DUI Breath Tests in Maryland
Understand Your Legal Rights & Options
Contrary to what some Maryland drivers think, if a police officer suspects that you are drinking and driving and pulls you over, you are not legally required to submit to a breathalyzer test or other types of chemical testing. In some instances, it may even be advantageous for you to refuse to submit to the test. Even though you are not required to “blow” in Maryland, it is important to understand that this refusal can come with some potentially negative consequences.
The Maryland DUI defense lawyers at Alpert Schreyer Poe, LLC can meet with you to discuss the facts and circumstances of your case and can help you fully understand all of your legal rights. Our attorneys can also explain to you the legal ramifications of refusing to submit to a breathalyzer test, as well as the potential consequences that you may incur from making such a refusal.
What Is a Breathalyzer Test?
The small plastic computer known as a breathalyzer is probably not unfamiliar to anyone who has been involved in a DUI traffic stop. This device is now a very common standard for law enforcement efforts to catch suspected drunk drivers.
What many Americans do not know is that even this technical tool is coming under scrutiny as an imprecise way to measure breath alcohol levels.
The breathalyzer takes in air that the DUI defendant blows into it and calculates a breath alcohol reading. Courts use the breath alcohol level provided to establish a level of intoxication. But how does a breathalyzer really work? Legal experts involved in DUI case work can point to a number of issues that drivers should know about if they are charged with a DUI based on the results of one of these breath tests.
Breathalyzers are known to be prone to:
- False readings: Experts can provide a number of “false flags” that can artificially raise the result of this breath test. These include some types of gastrointestinal conditions as well as situations where food or hygiene products throw off readings of the alcohol level in the mouth and windpipe. Another thing that DUI lawyers are talking about these days is a “partition ratio,” where scientists have found that a breathalyzer doesn’t work exactly the same way for each person because of a number of variable factors. Generally, some of the most accurate scientific research is suggesting that the standard range of results that a breathalyzer machine provides is not precise enough to be really effective in determining true intoxication.
- Technical errors: Just like any machine, breathalyzers are prone to some malfunctions or errors. Some DUI lawyers have gone so far as to ask for the source code of a breathalyzer machine to make sure that its readings were accurate for their client.
Consequences of Refusing to Take a Breathalyzer Test in Maryland
Suppose that you are driving down the highway and you see those dreaded red and blue flashing lights in your rearview mirror signaling you to pull over. If a police officer has grounds to suspect that you have been drinking, he or she can pull you over and request that you submit to a breathalyzer test. The officer can do this because when you are issued a Maryland driver’s license, you become a party to an implied contract. Under the terms of this contract, it is implied that when you are pulled over, you will submit to an officer’s request for a breathalyzer test. Your refusal to do so under the circumstances essentially amounts to a breach of your contract with the State of Maryland. As a result, there can be serious consequences.
In the event you refuse to take a breathalyzer test in Maryland, you can be subject to:
- License suspension of 120 days for a first-time breathalyzer test refusal
- License suspension of one year for a second or subsequent breathalyzer test refusal
The knowledgeable team of lawyers at Alpert Schreyer Poe can help you determine whether or not you should refuse a breathalyzer test and can help to safeguard your legal rights while your criminal case is pending.
Getting Your Driving Privileges Back after Refusing a Breathalyzer Test
If you opt to refuse a breathalyzer test, the chances are that your license will be suspended for a very long time. The offending driver may still be able to drive if he or she agrees to participate in the State’s ignition interlock program (that is, “blow and go”). However, the ignition interlock program is expensive and time consuming. First of all, you will need to pay to have the ignition interlock device installed on your vehicle, and you will also need to pay for required maintenance, which must be performed on the system every month or so.
Once an ignition interlock device is installed on your vehicle, you will need to blow into the device a certain number of times in order to start your vehicle. If you blow into the device and the device detects any amount of alcohol on your breath, the vehicle will not start. In some cases, too, other things besides alcohol can trigger the device and cause the vehicle not to start.
The Potential Benefit of Refusing to Take a Breathalyzer Test
In some cases and under certain circumstances, there may be some benefit to refusing a breathalyzer test. In Maryland DUI cases, breathalyzer test results are a crucial piece of evidence in the case, and judges use this evidence in order to convict defendant drivers and ultimately sentence them.
Prosecutors — or State’s Attorneys — in Maryland have the burden of proving their cases “beyond a reasonable doubt,” or beyond a doubt based upon ordinary reason and common sense. If the driver refused to take the breathalyzer test, then the State does not have a crucial piece of evidence to introduce at trial. In that case, it can be much more difficult for the prosecutor to prove his or her case and secure a conviction.
Consult with Alpert Schreyer Poe
If you have been asked to take a breathalyzer test, it is a good idea to first consult with an experienced Maryland DUI attorney who can help you decide what to do. In Maryland, if you ask to speak with an attorney prior to undergoing a breathalyzer test, the police officer must attempt to accommodate your request. However, there are some limitations to this rule, given that the arresting officer must obtain the breath sample within two hours of stopping your vehicle on the roadway. If it is getting close to the two-hour mark, the officer may be able to say that you refused to take the breathalyzer test.
A conviction for a DUI in Maryland can result in serious criminal penalties. Refusing to take a breathalyzer test can be beneficial or detrimental, depending upon the circumstances. Our team can help you decide whether you should consent to or refuse a breathalyzer test.
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