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Does Blood Alcohol Testing During a Maryland DUI Traffic Stop Violate My Constitutional Rights?

Many people believe that police blood alcohol testing practices blatantly flout the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures. However, the Amendment permits these searches when a suspect extends permission. Drivers have already extended this permission because of implied consent laws to which they agree implicitly when they obtain a license to drive in any state.

Police cannot force anyone to submit to blood alcohol testing. But refusing does not generally help a case, particularly since refusal carries its own consequences. As explained in the Maryland Driver’s Manual, “… if, upon receipt of a certified statement from a police officer that a test was refused, the MVA will impose the suspension period for a test refusal.” A first incident of refusing a blood alcohol test carries a license suspension period of 120 days, while for second and subsequent refusals, the suspension period increases to one year.

Anyone who faces DUI charges in La Plata or elsewhere in Maryland can and should respectfully demand that all questioning stop until his or her DUI defense lawyer is present. Even if testing shows a high level of alcohol in the blood, an attorney may be able to use one of several effective defense strategies, such as the following, to get the charges reduced or dismissed:

  • Establish that faulty testing equipment that may have missed required, scheduled maintenance, calibration or testing was used, thereby invalidating the results
  • Prove officer inexperience in conducting roadside tests or failure to follow proper procedure
  • Demonstrate that a medical condition such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may have created false positive readings in Breathalyzer tests

Police also need probable cause to pull a driver over. Speeding, failing to remain within a lane, ignoring traffic signs and signals, driving with headlights or tail lights out and exhibiting other unsafe driving behaviors all satisfy the requirement.

If you are stopped by police and charged with drunk driving, take note of important details about the traffic stop and testing process, such as the reasons you were pulled over and the questions you are asked.  Remember that you are legally entitled to attorney representation, and consult your lawyer before answering any questions in order to maximize your options in the long run.

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