Criminal Defense Lawyers in Maryland Helping Individuals Who Have Been Charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI)
Every Maryland driver dreads the sight of blue and red police car lights in the rearview mirror while driving on the road. It is important to keep in mind that during a traffic stop, you have legal rights. In most cases, the less you say during a DWI traffic stop, the better off you will be. This is because in many cases, anything that you say can be used against you if your case ultimately proceeds forward to trial. During a DWI traffic stop, silence is golden.
If you have been pulled over, charged, or arrested for a DWI in the State of Maryland, time may be of the essence in your case. Consequently, you should obtain legal representation in your case as soon as possible. The knowledgeable Maryland DWI defense lawyers at Alpert Schreyer, LLC can discuss your DWI charge with you and address all of your legal questions and concerns.
Legal Bases for 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 DWI Traffic Stop
During a DWI 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.
Speaking with a Police Officer during a DWI Traffic Stop
When a police officer pulls you over, the officer may first ask for some identifying information. After collecting your driver’s license and registration, the officer may ask you a series of questions. Those questions may seek the following information:
- Where you are driving to
- Where you are driving from
- Whether or not you have been drinking
- How long it has been since you last consumed an alcoholic beverage
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
Officers are trained to notice the signs and symptoms of alcohol intoxication. Consequently, when the police officer initially pulls you over, he or she will be observing your behavior and body language closely. The officer will likely be on the lookout for uncoordinated physical movements, bloodshot eyes, dazed expression, slurred speech, and the smell of alcohol on your breath.
If the officer observes one or more of these symptoms, he or she may ask you to take a breathalyzer test or a field sobriety test. If the officer has not yet made an arrest, it is not mandatory that you consent to a handheld breathalyzer test or any type of field sobriety test at the scene. This is because the only legal purpose of a breathalyzer or field sobriety test is to provide the officer with the probable cause necessary to arrest you for DWI.
Moreover, 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 a Maryland DWI Criminal Defense Lawyer Today for a Free Case Evaluation
Saying or doing the wrong thing during a DWI traffic stop can have severe negative impacts on your case. The Maryland criminal defense lawyers at Alpert Schreyer, LLC may be able to help minimize the legal consequences of a DWI arrest or conviction. To schedule a free case evaluation with a Maryland DWI criminal defense lawyer, please call us today at 866-444-6363, or contact us online.