Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious charge in every state across the country, including Maryland. Some drivers are pulled over and arrested for a DUI when they have not had any alcohol at all; others have had very little to drink, but have had enough to cause suspicion. According to FBI arrest statistics, there were nearly 20,000 DUI arrests in Maryland in 2011. Statistic Brain states there were 23,000 in 2013. Of those arrested, few hire a criminal defense attorney and oftentimes receive large penalties, such as a suspended licensed for up to 2.5 years and 3 years in jail for 3rd-time offenders. We would like to provide you with some DUI help to let you know what to do after a DUI to help you build a stronger case.
Getting Pulled Over
If you make the decision to drive under the influence, you’re likely to be pulled over no matter the distance to your home. When you’re under the influence, your vision, reflexes, and other functions are limited. While driving, an officer may notice you swerving, driving exceedingly slow, or speeding. Whether he/she is suspicious or not when he/she pulls you over, they may know you are intoxicated the moment they reach your window.
Many drivers are unaware of their rights when they are pulled over. Here are the stages a police officer may (and likely will) take upon reaching your window:
- Ask for your license and registration – The officer will begin by taking your license and registration and inputting it into his/her system in the police car. They will check for outstanding warrants for your arrest, past charges, and other miscellaneous information (address, phone number, etc.). They may not hand your license back to you right away.
- “Have you been drinking?” – The officer will come back and ask you if you have been drinking. You reserve the right not to answer any questions the officer asks you. If you do not wish you answer, do not be rude to the officer. They have more power in the situation of DUIs than in many other traffic-related stops; they can arrest you in the suspicion of intoxication, unless you accept the tests and pass. We recommend complying to the officer’s questions to help with your court date later on.
- Sobriety tests – The next stage in a suspected DUI traffic stop is the sobriety test(s). These tests are designed to only be completed by someone who is sober and aware. If you are indeed intoxicated, then you should know that you will not pass these tests, even if you believe you can. You do not have to take the sobriety tests; however, the officer will likely arrest you upon refusal because of the implied consent laws in Maryland. Depending on your case, you may be better off failing the sobriety test to prove that you did in fact believe you could perform. Refusal tells the prosecutors that you were fully aware of your intoxication. Be mindful that there are dash cams on many police vehicles that will be used against you in court.
- Breathalyzer – One sobriety test that stands out to most is the breathalyzer test. The officer will ask you to blow into a device which measures the blood alcohol content (BAC) levels of your breath. If you have a BAC of .08 or higher, then you are legally intoxicated and will be arrested on the spot. You do not have to take the breathalyzer test if you do not wish. But, once again, you may be arrested upon refusal because of the implied consent laws in Maryland. The breathalyzer test is only permissible if they have reasonable suspicion. If they do not have reasonable suspicion and ask you to take the breathalyzer test, you are in much better shape if you go to court.
Rights You Should Know
You should always be aware of the following rights concerning a DUI.
- You do not have to offer any personal information, except your license and registration.
- All sobriety tests are optional. (Possible arrest upon refusal)
- The breathalyzer test is also optional. (Possible arrest upon refusal)
- If you were pulled over because of a minor traffic violation, such as not using a turn signal, then you can and should stick to the reason the officer pulled you over.
- The officer may not request a breathalyzer test (also known as a chemical test) if he/she does not have reasonable suspicion. This means that if you are pulled over for a broken tail light, not using a turn signal, or another very minor traffic violation, then there is no reason to suspect any substances are involved.
- You reserve the right to ask the officer why he pulled you over and stick to that issue at hand.
- The officer can ask you to step out of the vehicle, but you do not have to take any sobriety tests. If there is no reason to suspect substance involvement at this stage, you should refuse all tests and questioning.
Mistakes and Inaccurate Readings:
- If the officer does arrest you and does not read the Miranda Rights, nothing you say can be used against you in court, even in questioning at the station.
- If you are unnecessarily forced by the officer to take the breathalyzer test, the results can be nullified in court.
- The breathalyzer may report an incorrect reading. In fact, it does so almost half of the time. If you submit to the breathalyzer and the reading is very close to .08 you may request a re-test. If the first result was over .08, the officer will almost never allow a re-test with the breathalyzer.
- You may request a second BAC test (blood or urine) if you feel you are not intoxicated and the breathalyzer was indeed wrong. The officer is legally bound to allow this request. If the officer refuses to allow a second test, you will build a stronger case against the charges. One important note: the second test could make or break your case, so exercise this right with caution.
- If you are not intoxicated, you may ask if the officer has a video camera in his dashboard. If he does, ask if it is recording. If you are not intoxicated, then it can be highly advantageous for you request he turn it on.
If you are indeed arrested under DUI charges, then hiring a criminal defense attorney is the best move.
- You have the right to a criminal defense attorney. Always choose one that has experience in the field.
- A lawyer will talk with you about what happened, step-by-step if possible.
- Tell your attorney if you believe the officer didn’t follow the law the way he/she was supposed to, including forcing a breathalyzer test.
- In many cases, a criminal defense attorney may be able to prove questionable any sobriety tests you may have performed and failed.
- An attorney can also assist you in requesting the footage from the dashcam for the hearing.