Traffic Stops in Maryland
Understand Your Rights Regarding Traffic Stops
Contrary to what some Maryland drivers may believe, a police officer need not suspect that you have been drinking and driving in order to pull your vehicle over. On the contrary, a police officer can pull you over for violating any traffic law or regulation. These types of stops are known as pretextual stops.
Some of the reasons why a police officer may pull you over include:
- Tail light out
- Headlight out
- Restricted visibility (e.g., excessive window tinting)
- Expired registration tags on your vehicle
- Erratic driving (e.g., weaving in and out of traffic)
In order to pull you over, the officer merely needs to have a reasonable suspicion that you have done something wrong. Although the police officer may technically be pulling you over for a relatively minor civil infraction or violation, the officer may actually have an ulterior motive. In other words, the officer may be pulling you over in order to determine whether or not you are under the influence of alcohol.
What Happens During a DUI/DWI Traffic Stop
During a DUI traffic stop in Maryland, several things will typically occur. First, the officer will ask for your driver’s license and registration. Some officers are very forward with drivers and may come right out and ask whether or not you have been drinking.
During this stage of the process, it is important that you remain calm, that you be respectful, and that you comply with the police officer’s instructions. At this stage, mouthing off to the officer or being disrespectful to him or her will only make an already bad situation much worse.
If you have in fact been drinking, it is important to keep in mind that it is not mandatory that you provide answers to any of the officer’s questions. You can politely refuse to answer the officer’s questions at this juncture by asserting your Fifth Amendment rights.
You do not want to answer the officer’s questions because anything that you say at this stage can be used against you later on in the process. Your best bet at this point is to simply remain quiet and refrain from answering the officer’s questions.
Taking a Breathalyzer or Field Sobriety Test Pre-Arrest
The officer may insist that you perform field sobriety tests. These tests are used to establish whether you are driving while impaired or under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. Whether you take these tests is your decision and is dependent on your particular circumstances. You should know that neither field sobriety tests nor breathalyzers are always reliable, and each test must be completed in a manner consistent with a set of tight restrictions. If not, the DUI arrest can be contested in court.
If the test results show that you were driving your vehicle while intoxicated, that evidence can only hurt you later on at trial. Therefore, you should not take these tests under any circumstances – even if you think that you could pass them.
In many cases, if you refuse to take one of these tests pre-arrest, the officer may become frustrated or even angry. If the officer insists that you take one or more of these tests, you should clearly state that although you agree to perform the test, you are not providing your legal consent. Your statement to that effect may later be used in court to suppress any evidence obtained during these tests.
Taking a Breath or Chemical Test Post-Arrest
If you have already been arrested, however, the rules change. You are required to take a breath test if the police officer has already arrested you. Moreover, in Maryland, chemical tests are mandatory. If you refuse to take a chemical test, the State can suspend your driver’s license. Fortunately, in many cases, an attorney can take steps to prevent the suspension of your driver’s license from taking effect, allowing you to get to work or school.
Call Alpert Schreyer Today for a Free Case Evaluation
Saying or doing the wrong thing during a DUI/DWI traffic stop can have severe negative impacts on your case. Our Maryland DUI defense attorneys may be able to help minimize the legal consequences of a DWI arrest or conviction.
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