Maryland DUI Myths
Due to the prevalence of DUI charges in Maryland, there are a large number of common myths associated with DUI stops and charges. Below an experienced Maryland DUI lawyer discusses these myths and whether they are true or not. To learn more call and schedule a consultation today.
If You’re Sure Your BAC is Below 0.08% Shouldn’t You Take a Breathalyzer to Prove You’re Not Impaired?
Not true. In my professional opinion, it’s never a good idea to take a portable breath test. There is no legal obligation to blow into a portable breath test or PBT and while it can’t be admitted into court as evidence, the officer can use the portable breath test in their determination of probable cause, which is their basis to arrest you for suspicion of DUI. Since there is no obligation to do the test and there is no penalty for refusing to do this test, it’s my opinion that individuals should never blow into a portable breath test.
In my practice, I’ve seen people blow triple zeros into a portable breath test and then immediately get arrested for suspicion of DUI. So even triple zero results may not stop a DUI arrest. At that point, the officer will say, well, I don’t think you’re under the influence of alcohol, but you’re under the influence of drugs. So in my opinion, it’s never a good idea to blow into a PBT.
Are Breathalyzers A Reliable And Consistent Indicator of Blood Alcohol Content?
That’s not true. Breathalyzers use something called a partition ratio. That is the ratio of exhaled alcohol from deep lung air versus alcohol contained in blood. It uses the same partition ratio for every individual no matter what their health is, no matter what their weight is, no matter what their size is, no matter what their gender is. Partition ratio is a number that is used to take the raw score from the breathalyzer machine and extrapolate it into a blood alcohol content, which is a more reliable measurement of alcohol content.
The problem is by applying that same partition ratio to everybody across the board, it will distort the perceived blood alcohol content sometimes by a factor of 2 or 3. So the constant partition ratio can really skew breath alcohol results, particularly for people who are smaller and particularly for females. The one-size-fits-all approach to the partition ratio really does make many breath tests inaccurate.
Is Blood Alcohol Content a Reliable and Consistent Indicator of Driver Impairment?
It’s not true. Different individuals can handle alcohol in different ways. While there is some impairment from excessively high blood alcohol contents for every individual, many individuals handle a 0.08 blood alcohol content significantly differently than others. Some people at a 0.08 are significantly impaired. They are not able to function, walk, or communicate effectively. Other people at a 0.08 are barely impaired. There is no visible impairment in their ability to walk, to understand directions and applying that same one-size-fits-all standard is not a physiologically sound strategy.
You Can Only Be Arrested For DUI If You Are Really Drunk?
Absolutely not true. Officers will try to justify a DUI arrest sometimes based on the thinnest of evidence. In my practice, there have been cases where individuals essentially passed sobriety tests and their driving behavior is not consistent with impairment by alcohol. So for example, an individual was pulled over for an equipment violation such as their license plate or tag light is out and that justifies the stop. There is no indication of impairment from the traffic stop and then the suspected DUI driver has excellent performance on field sobriety tests. The officer will still arrest them for suspicion of DUI. So even if individuals are not impaired, many officers will arrest them for suspicion of DUI.
Is It True I Can’t Be Arrested For a DUI in Maryland If I Am In My Own Garage or Driveway?
That is not true. There are plenty of individuals arrested for DUI while parked in their driveway. The theory of the case in those types of cases is that the individual drove to the driveway. So a case where an individual is parked in their driveway with the vehicle running, the keys in the ignition and the individual is asleep in the driver’s seat is going to be a much easier case for the prosecution to prove than the case where the individual is asleep in the back of a car parked in their driveway with the keys of the vehicle in their pocket and the car cold and not having been run for hours, however they can still face charges.
In Maryland, the law prohibits an individual from operating a motor vehicle on a public roadway while they’re impaired by alcohol. So individuals can be arrested if they are parked in their driveway if the officer can prove that they drove the vehicle there while they were impaired. In Maryland, there is also something called the “Shelter Doctrine” which says that you can sleep off impairment in a vehicle and use your vehicle as a stationary form of shelter and that is not operating the motor vehicle, which could trigger driving under the influence or driving-impaired charges. The fine line between both two principles is something where it would really behoove an individual who is charged with a DUI in their driveway to speak with legal counsel.
Other DUI Myths in Maryland
Another big myth is that it’s a good idea to take a field sobriety test. It’s never a good idea to take field sobriety tests in Maryland. A field sobriety test, much like a portable breath test, is totally voluntary. There is no penalty for refusing to submit to those field sobriety tests. Field sobriety tests are designed to generate probable cause for an officer to arrest an individual for suspicion of DUI, not necessarily designed to test whether an individual is actually impaired by alcohol. So in my opinion, it’s never a good idea to do field sobriety tests. Anyone that tells you otherwise, is not giving very sound advice.