DUI Tests in Anne Arundel County

DUI tests in Anne Arundel County play a huge role in a person’s drunk driving case. While challenging these tests in court may be difficult for individuals with no experience in drunk driving cases, a well-practiced attorney could use their experience to build your defense.

Types of Field Sobriety Tests in Anne Arundel County

In Maryland, there are three recognized standardized field sobriety tests, which are also referred to as the SFST. Each DUI test has a specific set of a number of clues that officers in Anne Arundel County look for.

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test

In the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, which is often shortened to HGN, a person is asked to follow a pen or light with their eyes. The police look for consistency and whether the individual’s eyes flutter or show what is called nystagmus. The officer looks for six clues when the person is taking the HGN test.

Walk-and-Turn Test

Is the walk-and-turn test, the person is told to walk a line in various specific manners and then turn back in the same way towards the starting point. There are eight clues that the police look for in this test.

One-Leg Stand

In the one-leg stand where they have to balance on one leg and count up to 30 while balancing. There are four clues that officers look for in the one-legged stand.

How the Field Sobriety Tests are Administered

When conducting field sobriety tests for a potential DUI in Anne Arundel County, officers are required to advise the person and show them what they are supposed to do. Officers must also give them sufficient instructions so that they can follow directions correctly. Since part of the tests is to determine if the individual is following instructions, the steps must be explained properly.

The person must also be given a valid opportunity to take the test, and the conditions must be well-suited. Preferred conditions include leveled roads which are free of debris. If the individual taking the test is standing on an uneven surface, they cannot be expected to balance themselves. Officers do not use SFSTs differently than other jurisdictions since there is a specific protocol they must follow.

The Impact of SFSTs at a DUI Trial

While each DUI test is seen a little bit differently in Anne Arundel County, the tests are useful at trial for various reasons. If a person is arguing that they were arrested illegally,  the performances of the tests are very significant as the person was given the chance not to be arrested while the officers were given an opportunity to take them into custody.

If a person takes a breath test at the station and blows over 0.08, the only purpose of these tests is to establish if there was a lawful arrest. If an individual refuses the SFST, the tests of performance become more instructive as to how the person may have been impaired under the influence since they have no breath reading.

Refusing to take a Field Sobriety Test

It should be noted that individuals cannot be forced to take field sobriety tests in any circumstance. They could always refuse to do any of them for any reason they wish to.

No one can force a person to walk a line, follow an obstacle, or blow into a tube. While these are all a request, an individual could be subject to an arrest or other sanctions by refusing. Ultimately, no person could be forced to abide by or comply with a request for a test despite their obligation to cooperate with the police.

The Validity of Breathalyzers in Anne Arundel

When breathalyzers are used in the way that they are designed, they are typically seen as accurate and reliable. For example, the breathalyzer test must be performed within two hours of the traffic stop or the incidence of driving.

The test, which is called the Intoximeter EC/IR II in Maryland, must be conducted by a certified operator. The operator cannot be the same officer that arrested the person.

Even if the arresting officer is qualified to do so, it must be a separate officer. The person must also be observed for 20 minutes. During this time, they cannot eat or drink anything. If all of the required protocols are followed, the test is generally considered to be reliable.

Breathalyzer Accuracy in Anne Arundel

While breathalyzers are typically accurate and reliable, they can still be challenged. There are certain instances where the accused could be challenged based upon the timing of whether the person had another alternative reason.

For example, certain physiological conditions can create an error reading for the machine. These errors are typically not caused by any inaccuracies in the machine.

A person who suffers from gastroesophageal reflux disease, otherwise known as acid reflux, can have an additive increased alcohol effect that causes the reading to become higher than the actual amount of alcohol they have in their system. Issues have also recently arisen for individuals on the Keto Diet. Individuals who are undergoing catalysis can have a natural high blood alcohol level in their system because of their diet, which could create a problem. The diet may cause the device to indicate that the person has a blood alcohol level.

Common Misconceptions Regarding Breathalyzers in Anne Arundel

Certain individuals may assume that they should always refuse the test while others think they should always take it. The key point is although a person is not entitled to speak to an attorney when they are being stopped or asked to perform a field sobriety test, they absolutely have the right to request and speak to an attorney prior to deciding whether to submit to the breath test.

Individuals may also assume that if they refuse the test, it cannot be used against them since the police have no reading to work with. It should be noted that the law allows prosecutors or judges to assume the person refused since they were afraid of what the result would have or may have been.

