A Maryland police officer who suspects that you are driving while intoxicated will likely flash the lights of their vehicle and/or sound the siren. Whether you’re on a highway or a local road, you will need to pull over to the shoulder or to any place where it is safe to stop. The officer will then likely knock on your passenger window and ask you to step out of the car. The officer will also ask you for your driver’s license and car registration.
Provided there wasn’t an accident and injuries to attend to, the officer will then ask you to submit to several types of tests. The first set of tests will be field sobriety tests. The field sobriety tests are usually given at the place where the police officer pulled you over. The second test, if you fail the field sobriety tests, will usually be a breath test. The breath test is usually given at the local/nearest police station. Refusal to take a breath test at the police station can result in the suspension of your driver’s license.
You do have the right to refuse both field sobriety tests and the breath test. The police officer should explain what will happen next if you refuse to take any tests. Generally, all drivers in Maryland give their implied consent to alcohol breath tests when they receive their driver’s license.
The penalty for refusing to take the breath test is a suspension of your driver’s license. In addition, at your DUI trial, the prosecution can inform the judge or jury hearing your case that you refused the breath test. While the MVA consequences are severe, they may be better than taking the test if you know the results will show your blood alcohol level was .08 or more, or that you were driving under the influence bases on your breath and other police observations.
Also, you can be arrested for a DUI even if you refuse to take the field sobriety or breathalyzer tests.
What are the DUI field sobriety tests?
- The stand-on one-leg test. This test requires that the driver stands with one foot about one-half foot off the ground with the toes pointed outward. The driver should be able to keep his/her balance while counting to thirty. Signs of intoxication include putting the foot down early, hopping, or using one’s arm to keep balanced.
- The walk-and-turn test. This test requires that the driver walk nine steps, heel-to-toe, in a straight line, turn on one foot, and then walk backward. Drivers who stop, can’t walk heel-to-toe, or lose their balance will fail this test.
- The horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. This test examines the ability of the driver to focus their eyes. The police officer will ask the driver to focus on an object about 12-15 inches away. The officer will look to see if the focus is smooth and if there are jerky eye movements when the object is at the side of the driver’s line of vision.
Depending on your case, Joseph Carey, a skilled Crofton and Bowie DUI defense lawyer, can challenge the results of the field sobriety tests on the grounds the officer didn’t have grounds to stop you and that the officer did not conduct the test properly.
What is a breath test?
A breath test is a chemical test that requires that you blow into a machine. Normally, you will blow into the machine twice. The test measures the level of alcohol in your bloodstream. If your blood alcohol content (BAC) level is .08%, you can be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol.
It may be possible in your case to challenge the breath test on the grounds that:
- The police did not have a reasonable basis for believing that you were driving while intoxicated and thus did not have grounds to stop you.
- The police officer did not conduct the breath test properly.
- The breath test was not reliable because its accuracy wasn’t recently verified or the breath machine was not an approved machine.
If the results of a breath test can be suppressed, the government’s case becomes much weaker.
What happens when you are arrested for DUI?
If you are arrested, the officer will normally run a background check to see if you have a prior criminal record of if there are any outstanding warrants or charges pending. You will be fingerprinted.
If you don’t have a prior record and there was no accident, you will likely be released on your own recognizance. Otherwise, you may be detained until the commissioner or judge arraigns you and determines your bail.
At the arraignment, the judge or commissioner will:
- State the charges against you. In addition to the DUI charges, the officer may charge you with traffic violations.
- Inform you that you have a right to hire a lawyer.
- Ask you if you plead guilty or not guilty. You should plead not guilty.
In Maryland, you will be charged with a DWI (driving while impaired) if your BAC is .07 or more. You will be charged with a DUI (driving under the influence) if your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .08 or more. If convicted of a DUI, you may face jail (even for a first offense), will be ordered to pay fines, your license will be suspended, and you will have 12 points placed on your driving record.
At Carey Law Office, DUI defense lawyer Joseph Carey fights for anyone charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. We represent defendants throughout Bowie, Crofton, and Calvert County. We often seek to suppress the results of any field sobriety or chemical tests. We also represent defendants at MVA hearings to help protect their right to drive. If you’ve been charged with or arrested for a DUI, call our experienced Bowie and Crofton defense lawyer at 301-464-2500 or fill out our contact form to schedule a consultation.
My name is Joe Carey, and I am the founder and principal attorney of the Carey Law Office. I have lived in Maryland my entire life. I grew up in a small town in Prince George’s County and, with the help of my partner in life, Nancy, I raised my family here: three exceptional children (a son and two daughters), and two goofy, spoiled black Labrador Retrievers. Learn More