Maryland, like many other states, has strict laws in place to combat driving under the influence (DUI) offenses. One important aspect of DUI enforcement is administering breathalyzer tests to measure blood alcohol concentration (BAC). However, you may wonder whether you have the right to refuse a breathalyzer test and what consequences may follow such a decision.

Maryland DUI laws and implied consent

Maryland’s implied consent laws are regulations that establish the legal framework for obtaining chemical tests, including breathalyzer tests, from individuals suspected of driving under the influence (DUI). The implied consent doctrine in Maryland is based on the understanding that individuals operating motor vehicles implicitly agree to submit to chemical testing to determine their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels.

In other words, Maryland’s implied consent law states that anyone who operates a vehicle in the state is considered to have consented to a breath or blood test if they are legally detained for suspicion of intoxicated driving. This includes driving on public highways or private property that is used by the public.

What are the different chemical tests used to measure BAC?

Authorities use various chemical tests to measure blood alcohol concentration, providing an estimation of the alcohol level in an individual’s bloodstream. The selection of a specific test may depend on factors such as the circumstances of the arrest, the availability of testing equipment, and the preferences of law enforcement. Here are the different chemical tests commonly employed to measure BAC:

  • Breathalyzer test: This test measures the concentration of alcohol in the breath to estimate BAC. During the procedure, the individual blows into a handheld device that analyzes the alcohol content in their breath. The device then converts this information into an estimated BAC reading.
  • Blood test: Directly measuring the alcohol content in the individual’s blood, this test involves drawing a blood sample, typically from a vein in the arm. The sample is then sent to a laboratory for analysis. Blood tests are considered more accurate than breath tests and are often used when precision in results is crucial.
  • Urine test: This test involves providing a urine sample, which is then analyzed to determine the concentration of alcohol. Urine tests are less common than breath or blood tests and may not be as accurate in assessing current impairment.
  • Saliva test: This test measures the alcohol content in the individual’s saliva. The procedure involves using a swab to collect a sample of saliva, which is then analyzed for alcohol content. While less invasive than blood tests, saliva tests may not be as accurate.
  • Field sobriety tests: While not chemical tests, field sobriety tests are behavioral assessments conducted by law enforcement officers to evaluate a person’s physical and cognitive impairment. Tasks include walking in a straight line, balancing on one leg, and following a moving object with the eyes. These tests are often used to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest.

Remember, breath, blood, and urine tests are considered chemical tests, while field sobriety tests are physical assessments. The results of these tests can be used as evidence in DUI cases, and refusal to take them may lead to legal consequences as discussed under implied consent laws. If this is the case for you, don’t hesitate to call me immediately.

What happens if I refuse to take a chemical test?

The refusal to take a chemical test in Annapolis triggers administrative penalties from Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). This can result in the administrative suspension of the individual’s driver’s license. The length of this suspension depends on factors such as whether the individual has prior DUI convictions or refusals within a specific timeframe.

For a first-offense refusal, an individual in Annapolis may face a 270-day license suspension. Subsequent refusals within a certain timeframe can lead to more extended suspensions, ranging from one year to two years. Additionally, individuals who refuse a chemical test may be required to use an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in their vehicle, even if they are not ultimately convicted of DUI. The IID requirement may be imposed as a condition for license reinstatement.

Refusing a chemical test in Annapolis also has implications in criminal court proceedings related to DUI charges. The refusal can be introduced as evidence by the prosecution.

In certain situations, law enforcement in Annapolis may obtain a warrant to conduct a blood test even if an individual refuses a breathalyzer. Refusal does not necessarily prevent law enforcement from obtaining evidence through other legal means.

If you are facing DUI charges or administrative penalties due to refusal, you should consult with a qualified Annapolis DUI defense attorney promptly. I can provide guidance on the specific laws in Maryland, explore potential legal defenses, and help you navigate the legal process effectively.

Are there defenses to refusing a breathalyzer test?

While refusing a breathalyzer test in Annapolis can trigger certain consequences, there are defenses available to challenge or mitigate these penalties. It’s important to note that the success of these defenses can vary based on the specific circumstances of your case. Here are some potential defenses to refusing a breathalyzer test:

  • Challenging the legality of the traffic stop: If law enforcement did not have a lawful reason to stop your vehicle, it may be possible to challenge the legality of the traffic stop. If the stop is deemed unlawful, any evidence obtained thereafter, including refusal, may be considered inadmissible.
  • Questioning the validity of implied consent warnings: Law enforcement is required to provide clear and accurate implied consent warnings before requesting a chemical test. If the warnings were unclear, misleading, or not provided according to the law, it may be a defense against the refusal.
  • Medical conditions impacting compliance: Individuals with certain medical conditions may be unable to provide a breath sample. If a legitimate medical condition prevented compliance with the breathalyzer test, this may serve as a defense. In such cases, it is crucial to provide medical evidence supporting the condition.
  • Inaccuracies in the breathalyzer device: Challenges may be made to the accuracy and reliability of the breathalyzer device used. Issues such as calibration errors, improper maintenance, or other malfunctions could potentially undermine the validity of the test results.
  • Lack of knowledge about consequences: If you were not properly informed about the consequences of refusing a breathalyzer test, there may be grounds for a defense. Implied consent warnings must be provided in a clear and understandable manner.

If you’re facing consequences for refusing a breathalyzer test, talk to me today. I can assess the circumstances of your case, explore potential defenses, and provide guidance on the best course of action regarding your personal situation. Remember, time is of the essence in a DUI case, so reach out to me as soon as possible.

At Drew Cochran, Attorney at Law, I can help if you have refused a breathalyzer or chemical test. I will work with the court and the MVA to fight the charges against you. Don’t try to go it alone; these are serious issues with serious repercussions. Call me today in Annapolis or Ellicott City, or use my contact form to get started.

Just remember — Keep Calm, and Call Drew!