Anne Arundel County DUI Traffic Stops

When facing an Anne Arundel County DUI stop, it is important for drivers to understand their rights and legal options. A drunk driving stop could cause numerous legal issues for a person, including leaving a mark on their record. Therefore, having the counsel of an intelligent attorney during this time might be crucial for attaining the best possible outcome under the circumstances.

What Officers Look For When Pulling a Driver Over

The only thing that is required by an Anne Arundel County police officer to pull over a driver for a possible DUI stop is a valid basis. As an example, there is no question that an officer is looking for impaired drivers if they pull someone over for driving erratically at 2:00 AM on a Sunday morning.

Simply put, a DUI could occur any time a day throughout the week. However, DUIs typically occur on the weekends, in the evening, and at bar closing time. During these hours, the police are a little more attuned to drivers on the road, as there are usually fewer people driving. 

No matter the time of day or day of the week, an officer must reasonably stop a person if they have a suspicion that the individual is under the influence or impaired while driving. This could be a minor traffic infraction or it could be a taillight being out. The reason behind the stop does not matter, as long as it is legitimate. The officer’s ulterior motive could include seeing whether someone’s impaired, smelling alcohol, or attempting to see inside the vehicle from the standpoint of coming up to the car.

The Typical Drunk Driving Stop Process

When a person’s vehicle is stopped by the police in for a possible DUI, they usually have a quick conversation with the officer wherein a request is made for their driver’s license and vehicle registration. The officer then checks their license to verify the person has the ability to drive, and also checks the vehicle registration to verify the vehicle is legally driven by the driver.

By that point, the officer might ask the driver to step out of the vehicle and have them submit to field sobriety tests if they have certain suspicions or reasonable grounds that alcohol may be involved. If the driver performs relatively poorly on these tests, it typically gives the officers enough basis to arrest and detain the person, wherein they can bring them back to the station for the breathalyzer test. This test is used to see what the person’s blood alcohol level truly is.

Types of DUI Tests

As a companion to the basic questioning and interaction, there are three standardized field sobriety tests that the officer will have the person try to perform. These include the one-legged stand test, the walk-and-turn test, and the HGN, or Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus. These tests are general indicators to recognize whether someone could be impaired.

On occasion, officers will offer a preliminary breath test by the side of the road. It should be noted that this is not admissible at trial against somebody and could be an indicator of whether there is a basis to arrest the driver.

When a person is pulled over and the officer wants them to perform a breathalyzer test, there is no blanket rule whether they should agree or refuse. The right answer varies on a case-by-case basis. Therefore, while the attorney might advise the person to submit to the test in certain cases, they may also advise them not to do so in others.

Questions the Police Will Ask the Driver

Naturally, the questions a police officer will ask a driver during a stop will depend on the nature of—and reason for—a stop. If the person’s taillights were out, it is going to be a very different conversation with the police officer, compared to if the driver was swerving all over the road.

However, a few basic questions that may be asked no matter the circumstances of the stop include where the person was coming from, where they were going, whether they observed something, and whether they knew how fast they were going. While the police officer will start the conversation, they often do not care about the answer and are simply seeking to hear how the person sounds. Officers may observe whether the person is:

  • Slurring their words
  • Hearing the questions
  • Being responsive
  • Asked a long question and answers something completely different
  • Paying attention
  • Fumbling for license and registration, if asked to show them
  • Sluggish or slow
  • Lacking dexterity or acuity with their hands

These are all little observations that go into the overall assessment as to whether someone is impaired or under suspicion of impairment.

How Authorities Search a Vehicle

While officers do not typically search a vehicle once a driver is pulled over, this could still occur. The higher courts have determined that when someone is arrested, there could be a lawful search if there is evidence of potential criminal activity.

Such evidence could include having a beer bottle or open container in the vehicle. If so, police can search the vehicle within reason to see if there are any remnants of alcohol purchase or consumption.

Usually, a driver would need to give consent to a vehicle search—unless the officers have probable cause. As an example, if an officer pulls a driver over and requests a canine unit, which arrives and gives a positive alert, they could search the vehicle based on this information. This is true even without consent and even before an arrest is made. Furthermore, drivers should note that they do not need to consent to a search of their vehicle after being arrested for drunk driving.

