Defending DUI Cases in Maryland

When building a defense strategy for a DUI cases in Maryland, the first thing that most DUI defense lawyers look at is the stop.

Reasonable Articulable Suspicion

An officer needs reasonable, articulable suspicion to stop an individual. There are many stops that are made without that reasonable, articulable suspicion. Sometimes the officer doesn’t properly enunciate what level of window tint the individual had, for example, or maybe the officer doesn’t properly describe the traffic violation.

Probable Cause

The next step is probable cause, which includes looking at:

  • What level of probable cause did the officer note in the reports that justified the further investigation of the DUI?
  • How did the individual do on the field sobriety tests?
  • How did the officer explain the field sobriety tests?

Chemical Tests

Then there are all the minutiae of the chemical test. There is timing. There are calibration records. There are certification records. There are things that go on with the actual individual, such as acid reflux or metal in the mouth, which could affect the validity and admissibility of the chemical test. You look at the whole case, but you do it in a methodical, step-by-step fashion.

Common Questions We Ask During Initial Consultations

My typical intake takes about an hour. We talk about not just what happened when the individual came into contact with the police, but also the entire day, month, or year leading up to the arrest. I get a complete picture of what happened to the individual. We talk about what they ate preceding the DUI to see if there might be a defense there. We talk about any prescription medications that they might be taking. We talk about recent stressors. We talk about recent weight loss.

Then, we talk in detail about what happened that evening. We talk about the actual stop. We talk about the field sobriety test. We talk about every single interaction that the individual had. In addition to that, I get a picture of the person and what their needs are. We talk about the person’s employment. We talk about the person’s other driving needs, such as school, childcare, or medical appointments. Then, we talk about what level of treatment is appropriate for their case.

Building a Strong Defense in Maryland DUI Cases

The most important thing is having a good initial conversation with the client. The client knows what is going on in their case, so getting that information is extremely important. There are some secondary investigations, such as going to the scene of the stop to take pictures, measuring the grade where the field sobriety test was done, looking at the lighting, inspecting the individual’s car if it was a defective vehicle stop, investigating medical records, etc. Then, you have to go over the discovery the prosecution provides and look for anything that you can use to suppress evidence or to point to a lack of impairment.

Low BACs and DUI Cases

I did a trial last year with somebody who blew a .03. They could have been drinking the day before. Part of the reason why that happened was that it was a brand new State’s Attorney who didn’t really know how these things work. With a .03, there’s a presumption that the person is sober. If a .08 comes in, the court’s going to presume that they’re drunk. Only the newest, greenest State’s Attorney would bother trying a case at a .03.

I also did a trial last month with somebody who blew a .06 and the state thought that they could go forward on that. That trial resulted in a not guilty, but the state will go forward on incredibly low blows sometimes. Out of all the people who come see me, the vast majority have blown a .08 or higher. In any given year, I may see half a dozen cases that are below a .08. In those cases it is just as important to have a lawyer, though, because if you don’t know what you’re doing, then the State’s Attorney can bamboozle you into pleading guilty to a charge to which you should never have pled guilty.

Constitutional Defenses in Maryland DUI Cases

The big constitutional defenses are Fourth Amendment issues related to unlawful search and seizure. The stop has to be justified. The standard for a traffic stop is reasonable, articulable suspicion. Any stop without that raises Fourth Amendment issues. There is also the issue of having probable cause to effectuate the arrest, which is also a Fourth Amendment issue. The Fourth Amendment is very important in DUI cases; that’s a huge chunk of the defense. There are procedural issues as well, like making sure that the charging documents are done correctly and that nothing is missing on those. With electronic charging documents, those issues are fewer and farther between because the computers take care of doing the charging documents correctly.

Building a Constitutional Defense

Spotting the issues is the first step. Through your conversation with the client and review of the evidence, you identify the issues. Then you either object to the admissibility of evidence, you argue for suppression, or you use the evidence that you have and argue for acquittal. A solid grasp of the rules of evidence and of criminal procedure is very important.