Getting a DUI can be terrifying. For many, it’s their first and only criminal offense, with no idea how they got charged or what to do about it.
If you find yourself charged with a DUI, then take a moment to breathe. It might be scary, but the process is afterward pretty straightforward – and able to be fought in court.
If it’s your first time getting a DUI, then keep these three things in mind:
What happened during the traffic stop can actually help your DUI defense.
The differences between a drug and alcohol DUI can impact potential sentences.
DUI convictions lead to fines, license suspension, and even jail time – but a traffic lawyer can decrease your sentence.
Getting a DUI: The Traffic Stop
Typically, an officer will approach the vehicle. They usually already suspect that individual has been driving a vehicle while intoxicated – where the term “DUI” comes from – and so will be on the lookout for any signs of drinking.
Their reports usually say that as soon as the officer approached the window, they smelled the odor of alcohol, or that the driver was slurring or had bloodshot eyes. This “observation” will justify the stop and investigation for intoxication.
The leg stand test, during which an officer instruct the driver to stand with one foot approximately six inches off the ground and count aloud by thousands (one-thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) for as long as they want.
The “horizontal gaze nystagmus,” which is the one where the officer asks the driver to follow their finger with their eyes. When someone is intoxicated by alcohol or certain drugs, they have difficulty keeping still and just using their eyes to follow.
Thewalk and turn test, where they make you walk a straight line to check for stumbling. Walking in a straight line can be challenging for completely sober people, so imagine how much worse it is while intoxicated!
Challenging Field Sobriety Test Accuracy
Although they are widely used by police and accepted as evidence at trial, are field sobriety tests truly an accurate measurement of a person’s level of intoxication?
There have been instances all over the country of suspected drunk drivers who allegedly “failed” the field sobriety test. That is, until video evidence of the testing surfaced which revealed that the suspect had actually passed.
Thankfully, the field sobriety tests are nationalized exams, which means every officer should know exactly how they’re run. A good Baltimore DUI defense lawyer can cross-examine an officer to see whether their defendant completed a properly conducted test.
A police officer will also offer a preliminary breath test during a traffic stop to determine if there is alcohol in your bloodstream. If you refuse the temporary test, it is not held against you, but the officer will make note of the refusal.
After the attempted test, the officer will usually arrest the individual and take them back to the station. Then, you must take the breathalyzer or another intoxication test – urine, blood, saliva, etc. – or you’ll have your license automatically suspended for months.
If your blood alcohol content (“BAC”) test results are above 0.08% – the legal limit in Maryland before you’re considered legally drunk or impaired – you will be charged with a DUI and possibly other accusations.
A first offense has the lightest consequences, though still severe enough to effect everyday life. In Maryland, the maximum penalty for a first offense is:
One year in jail
Driver’s license suspension of up to six months
12 points on your driver’s license
An example of a first-time offense that receives greater punishment is an offender who was transporting a minor passenger. These cases face maximum penalties of $2,000 for fines and a maximum of two years in jail.