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200A Monroe Street, Suite 200, Rockville, Maryland 20850
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Traffic/DUI FAQs

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Table of Contents

I drove my car perfectly well, why did the officer pull me over?

The officer just needs to have a reasonable belief that you were about to commit or had committed a crime before he can pull you over. A broken taillight, burned out license plate light, can or other equipment violations can provide a ready excuse for an officer to stop you. If the officer, can’t just the stop in court on these grounds, the judge could refuse to consider any evidence obtained as a result of this illegal stop.

Do I really need a lawyer if I was charged with speeding?

Even though most speeding and other minor tickets carry only points and fine but no jail time, points can results in higher insurance premiums. A lawyer can assist you by educating you about the views of your particular judge (about cases like yours) before your case will be heard; the lawyer can also recommend traffic programs to help educate you about improving your driving skills. Attendance in these programs can help you in court.

Are the penalties the same for tickets I receive on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway or other federal lands?

No. Each moving violation federal property is a “petty offense” for which you can be sentenced to up to six months in jail and may receive a fine of up to $5,000. A PBJ is not available for traffic offenses committed while on most federal properties

Should I refuse to take the chemical test?

No. Your refusal to take the test could result in the automatic suspension of your driving privileges for 120 days after a first offense. Your refusal can also result in other penalties at the Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA) and in court.

Do I have to do the field sobriety tests?

Field sobriety tests are used by police officers to establish probably cause to arrest you for driving intoxicated or impaired. These tests can include Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus, Walk-and-Turn, and the One Leg Stand, among others. Unlike refusing the chemical test, refusing to participate in field sobriety tests does not carry a specific penalty. The officer may decide to arrest you even without administering field sobriety tests, but just know that you do have the right and the option to refuse the tests.

What is the purpose of the follow the penlight with the eyes test?

This is the horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test. This test evaluates a jerking motion of the eye is supposed to determine whether you have consumed alcohol.

Should I agree to take a chemical test? What happens if I don’t?

If you refuse to take the test, the MVA can suspend your driving privileges in Maryland for 120 days or you could be required to install an ignition interlock in your car for one year.

Do I have a right to an attorney before deciding whether to take a breath test?

In Maryland, there is a right, if the person requests it, to consult with an attorney to decide whether to take or refuse the breath test for alcohol, so long as it does not interfere with or unreasonably delay the testing process. On federal property, you refusal to take a breath or blood test is a crime punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a jail sentence of up to 6 months.

Can I request a blood test instead of a breath test?

In Maryland, in most cases the driver must take the breath test. You cannot request a blood test.

Shouldn’t I just plead guilty if my test results were 0.08%?

Absolutely not. The police may have committed many errors in the arrest process. These errors may include flaws in the testing process, violation of your constitutional rights, and even police fabrication. Your criminal defense attorney may be able to challenge your case based on those errors.

How can I win an MVA hearing if my tests results were 0.08%?

The MVA determines whether the police followed proper procedures in seizing your Maryland driving permit. This analysis can include whether police properly completed the paperwork they issued you at the time of your arrest.

Why am I being charged with DUI if I did not drink but only smoked some marijuana?

Driving while under the influence (DUI) includes drugs as well as alcohol.

Why do I have to go the MVA if I am charged with DUI?

The MVA (Motor Vehicle Administration) controls your privileges to drive. The District Court of Maryland decides questions of criminal guilt or innocence. If you are charged with DUI (Driving Under the Influence) or DWI (Driving While Impaired) you must request a hearing with the MVA within 10 days of your arrest to avoid an automatic suspension of your driving privileges.

The police said I blew a .07%. Why was I arrested and charged with DUI?

An arrest for DUI can made at any blood level, .07% is the minimum. The decision to arrest is influenced by your performance of the field sobriety tests and the driving pattern you may have exhibited prior to the arrest. An officer can arrest you for simply being under the influence of alcohol or drugs without any reference to your blood alcohol level.

What should I say if I’m stopped by a police officer and he asks if I’ve been drinking?

You are not required to answer potentially incriminating questions. A polite “I prefer not to say anything,” or “I would like to speak with an attorney before I answer any questions” is a reasonable response.

What is the punishment for drunk driving?

The maximum punishment for driving while impaired (DWI) is a jail sentence of 60 day and $500 fine or both; the maximum sentence for the charged of driving while under the influence is one year in jail $1,000 fine or both. While sentences may vary depending upon the judge who hears your case and even the county in which your case is handled, it is rare to receive jail time for a first offense. Normally, a sentence for a first offense involved probation, a lecture by Mothers Against Drug Driving, and a fine. A first offender is also eligible for a probation before judgment (PBJ).

What is a PBJ?

In Maryland, if a person has not been convicted of drunk driving within the previous ten years, the person is eligible for probation before judgment, informally called PBJ. A PBJ is exactly what it says, after the court finds the person guilty, the person is placed on probation before getting a judgment (or conviction) against them. If the probation is completed without any violations of probation, the person does not get the conviction, points are not assessed against the person, and the guilty finding does not show on the person’s complete driving record. However, the PBJ does appear on a separate PBJ driving record, which is only available to the person, his or her lawyer, the courts, the prosecutors, and the police.

If I’m pulled over for a traffic stop, can the police search my car?

A police officer generally needs a warrant to search your car, unless he has probable cause. Probable cause can include the officer’s noticing contraband (such as drugs) in plain view. Absent a warrant or probable cause, the officer may only search your car with your consent. He may ask “do you mind if I take a look in your car?” Know that you have a right to refuse searches. However, above all, it’s important to be calm and polite. Even if you think an officer violated your rights, it’s not an argument you will win on the street. Rather, your criminal defense lawyer will be able to challenge these violations in court.

If my car is impounded, can the police search my car?

Yes.

The officer never read me my rights, what can we do about it?

You probably were advised of your right to take or refuse a chemical test for alcohol and the penalties for failing or refusing the breath test. You are probably asking about a 5th Amendment “Miranda” warning about the right to remain silent and to have the assistance of a lawyer. Often, in drunk driving cases, they do not give that advice. The only consequence is that the prosecution cannot use any of your answers to questions asked by the police after the arrest.

Why did I receive more than one ticket charging me with drunk driving?

Maryland has five different offenses that fall within the generic term – drunk driving: driving while under the influence of alcohol because of substantial impairment of normal coordination, driving under the influence of alcohol per se because of a test result of .08 or more, driving while impaired by alcohol, driving while impaired by drugs, or drugs and alcohol, and driving while impaired by controlled dangerous substances. The pre-printed citations the officer carries to write tickets for these offenses require the officer to write separate tickets for each offense.

Why is the officer allowed to take my license if I’m presumed innocent?

The law permits the police to take your Maryland license before a hearing is held for the protection of the public. You have a right to challenge the officer’s basis for taking of your license at the motor vehicle administration.

Can I get my DUI arrest records, court records, and MVA records expunged?

You can only get an expungement of DUI arrest records and court records if your court case result is a not guilty, a dismissal, a nolle prosequi, or a stet. If your case result is guilty and your receive either a conviction or a probation before judgment (PBJ) you can only get court records expunged if you get a pardon from the Governor. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) does not expunge records of drunk driving convictions and PBJs.

 

You can make  appointments by contacting us online or by calling our main office at (301)762-7007. Our office is located in Rockville, Maryland near the Rockville District and Circuit Courts and is convenient to Metro. Appointments can usually be scheduled within the week.