What is Implied Consent?

Driving is a privilege that has certain conditions that go along with it. Therefore, if a person is seeking the privilege to drive, there are certain requirements they must meet. As an example, the rule of law is that if an individual wishes to accept the privilege of driving on Maryland’s roadways, they agree and give consent impliedly.

While they do not actually sign a contract, it is simply implicit to being a driver that during a valid traffic stop, if an officer has reasonable grounds to believe that a driver is under the influence, the person will submit to field sobriety tests and breath tests back at the station. This is implied consent to the conditions of being a driver on the roadway under those conditions.  While the person could always refuse the tests, there are additional sanctions that could be used against them for refusing to do what they impliedly agreed and consented to by virtue of being a driver.

A Person’s Rights During a Drunk Driving Stop

During a DUI stop, a person’s rights in Anne Arundel County are the same as any virtually any other situation. This means they are not required to answer any questions. So, while they are required to give their license and registration to an officer when asked, they do not have to answer questions about where they are coming from or where they are going.

Similarly, a driver can also legally decline a field sobriety test when asked to do so. Even if an officer tells them they are being taken into custody, a test can still be declined. If the individual is being slightly combative or defensive, however, the police might make their life a bit more difficult.

For example, officers do not have to release the individual right away and could hold them for a while. Beyond providing their license and registration and answering some basic questions, nothing further is required. While a driver refusing certain testing could be used against them, they cannot be forced to take a test or answer certain questions.

Rights After an Arrest

After an arrest for drunk driving, a person will be transported to the police station. This is primarily for the purpose of submitting them to the actual breath test. Here, the person could either take the test or refuse. They could also request to speak to an attorney before deciding whether to do so.

Understanding Miranda Rights

The Miranda rights are the advisement to a person, while in custody, that they cannot be subject to police interrogation without being advised of their rights to both counsel and the right to remain silent. The key language is “custody” and “interrogation.” Simply put, custody means the person is not free to leave.

Interrogation, on the other hand, is designed to lead to an incriminating response. If an officer asks a person what their name is, where they live, or how far are they going, it is not an interrogation. Similarly, if the officer asks whether they have been drinking, it is more of an investigation than an interrogation. At this stage, the person has not been formally charged and is detained. Very frequently, individuals complain that they were never advised regarding these Miranda rights—without knowing that they are not required to be advised.

It should be noted that the officer is given a certain amount of latitude to investigate a traffic stop and to assess whether the person is a safe driver. If a person has been arrested or detained, the police typically start asking questions whether there are drugs or anything else in the car they should know about. If there are any illegal substances, the officers will ask where they are.

If the person responds that they have a few pills under the floorboard, for example, it could arguably become an interrogation and, as a result, a violation of Miranda. Even if there is a Miranda violation, however, it does not mandate dismissal of all charges. All it does is preclude the State from being able to use the statements made by an individual. While it does not negate the DUI stop, charge, arrest, or blood alcohol, it would preclude the usage of the actual pills against the defendant.

Requesting to Speak With a Lawyer

If a person asks to speak to a lawyer, the officers do not have to give the person the ability to contact their legal counsel at that time. Since DUIs often occur late at night or in the early hours of the morning, many attorneys may not even answer if they are called.

Consequently, there is an underlying difficulty in such a situation. It should be noted that a defendant could try reaching out to an attorney—if they have one—for an assessment on whether they should agree to sobriety tests or not.

Hire an Accomplished Attorney for Help After an Anne Arundel County DUI Traffic Stop

A person cannot ask to speak to a lawyer during a traffic stop. Therefore, the first opportunity they could get for requesting an attorney is after they are arrested and brought back to the station. The accused may then confer with counsel before determining or deciding whether they wish to take the breath test.

Understanding the legal nuances of traffic stops and how to best proceed can be overwhelming, especially if you were charged with an infraction. If you have been the subject of an Anne Arundel County DUI traffic stop, it might be beneficial to contact a hard-working attorney as soon as possible. A well-practiced defense lawyer could explain your rights, help you decide whether you should take any tests the officer requests, and gather evidence for a defense case against any allegations you may face.