While a person could use any reason to refuse, most attorneys would suggest that it is better to refuse than give a high read. If a person refuses all the field sobriety tests, they should also refuse the breath test. While it may be that they lose their license, it could also potentially hinders the state’s case in prosecution.

There are instances where a person is not physically capable of performing a breath test, perhaps due to a lack of lung capacity. This could occur if they are a smoker, have emphysema, or are simply elderly. If the person taking the test does not have a certain lung capacity, it could be deemed a refusal when it is not. It is simply an inability and could be challenged in court.

Breathalyzer Calibration

Authorities generally keep calibration records for the breathalyzer machines. While the prosecutor’s office will give the records to the accused party, they will not always do so automatically. If the defense attorneys wish to see these results, they must be requested. An accused person’s lawyer could challenge the results if the paperwork which verifies that everything was properly done cannot be found.

Why do Government Experts Rely on the Breathalyzer Machine?

Since the issues related to the breathalyzer are the exception and not the rule, the breath sample is typically deemed to be fairly reliable. Consequently, judges will accept it as fact if the protocol was properly filed. The only remedy at this point is to challenge the results when the time comes. A skilled attorney could help a defendant fight against the results of the breathalyzer machine.

Challenging or Suppressing Erroneous Breathalyzer Results in Court

Defendants and their defense attorneys could suppress any evidence that is obtained illegally in violation of the constitution. A few years ago, a lawyer had a trial where a defendant was stopped by police and given the field sobriety tests. While the individual performed fairly well on the test, they were arrested in the station and blew a 0.12, which is well over the legal limit.

This individual was found not guilty at the trial since the attorney successfully argued that the police illegally arrested them and did not have the right to do so regardless of the 0.12. Since the judge agreed that the attorney was correct and the defendant was illegally arrested, they suppressed the evidence of the breath test. Consequently, the person was found not guilty.

Even lawfully obtained breathalyzer tests could be excluded and considered unreliable if any issues or irregularities regarding the administration of tests occurred. Individuals should be aware that they can speak to an attorney before deciding whether to take the test. It is not a hard and fast rule that everyone should take the test since it is on a case-by-case basis.

DUI Blood Tests

Typically, blood tests can be conducted for alcohol and any other illicit substances. This is usually done with a blood draw by a needle. In contrast, breathalyzers are generally taken at the local police station.

If a person refuses a blood, breath, or urine test, their license is subject to a nine-month suspension. Drivers who refuse are obligated to submit to breath tests or blood tests if properly requested by an officer. While a person cannot be physically forced to take these tests, those who refuse are consequently subject to a loss of their license as an administrative sanction.

Role of Implied Consent Upon Test Refusal

Implied consent is the principle that dictates that after a traffic stop, a person arrested for a suspected DUI must submit to a breath test if requested to by the officer. This is called implying since they never actually sign a contract. It is simply a rule they must abide by if they are a driver and were not supposed to be driving.

While individuals who refuse cannot be forced to take the tests, they could suffer some other penalties and sanctions by not complying. Implied consent does not go beyond the breath test.

Defendants could challenge implied consent to the court by saying that it was not a proper refusal. For a refusal, a person must be made aware of certain administrative sanctions.

If a person was not properly advised and they were not educated of certain consequences, a judge would decide that the person did not legitimately refuse the test. They must know what they are refusing to.

Consequences of First Time and Consequent Test Refusals

On the first refusal, a person faces a nine-month loss of their license. This loss period could be increased for a maximum of two years after a second refusal. For a third refusal,  the person’s license is suspended and they may get what is called a Medical Advisory Board or MAB suspension.

This means that they cannot drive again at all until the Medical Board clears them. The accused might be required to have a permanent ignition interlock device if they ever wish to drive again.

Enrolling in a DUI or Alcohol Education Course

Whether the person refused or not, anyone charged with a DUI should engage in some form of alcohol education program. Even with a low-level DUI, a judge could claim that it is important to follow such initiative. It should be noted that courts may make alcohol courses a condition of probation if the defendant does not complete them in advance.

An Attorney Could Help With DUI Tests

Before taking any DUI tests in Anne Arundel County, reach out to a hard-working defense attorney. A criminal lawyer could explain your rights and help you learn the merits and risks of consenting to a test. Dedicated attorneys could also gather the results of the test and build an appropriate defense case as a response. Call today to learn more.