far from the judge's vacation home in the Club Island area. His wife was a passenger in the vehicle.
  McCruter reportedly conducted a field sobriety test after smelling the odor of an alcoholic beverage on Schmitt's breath. Based on the judge's performance, he ascertained there was probable cause to request a breathalyzer test, according to post commander Lt. Dan Lay.
  Schmitt was taken to the Celina Police Department, where he refused to take the test that would have determined blood-alcohol content. Refusal to take the test results in an immediate license suspension with a driving under the influence charge also coming based on the observations of the officer.
  Lay indicated Schmitt, who was cooperative throughout the process, identified himself as a judge after arriving at the police department. Following the filing of charges, McCruter drove the Schmitts to their summer home
  "Speaking on behalf of the patrol, we make approximately 25,000 OVI arrests throughout the state each year and we try to treat everyone the same," Lay said. "For every 10 arrests, we end up taking nine home."
  City law director Kevin McKirnan indicated Schmitt received no special favors due to his occupation, indicating his sentence was the same as any "John Q. public who comes through the courtroom door."
  Schmitt was represented by local attorney Lou Schiavone.


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