My driving was fine, can the officer pull me over?
He did pull you over! The officer needs a reasonable suspicion to believe you committed, were committing, or were about to commit a crime. If the judge finds the officer did not have a basis to make the stop, that may be a defense in court. It is not a defense at Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) hearings unless it can be shown that the officer was acting in bad faith.
2. What should I say if I'm stopped by a police officer and he asks me if I've been drinking?
You are not required to answer potentially incriminating questions. A polite "I would like to speak with an attorney before I answer any questions" is a good reply.
3. Do I have to take field sobriety tests?
A person who is stopped by police and is being investigated as a possible drunk driver does not have to submit to field sobriety tests. However, the officer will normally arrest someone who refuses to take field sobriety tests.
4. What is the purpose of the follow the penlight with the eyes test?
This is the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. The officers are trained to detect the involuntary jerking of the eye, which may, among other causes, by caused by consumption of alcohol. If officers detect three clues in each eye, a lack of smooth pursuit, nystagmus at maximum deviation, and nystagmus prior to 45 degrees, they are trained to testify that it is likely the person was above a .08 body alcohol content (BAC). In Maryland, the legal effect of this test has pretty much been neutralized by two appellate decisions holding that the court can only accept the test to show the defendant had consumed alcohol.
5. I thought I did well on the field tests, why was I arrested?
If you really did do well on the field tests, this may be a defense at trial. In many cases, people misunderstand the directions or do not know what the officer is looking for. The field tests most commonly administered by officers are approved by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) for the investigation of drunk driving cases.
Officers score the tests according to their training manuals and they do not tell you what the clues are.
6. Should I agree to take a chemical test?
In Maryland, there are three possible results for a refusal to take the chemical test:
(1) Your driver's license will be suspended for 120 days for a first offense and one year for a subsequent offense.
(2) Instead of a license suspension, you may be allowed to drive if you install and maintain an interlock device on your car for at least one year.
(3) If you have a legal defense the result can in some cases be "no action."
The penalty is less for a failed test. On a first offense, for a Maryland resident it is usually better to submit to the test if the result will be less than .15, since the 45 day work permit for a failed test under .15 is a lesser penalty, the insurance company cannot find out about it, and the result in court as a first offender will not be overly harsh.
7. Do I have a right to an attorney before deciding whether to take a breath test?
The law on this varies from state to state. In Maryland, there is a right, if the person requests it, to consult with an attorney to decide whether to take or refuse the breath test for alcohol, so long as it does not interfere with or unreasonably delay the testing process. The test must be taken within two hours of apprehension.
However, this right does not necessarily exist on federal property in Maryland which is under the jurisdiction of the National Park Service and patrolled by the United States Park Police. Those areas are under the jurisdiction of the federal courts, and under the National Park Service Regulations a refusal is a crime punishable by up to 6 months in jail and a $5000 fine.
8. Can I elect a blood test instead of a breath test?
In Maryland, the driver has no choice as to the type of test to be taken. The test is the test of breath unless the driver is injured and taken to a hospital, is unconscious or incapable of refusing the test, or if the equipment for conducting a breath test is not available. Under those circumstances, the officer may direct medical personnel to withdraw a blood sample.
9. The officer never read me my rights, what can we do about it?
You probably were advised of your right to take or refuse a chemical test for alcohol and the penalties for failing or refusing the breath test. You are probably asking about a 5th Amendment "Miranda" warning about the right to remain silent and to have the assistance of a lawyer. Often, in drunk driving cases, they do not give that advice. The only consequence is that the prosecution cannot use any of your answers to questions asked by the police after the arrest.
10. Why did I receive more than one ticket charging me with drunk driving?
Maryland has five different offenses that fall within the generic term - drunk driving: driving while under the influence of alcohol because of substantial impairment of normal coordination, driving under the influence of alcohol per se because of a test result of .08 or more, driving while impaired by alcohol, driving while impaired by drugs, or drugs and alcohol, and driving while impaired by controlled dangerous substances. The pre-printed citations the officer carries to write tickets for these offenses require the officer to write separate tickets for each offense.