Baltimore DUI/DWI defense attorneys will tell you that the government, through the police, ratcheted 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 increased. Sanctions are harsher. The possibility of a warning has disappeared. The stigma associated with a DUI/DWI is significantly more palpable than in the past. Perhaps you've heard the recent state sanctioned radio ads where an obviously intoxicated drunk driver whines"...but I don't want to be arrested". It's an ill-conceived attempt at humor about a thoroughly unfunny subject. You know what- ask anyone that's ever been arrested. No one wants to be arrested.
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. A Baltimore DUI/DWI defense lawyer's role is not to argue for drunk drivers. The Baltimore drunk driving lawyer's role is to hold the state to their burden of proving their case. The Baltimore DUI/DWI attorney's role is to aggressively present and advance the client's defenses. If the State's case is strong, the Baltimore DUI/DWI defense lawyer's role is to present evidence that fully presents your 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 chosen to use 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. Perhaps most. But, consider the person who, while otherwise responsible 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. Everyone in civilized society agrees that a wobbling, fall-down drunkard does not belong behind the wheel. It's the drink-driving scenario that is much more likely. Consider our hero. The guy that says, "I may have had too much", and although otherwise responsible, nevertheless, makes a singular wrong choice, and takes the wheel. Not fall down drunk, but, after having some drinks, gets behind the wheel, i.e. "drink 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, having a blood alcohol content of .08 or more] and not able to legally drive? Think about it. These are the folks that I really take some pride in defending.
The consequences of a drunk driving charge are significant. You're arrested; you've got bail, perhaps; you will lose your driver's license [although, with the proper legal help, you may be able to protect your right to retain some driving privileges]; some people will lose their jobs; there is a social and professional stigma; generally, spouses are not thrilled; explanations are due to friends and family; fines may be imposed; fees for driver improvement and education course are normal, and, of course, there is the notion that you might actually go to jail, which, as we've already discussed, is typically not popular.
If you find yourself in this situation, you need an experienced Baltimore DUI/DWI defense lawyer to help you. You may have legal defenses that can result in favorable resolution of your charge. An experienced Baltimore drunk driving defense attorney can accurately assess the strength of the state's case. An experienced Baltimore DUI/DWI defense lawyer can give you advice on guidance on extra-judicial steps you can take that may lessen the severity of any sanction you may receive. An experienced Baltimore drunk driving defense lawyer can give you guidance on what the maximum penalty is, and how a particular judge typically views similar cases. An experienced Baltimore DUI/DWI defense attorney can successfully protect your ability to drive.
SHOULD I TAKE THE TEST?
The question often arises – what do I do if I get pulled over, and I've had a few drinks? 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, and see if the officer is going to have a case. A BAC above .08 is illegal. As most people aren't in the position to make that type of snap judgment, and don't have those tables in the glovebox, some more concrete advice from an experienced Baltimore DUI/DWI lawyer is likely desirable.
Respect the officer: Certainly you should be polite and respectful. There's always a chance you could be let go, however slight. More importantly, increasingly, these roadside encounters are on film, and in some jurisdictions required to be 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 them: You might have to give your name, address, DL and registration, but you don't have to do much else. Where you've been and what you've consumed are questions you can decline to answer.
Don't take the field sobriety tests: You can refuse to take field sobriety test or PBT [preliminary breath test] which are not mandatory. Some Baltimore DUI/DWI lawyers have suggested that you ask to talk to a lawyer prior to determining whether or not you are going to submit to a field sobriety test or PBT. This may be a valid approach, but ultimately, it's unlikely 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 breathalyzer test, it may be unlikely there is a right to counsel prior to taking a field sobriety test or PBT, but opinions vary on this. The benefit to not taking the non-mandatory tests is that if the officer is going to arrest you, he or she will have to show later that there was "probable cause" for that arrest, which 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 Baltimore DUI attorney good fodder to challenge the legality of your arrest. If you're not lawfully arrested, you're not going to be convicted.
The Breathalyzer: There are some different considerations when it comes to the breathalyzer. There, you can't refuse. You do, and lose your license 180 days first offense / 1 year second offense. Moreover, you can't get a restricted license unless you participate in the ignition interlock program. I don't know of any poll, but I would suspect most Baltimore DUI/DWI lawyers would tell you take the breathalyzer. There are some consequences that flow from either choice.
If you take and fail [.08 or more BAC], it's likely going to be easier for the state to convict you, But, if you've refused the field sobriety tests, as I've suggested, your Baltimore DUI 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 you refuse the breathalyzer and there are no breathalyzer results, there are no strong visible signals of intoxication, there are no positive field sobriety tests, [because you refused] any film of the roadside encounter is benign [because you were polite and courteous], the state may have a hard time proving its case against you. You do lose your DL for 180 days first offense with no restricted license [unless you do the interlock]. Some Baltimore DUI attorney 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. Most Baltimore DUI/DWI lawyers will tell you take the test, and I agree.