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Constitutional Issues in Baltimore DUI Cases

The most common issue in DUI cases in Baltimore is the Fourth Amendment. The Fourth Amendment is implicated any time police stop or search a vehicle. Anytime the officers stop someone’s car, there are Fourth Amendment implications. If the officers extend that into a search of the vehicle, that triggers additional Fourth Amendment implications. A Baltimore DUI lawyer will know how to explore and challenge the officer’s claims regarding their search of somebody’s car and as to whether or not it was a legal search.

Fourth Amendment Protections

The Fourth Amendment protects people from unreasonable and unlawful searches and seizures. That is a very specific fact based analysis for every individual case. Sometimes a very slight change in the underlying facts of the case may trigger a completely different result within the Fourth Amendment.

Baltimore follows the state and federal constitutional law. They follow the laws set out by the United States Supreme Court in constitutional issues as well as the Maryland Court of Appeals. Both state and federal laws control constitutional interpretation. If there’s a conflict, then federal law always preempt state law.

Defining Search and Seizures

A search is just what one would understand a search to be. If the officer is looking for someone’s personal belongings, that may be a search of their body, vehicle, or home.

A seizure is when a Baltimore police officer detains someone, when the officer tells someone they are not free to leave. Technically a Terry stop is a seizure. A Terry stop is a stop of a motor vehicle for traffic infractions. It is technically a seizure, although for that seizure the officer is going to need to show less than probable cause. They need a reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime has taken place. It is a lower standard to initiate a traffic stop than it would be to seize somebody in another circumstance.

An unreasonable search is when an officer does not have probable cause or there is no legitimate legal reason to justify the search.

Warrantless Searches

A warrantless search is a search in which an officer does not have a warrant to effectuate that search. That may or may not be constitutional depending on the facts and circumstances of the case. For example, an officer pulls an individual over and wants to search their car. If the individual says no and the officer doesn’t have anything else and initiates the search, that is a warrantless and an unconstitutional search.

In a situation where an officer arrests somebody for suspicion of DUI in Baltimore, and then searches their vehicle subsequent to the arrest, that is a warrantless search but it is a constitutional search. Even though the officer didn’t have a warrant, there is an exception to the general rule that an officer needs a warrant to search. It is called search incident to arrest. That rule says that if an officer is effectuating an arrest of an individual, they do have the right to search that individual’s vehicle subsequent to the arrest.

Other Constitutional Issues

Very rarely there are some First Amendment issues, but those are extraordinarily uncommon. There may occasionally be some Fifth Amendment issues triggered by an individual refusing to testify. An individual can never be compelled to testify against themselves, that’s a protection from the Fifth Amendment.

It is important to remember that constitutional rights are guaranteed a person regardless of what criminal charges they may be facing. Having an experienced and aggressive DUI attorney in Baltimore by your side is an extra section of protection.