Police officers in Maryland work tirelessly, sometimes risking their lives, to keep city streets safe. Despite adhering to strict standards, they are not perfect. The daily volume of arrests and drunk drivers they face can make them prone to mistakes. Recognizing police mistakes could be valuable to those facing driving under the influence (DUI) charges.
1. Lacking reasonable suspicion
An officer needs reasonable articulable suspicion of a traffic or criminal violation before pulling someone over. This decision must be based on specific circumstances that led to the stop, not just a gut feeling or prejudice.
A driver exhibiting reckless driving behaviors such as speeding, driving too slow and swerving may potentially be under the influence. While these actions are not definite proof of DUI, they could provide a police officer enough basis to initiate further investigation.
2. Performing unlawful field sobriety tests
Reasonable suspicion allows a police officer to conduct a field sobriety test. Failing these tests could indicate intoxication, prompting the officer to test the individual’s blood alcohol content.
Maryland uses three standardized field sobriety tests:
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) test
- Walk-and-turn test
- One-leg stand test
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sets the standard procedure that police officers must follow when conducting field sobriety tests. Any mistakes could lead to inaccurate test results and invalidate them in court.
3. Mishandling blood alcohol concentration tests
A more accurate method to gauge a driver’s level of impairment involves conducting a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test. However, police officers need to handle this correctly, as improper sample collection or mistakes during the test procedure could lead to a false positive result.
4. Conducting illegal searches
Police officers cannot just search a vehicle. They must establish probable cause or have a warrant or the individual’s consent to proceed.
Probable cause carries a higher standard than reasonable articulable suspicion. Reckless driving, smelling like alcohol and failing field sobriety tests can give an officer probable cause. However, there are cases when a police officer oversteps their boundaries and performs an illegal search.
5. Failing to perform proper arrest procedure
Police officers must follow protocol and respect the suspect’s rights when making an arrest. That includes reading the Miranda rights to the suspect, allowing them to decline a breathalyzer test and providing a notice of intent to suspend the driver’s license.
Failing to abide by the proper arrest procedure could invalidate any evidence collected against the suspect and potentially lead to the dismissal of charges.
Driving while under the influence is dangerous and should be dealt with appropriately. However, a DUI suspect still has rights that police officers must respect. Any mistakes during a DUI arrest may help the defendant’s attorney build a stronger defense.