A DUI is a serious charge and, if convicted, the consequences can impact your life from both a legal and personal standpoint. Many of us, unfortunately, are unaware of what our rights are or what possible defenses could potentially be used in our favor when facing such charges. Of course, if you are ever arrested for a DUI, your first move should be to seek the skilled legal assistance of an experienced criminal defense attorney. However, as the old adage goes, knowledge is power, so it would also be wise to educate yourself on this matter in order to be prepared for the future.
Below is a list of some of the most frequently asked questions along with their accompanying answers:
- Do I have to take a field sobriety test? Being pulled over by a law enforcement officer or stopped at a DUI checkpoint is an intimidating experience and you might feel obligated to agree to any of the officer’s requests, but you have a right to refuse to take a field sobriety test. Standard filed sobriety tests include: Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test (following an object with your eyes while the officer looks for involuntary jerking of your pupil), 9 step walk and turn test (walking 9 steps heel to toe in a straight line), one leg stand test, saying the alphabet and counting backwards. Field Sobriety Tests do NOT include the official breath test at the police station. Field Sobriety Tests are designed to be failed. Chances are that, at this stage, the police officer already decided to arrest you and is simply trying to gather more evidence against you for the prosecuting attorney. If you refuse, you will still likely be arrested, but at least you will have been able to avoid hurting your chances of beating this charge in court. If you drank more than one drink during the hour before the traffic stop it is usually best to politely decline to participate in any field sobriety test. Even if you have not consumed alcohol, it is best to refuse to participate in any field sobriety test. There are no penalties for refusing field sobriety tests (not including the official breath test after arrest). If you perform poorly on the tests you could still be charged and convicted of DUI even though you are innocent. It is quite possible for sober people to fail these tests. If you have not consumed any alcohol then you should take the official breath test at the police station. If you are innocent of driving under the influence of alcohol the breath test will prove it and be admissible in court. Always be polite to the police officer and obey his general commands, but you have the right to refuse the field sobriety tests.
- What are the consequences of refusing a chemical test? The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) will suspend a person’s driver’s license if he refuses to take a breathalyzer or blood test upon request by a police officer. For a first-time offense, this would result in a 270-day license suspension. For a second and third offense, this would result in a one-year suspension. The suspension for a refusal cannot be modified to a restricted license permitting a person to drive for work and school only.
- Should I take the breath test after I am arrested for DUI? There is no standard answer that applies to every situation and individual. You will have to make this difficult decision on your own. If you refuse to take the test then Maryland will suspend your Maryland driver’s license for a minimum of 270 days, more if you have refused a breath test previously. This is a substantial disadvantage of refusing the test. If you take the test, and you blow a .08 or above, your license will be suspended for 180 days for a first offense (more if there was an accident involving a death). This suspension may be modified to permit driving for work and/or school only unless you blow over a .15. In addition, a breath test result of .07 or above will be used as evidence against you in court to prove that you are guilty of DUI. The maximum penalty for DUI in Maryland is one year in jail and a $1,000 fine (higher if you were previously convicted of DUI or DWI). If you refuse the test then you deny the State the strongest evidence that you were impaired by alcohol. Of course, you should take the breath test if you have not had any alcohol to drink, or you are really sure you are not impaired and you drank no more than one alcoholic drink per hour
- Can I turn around at a DUI checkpoint? Believe it or not, there is actually no law against turning around to avoid a DUI checkpoint and a police officer cannot follow and arrest you for doing so. However, if you violate any traffic laws while turning around, this would give law enforcement officers a reason to stop you. Therefore, if you do wish to turn around to avoid a checkpoint, make sure you obey all traffic laws and drive safely. Otherwise, you will face consequences not only for the DUI, but for any other violations as well.
- How many drinks does it take to reach the legal limit in Maryland? Every person is different, so it is impossible to answer this question. Maryland’s BAC limit is .08, but since every individual has unique physical characteristics, including weight, sex, the number of drinks consumed over a span of time, and how much the individual ate throughout the day, to name a few, the number of drinks it takes for a person to reach the legal limit in Maryland can vary immensely. The safest way to ensure you avoid a DUI is to simply not drink if you plan to operate a motor vehicle.
- Are there substantially more DUIs during the holidays in Maryland? The holidays, particularly Thanksgiving and Christmas, experience a major rise in DUI incidents and accidents. This is largely due to the fact that there is an increase in traveling and parties. To combat this, police officers are often out in full force during these times to look for drunk drivers and, unfortunately, sometimes drivers are wrongly charged, especially given that DUI testing is generally not perfect and subject to human error.
- Should I drive drunk and just refuse all tests if I am caught by the police? No, you should not drive drunk or even when you may be impaired by alcohol. You can be too impaired to legally drive even if you don’t feel “drunk”. The legal standard for alcohol impairment while driving is very low. Two or three alcohol drinks in a short enough period of time can cause you to be impaired. Driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs is a crime because it is dangerous for you, your passengers and other drivers and pedestrians. If you seriously injure or kill another person while driving impaired you could go to prison for a long time. If you have a conscience, it will be very difficult for you to live with the guilt of killing another person while driving drunk. Think about these possible consequences before you go out drinking and before you get behind the wheel.
- Do I need to retain an attorney if I am charged with DUI in Maryland? Yes, you need to hire an attorney if you are charged with DUI or DWI in Maryland. This is a serious criminal charge. You could be sentenced to jail. Your license to drive could be suspended or revoked for a long time. Even if you are guilty, a lawyer can help to minimize the consequences of a DUI charge. A DUI defense lawyer will explore your defenses, keep you informed, give you advice on ways to improve the outcome of your case, negotiate hard with the prosecutor for a better deal, collect and present evidence to the court that helps you, and speak on your behalf in court.
DUI Criminal Defense Attorney in Salisbury
If you are facing DUI charges, we understand that this is a difficult and overwhelming time for you. At MacDonald Law Office, LLC in Salisbury, our team of DUI criminal defense attorneys is dedicated to protecting the rights and freedom of every client we serve to ensure they are able to achieve the best possible results for their situation. Too much is at stake to risk handling this on your own.
Get started on safeguarding your future today and reach out to our law office at (410) 348-7809 to request your free initial case evaluation with one of our knowledgeable criminal defense attorneys.