Drunk Driving and Other Arrests

With the summer almost here and in anticipation of those fine weekends which we will be enjoying crabs and beer and going to the ocean for fun and relaxation, the Maryland State Police are out there looking for the drunk driver. With their speed traps, sobriety check points, and the staking out of watering holes, they will amass a great number of arrests for driving while under the influence of alcohol and driving while impaired. [The distinction between the two is the amount of alcohol in the blood at the time of the test].

With highway fatalities on a greater increase as a result of drunk driving, it is not unexpected that the police, both county and state, are cracking down on drunk drivers. Your chances of being stopped, and maybe arrested, for a traffic offense are much greater now than they were even a few years ago. Most people have never been arrested or searched. Should you be stopped as being a suspected drunk driver, do not argue with the police officer. The officer will ask you to perform a field sobriety test (walk a line, finger to nose, etc.) the law does not require you to perform these tests, nor answer any questions of the police officer. The officer may offer you a preliminary breath test (PBT). This test is to give an indication to the officer of whether or not you may be intoxicated. Its unfavorable results are not admissible in court, while its favorable results are admissible. Therefore there is no detriment to you in taking this test. However, refusal to take the breathalyzer test at the police station will result in the temporary suspension of your driver’s license and notification to the Court or Jury of your refusal.

Maryland State law mandates the automatic suspension of your driving license for 45 days if your blood alcohol concentration exceeds .08%. The police officer will arrest you and confiscate your driving license. The most important thing in this situation is do not resist arrest. It is a crime to do so. An officer is entitled to use reasonable force to keep you in his custody. If the arrest was illegal or improper, you may take legal action later. It is not an arrest for the officer to stop and question you briefly. He may demand your driver’s license and vehicle registration. Once the officer has arrested you, he is permitted to make a search of you and the area around you. The purpose of the search is to look for weapons for the protection of the officer. Should he come across any illegal items, such as narcotics or evidence to show that you were drinking, such as beer bottles or cans, he may seize them without a warrant. You will have to sign for your traffic ticket to avoid arrest, so do so. Your signature is not an admission of guilt but an acknowledgment that you received the citation and promise to respond to the ticket.

The penalty for drunk driving in the State of Maryland for a first offense is one year and/or $1,000.00 fine. The penalty increases for subsequent convictions. Consultation with an attorney immediately after receiving a ticket is essential. An attorney can be of great assistance in either preventing your license from being suspended altogether or to limit the conditions of the suspension. You should not consider going to court on a drunk driving charge without an attorney. At the minimum, the penalty for a conviction of driving while under the influence of alcohol is revocation of your driver’s license.

Maryland Judges, both in Circuit and District Court, in recent years have been very severe on punishment for drunk driving convictions. Some of our Judges have had personal experience in their private lives with the impact of drunk driving upon their families and lives.

With the number of innocent lives being wasted as a result of drunk driving accidents, the trend across the State of Maryland has been for the imposition of severe penalties, even on a first offense.  Use common sense, make arrangements for transportation prior to drinking. Should you decide to drink and then drive, you should expect a sever penalty upon your conviction. Do not argue with the police officer, be respectful to him and show him common courtesy. This will help you in Court more that any other aspect of your case.

Steven J. Scheinin is a Maryland trial lawyer handling all types of criminal matters. Mr. Scheinin is also a member of the LawGuru Attorney Network.

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