Here’s the thing with laws most people don’t always realize: there are a LOT of them. As many laws as you think there are, double that and maybe double it again. Not only does the United States as a whole have statutes up the wazoo (technical lawyer term), but every individual state does as well. With so much legislation, it’s simply not possible for someone to know all of them off the top of their head — especially if they’re not actually an attorney. But guess what? Even if you don’t know a law exists, you can still break it. Ignorance isn’t a legal excuse, unfortunately, and some of those sneakier laws can show up to bite you at the most inopportune times.
If you’re ever driving on Maryland roads, you’re under the eye of one of these sneaky laws whether you know it or not. Implied consent is the name, catching impaired drivers by any means necessary is the game. Since driving drunk or drugged can be so dangerous, pretty much every state has a version of implied consent, which basically means every driver who uses a public road is deemed to have consented to DUI testing. As long as an officer suspects you’re impaired while operating (or attempting to operate) a motor vehicle, it is Implied you have consented to being tested.
Yeah. It’s not great. While you can, technically and for the most part, refuse to take a test, it doesn’t exactly end well for you. That being said, it may be worse to submit. And THAT being said, it can all be really hard to decide on in the heat of the moment when you’re already afraid and stressed and (possibly) impaired.
What actually happens if I refuse a sobriety test?
Remember one paragraph ago when I said refusing to take a DUI test doesn’t end well for you? So, because of Implied consent, breaking that unspoken legal agreement gets your license immediately taken away, regardless of your actual sobriety level. It’s basically an admission of guilt, in some form. So, once you’ve “made” that “admission,” the officer will confiscate your license and start preparing a case for the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) — because that’s who makes the final decision. And then, uh…they’ll arrest you, and do their best to try and get a warrant for a blood test. Unfortunately, law enforcement has a long history of pulling some nasty tricks to get this to happen so they can charge you.
The MVA may decide what happens to your license, but Maryland’s criminal justice system decides what happens to you. Whatever they find in any tests, they can use against you in court (and you get arrested either way), which is why refusing them is still the smarter thing to do. Getting a warrant takes time. Especially if you haven’t even caused an accident, refusing those tests can be the best way to hurt the prosecution before they hurt you.
Are there alternatives to losing my Maryland drivers’ license if I refuse a test?
There is exactly one alternative: convincing the MVA’s administrative judge you’re innocent in a hearing. Once your license is taken away by the arresting officer, you’ll be sent paperwork to request a hearing with the MVA within a certain time frame. It’s not free, but this is definitely something to take advantage of — just not alone. Listen to me carefully. Do not. Represent yourself. Alone. Attorneys like me went to school for a very, VERY long time just so you do not do what you are about to do. Not only will the arresting officer’s report be used against you, but a hearing typically lasts an hour — that’s an hour to plead your case, an hour to smooth over anything the reports say, an hour to decide the future of your driving privileges.
You want a professional doing that arguing. A lot can and does go wrong, even if you’re innocent, simply due to misunderstandings of the law and a lack of proper representation. Since you’re probably also facing criminal charges (and a skilled criminal defense attorney can represent you for both), give yourself the best chance possible.
For how long will my license be suspended if I refuse a chemical test?
In Maryland, the first time you refuse a test, your license is suspended for 270 days. And if you do it again, you lose it for two years. Of course, this is assuming you either never have an MVA hearing or lose your case (probably because you didn’t hire me), but it’s important to understand the stakes you’re up against. Depending on the circumstances, you may be able to get a paper temporary license from the officer so you can still drive to work or school, but you won’t be able to go anywhere else.
Can you ever be forced to submit to chemical testing?
It’s unpleasant as heck to think about, and brings up memories of angsty cop procedurals, but there are indeed two circumstances in which you could be literally, physically forced to submit to chemical DUI testing. The first circumstance happens if you’re arrested and the officer is able to get a warrant overriding your right to refuse (“this guy’s refusing to take a test but he’s been giggling at the wall for the past fifteen minutes” might, uh, warrant that), which takes time, and doesn’t always happen.
The other circumstance? Well, if you’re involved in any sort of accident that seriously injures or kills someone else, even if you didn’t cause it, as long as the officer there suspects you’re impaired, you no longer have the right to refuse a test. The officer actually gets to decide — WITHOUT consulting a medical professional, mind you — if the other party’s injuries are severe enough to be life-threatening, and then they get to drag you to the nearest hospital for a forced blood test, restraints and all.
If this happens to you, take a deep breath, get through the process, and then hire me. We’ll work out what to do next.
How do I avoid a DUI conviction after a failed breathalyzer or blood test?
We’re all in basic agreement that being convicted of a DUI is a bad thing, right? It’s a serious crime at any level that can not only rob you of your freedom and driving privileges, but can also seriously hurt your finances and future. Not only can it be more difficult to find a job or go to school, but between fines, court costs, car impounding, MVA hearing fees, bail, and any other legal fees, DUI convictions can cost someone thousands and thousands of dollars. Also, of course — jail sucks.
So, we want to avoid this. When you hire a skilled DUI defense attorney, they can tailor your defense to your exact situation and make sure the law works for you, not against. If you ended up submitting to a test one way or another, we can argue it’s inadmissible for a variety of reasons. Maybe the officer did it wrong; maybe they didn’t have proper suspicion. Whatever it is, the point is there are always options as long as you hire the right attorney to fight on your behalf.
Great news for anyone charged with a DUI/DWI in Annapolis or Ellicott City — me! I, Drew Cochran, am a highly experienced attorney at law with a specialty in defending those charged with impaired driving at any level. I understand how much is on the line, and I know how to help when no one else will. The only way you guarantee a loss is by doing nothing at all. You can either call Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law or use my contact form, and I’ll be ready to help.
Just remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew!