Baltimore DUI/DWI defense attorneys will tell you that the government has strengthened the enforcement of the DUI/DWI laws by a factor of 10 or more in the last 30 years.
- The legal limit has been lowered
- The use of DUI/DWI checkpoints has increased
- Sanctions are harsher
- The possibility of a warning has disappeared
- The stigma associated with a DUI/DWI is significantly more palpable
The reality is, as a society, we've determined that alcohol and driving never mix.
We've determined that if you are going to put our safety, or that of our children or loved ones at risk, the consequences for your drunken driving will be severe. It's tough to argue against that, but a DUI/DWI defense lawyer's role is not to argue for drunk drivers, that their conduct is ok, or that they should be given some kind of "break".
The effective defense lawyer's role is to hold the state to their burden of proving their case while aggressively presenting and advancing the client's defenses. If the case can be beaten, the role is to win that case. If the State's case is strong, then the defense lawyers role is to present evidence that fully presents a client’s character, fitness, and achievements to the sentencing judge.
It's unfair to judge someone by a singular episode.
Good people make mistakes everyday. Anyone who has ever consumed alcohol has likely, at some point, had a moment of introspection where they realize, "I may have had too much.” A lot of people in that circumstance conform their conduct so that others are not put at risk. But, consider the person who, while otherwise responsible and hardworking, dedicated and disciplined, makes the wrong choice and takes the wheel.
Perhaps the English have it right. There, you hear the offense of DUI/DWI referred to as “drink-driving” rather than “drunk driving.” That's a good way to look at it. It's not drunk driving that is likely to get you in trouble. It's the drink-driving scenario that is much more likely. Consider our hero. The guy who says, "I may have had too much,” and although otherwise responsible, nevertheless makes a singular wrong choice and takes the wheel. He’s not fall down drunk, but, after having some drinks, he decides that he’s capable of driving. Did you know that 6 cans of beer consumed over the course of 3 hours can render a 185 pound man "over the limit" (in Baltimore, a BAC of .08 or higher) and not able to legally drive? Think about it. These are the folks who I really take some pride in defending.
DUI/DWI charges carry significant penalties. You'll be arrested. You'll be held in jail cell. You may be released on bail. Then, you've got to deal with:
- The loss of your driver's license
- The possible loss of your job
- The social and professional stigma that comes with a DUI/DWI charge
- An angry and hurt spouse
- Painfully explaining the embarrassing ordeal to friends and family
- Paying the fines
- Completing driver improvement and education courses
- Completing substance abuse counseling
While these consequences are painful, don't forget DUI, even first time DUI, carries a possible jail sentence.
Should You Take the Test?
“What do I do if I get pulled over after having a few drinks?” is a common question that attorneys hear. If you've got your judgment about you, and you are familiar with the various tables that correlate weight, body type, drinks, and BAC [blood alcohol content], you can do some quick math to determine if the officer is going to have a case. A BAC above .08 is illegal. Since most people aren't in the position to make that type of snap judgment, and don't have those tables in the glove box, it’s helpful to take the following steps.
Respect the officer
Obviously, you should be polite and respectful. Although slight, there is always a chance you could be let go. More importantly, these roadside encounters are frequently captured on film. So, considering that film may someday be played for a jury, you don't want to create a good "COPS" episode.
Don't help the officer
You might have to give your name, address, driver’s license and registration, but you don't have to do much else. Where you have been and what you have consumed are questions you can decline to answer.
Don't take the field sobriety tests
You can refuse to take a field sobriety test or PBT (preliminary breath test), as they are not mandatory. Some lawyers suggest that you ask to talk to a lawyer prior to determining whether or not you are going to submit to one of these tests. This may be a valid approach, but ultimately, it's unlikely that the officer is going to let you make that call and will arrest you anyway. There does not appear to be any Maryland case directly on this point, but, insofar as the U.S. Supreme Court has stated that there is no right to counsel before taking a Breathalyzer test, it may be unlikely that you can make the call.
If you refuse the non-mandatory tests, the officer is going to arrest you, but he or she will have to show later that there was "probable cause" for that arrest, and this may be a more difficult task without the sobriety test. The officer, or State, will have to rely on things like "a strong odor of alcohol emanating from the defendant" (a crowd favorite found in most DUI arrest reports). The absence of these other factors may give your attorney good fodder to challenge the legality of your arrest. If you're not lawfully arrested, you're not going to be convicted.
This is the big test. There are some different considerations when it comes to the Breathalyzer. I say take the test, but that conclusion merits some discussion. Here, you can't refuse to take the test. If you do, you will lose your license for 180 days if it’s your first offense and 1 year if it’s your second offense. Moreover, you can't get a restricted license unless you participate in the ignition interlock program.
If you take and fail the test, it's likely going to be easier for the state to convict you. But, if you've refused the field sobriety tests, your attorney can challenge the legality of your arrest and get the case tossed if successful. Again, if you're not lawfully arrested, you're not going to be convicted, and if you take the mandatory test, you don't face the automatic license penalties.On the other hand, if there are no Breathalyzer results, the state may have a harder time proving their case, especially if the following apply: there were no strong visible signals of intoxication; there are no positive field sobriety test results, (because you refused); any film of the roadside encounter is benign (because you were polite and courteous). If you refuse, you do lose your DL for 180 days first offense with no restricted license [unless you do the interlock]. Some attorneys have suggested that not driving for 6 months, and avoiding the stigma of a DUI, could be the best possible outcome, but, that's a pretty narrow window to fit in.
Put succinctly, most Baltimore DUI lawyers will tell you take the test, and I agree.
If you have been arrested for a DUI/DWI charge, I will scrutinize the state's case for any possible legal defense that can result in acquittal, or a favorable resolution of your charge. As an experienced drunk driving defense attorney, I will:
- Assess the strength of the State's case
- Try the case where warranted
- Make you aware of the maximum penalty you’re facing and how a particular judge typically views similar cases
- Advise you on extrajudicial steps you can take that may lessen the severity of any sanction you may receive
- Argue for the protection of your driving privileges
Contact me today to schedule your complimentary case evaluation and analysis.