What rights do Maryland drivers have at drunk driving checkpoints?

When stopped at DUI checkpoints, Maryland drivers have rights, which may help them to avoid potentially incriminating themselves.

Every year, numerous people in the Upper Marlboro area, and throughout Maryland, are arrested on suspicion of drunk driving. In fact, the state's Highway Safety Office reports that more than 24,000 people are arrested for DWI annually in Maryland. Sometimes, these arrests are the result of motorists being stopped at DUI checkpoints. In order to protect themselves and avoid unnecessary legal issues, it behooves drivers to understand their rights at such stops.

Answering questions

Typically, the first thing that law enforcement officers do at DUI checkpoints is approach the stopped vehicles and ask their drivers some questions. They often use motorists' answers, as well as their speech and behavior, to determine if people might be under the influence of alcohol. Thus, answering the authorities' questions may, in some cases, be incriminating.

In many cases, people answer the questions they are asked by law enforcement officers because they feel obligated to do so. It is important for drivers to know, however, that they are not legally required to do so. Rather, they may choose to leave their windows rolled up and present the authorities with a card stating they wish to exercise their constitutional rights. This includes the right to seek legal counsel before speaking with law enforcement officers, and the right to continue on their way if they are not being arrested.

Performing field sobriety tests

When law enforcement officers suspect people are driving under the influence, they may ask them to perform field sobriety tests. On their own, the outcomes of such tests may not be enough evidence to prove that drivers are intoxicated. However, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration points out that the authorities may use people's performance on roadside tests to determine if additional testing is needed.

Drivers are not legally required to perform field sobriety tests at the request of law enforcement officers when stopped at DUI checkpoints. Nevertheless, refusing such tests does not guarantee that motorists will not be charged with drunk driving. If people have not been drinking, then performing roadside tests may help prove that they should be allowed to continue on.

Submitting to chemical tests

If the authorities have probable cause to believe drivers are intoxicated, they generally ask them to submit to chemical testing. These breath, blood or urine tests are used to determine motorists' blood alcohol or drug concentration levels. While people may choose to refuse such tests, it is important for them to understand that doing so carries consequences.

According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, law enforcement officers will confiscate the driver's licenses of motorists who refuse chemical tests to determine their BAC levels. Depending on the outcome of a hearing before the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings, people may have their driving privileges suspended for refusing breath tests. For a first time offense, drivers are subject to a 120-day license suspension. Such license suspensions are typically levied in addition to any penalties that may be imposed as a result of a drunk driving conviction.

Seeking legal guidance

Drunk driving is considered a serious offense in Maryland. Therefore, people may face a range of potentially life-changing consequences if convicted of such charges. In order to protect their rights, and their futures, those who have been charged with DUI may find it of benefit to obtain legal representation. An attorney may help them to understand their options, as well as to establish a solid criminal defense.