By jeanne starmack
A Struthers police officer who was charged with operating a vehicle impaired then fired should know soon if he will get his job back.
Former officer Daniel Lamping also continues to drive unrestricted because the Mahoning County Court in Boardman stayed his license suspension.
Lamping, 34, who was a full-time city officer for seven years, was fired July 27 after an Ohio State Highway Patrol trooper charged him with OVI during a traffic stop on South Avenue in Boardman on July 16.
The Ohio Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association requested an arbitration hearing on Lamping’s behalf, and that took place in October.
City Safety Services Director Ed Wildes said Friday that the city is expecting to hear the arbitrator’s decision sometime this month, and that decision will be binding.
Meanwhile, Lamping’s criminal case still is pending in the county court.
The OVI arrest was Lamping’s first, and he refused field-sobriety and breath tests. Under Ohio law, his license automatically was suspended for one year because of that refusal. If he had submitted to tests and was over the legal limit, the law calls for a 90-day suspension on a first offense.
At Lamping’s arraign-ment July 19, however, Mahoning County Court Judge Joseph Houser stayed the license suspension pending an appeals hearing for it.
Assistant County Prosecutor Martin Hume, who prosecutes cases in the Boardman court, said that is an unusual circumstance but it was at the request of the defense attorney, who at first wanted the suspension dismissed. Hume said he would not agree to the dismissal and decided to allow due process, and he also said he believed the ALS hearing would take place at a motion-to- suppress hearing in court Oct. 30. Hume explained that the issues of evidence-suppression and license-suspension appeal are largely the same, and the judge would consider both at once.
At the suppression hearing, defense attorney Mark Lavelle asked the court to throw out evidence against Lamping, arguing that the trooper did not have probable cause to even stop him.
But when Hume asked the judge for an ALS hearing as well, Lavelle objected, saying he did not expect it and needed more time to prepare for it.
Judge Houser agreed with Lavelle, telling The Vindicator after the suppression hearing that he likely would rule on the motion to suppress “in two weeks,” and the ALS issue could be decided after that.
As of Friday, there still was no ruling on the motion to suppress.
Court administrator Colleen Ingram said that either the prosecution or the defense could ask for an ALS hearing, and the court simply handles scheduling.
Lavelle’s client has his driving privileges, so it would be unlikely he would ask for a hearing, Hume pointed out Friday.
“The defense won’t request it because there is a stay,” he said.
Hume said he believes “it makes sense” for the prosecution to wait as well.
“The judge has heard essentially the same evidence,” he said. “I’m willing to wait and go from there.”
If Judge Houser rules in favor of the defense on the motion to suppress, that will likely cripple the prosecution’s case, Hume acknowledged.