Published on 6/23/2022, 5:31:00 PM
DUI Checkpoints in Maryland
No one-whether they are under the influence or not-enjoys being stopped at a DUI checkpoint.
DUI checkpoints can be intimidating, and many people are confused when it comes to the legality of these kinds of investigatory stops.
Should you ever find yourself stopped at a DUI checkpoint, it's imperative that you know your rights. In this article, we examine DUI checkpoints in Maryland.
What is a Maryland DUI Checkpoint?
A DUI checkpoint, also commonly called a sobriety checkpoint, is a temporary roadblock established by law enforcement to check drivers for signs of impairment or intoxication.
Officers at a DUI checkpoint may choose to stop every driver who passes through or choose drivers at random. The criteria for pulling a driver over at a checkpoint is predetermined and not based on the officers' subjective observations.
Checkpoints are usually established at intersections and during times when impaired driving is the most common, such as weekends, nights, and holidays.
Are DUI Checkpoints Legal in Maryland?
The Supreme Court, in Michigan Dep't of State Police v. Sitz, 496 U.S. 444 (1990), held that DUI and DWI Checkpoints do not violate the fourth amendment prohibition on illegal searches and seziures.
Even though the United States Supreme Court has stated that DUI/DWI Checkpoints are legal, some states have outlawed them through their own State consitutions. Unfortunately, Maryland is not one of those states.
In Little v. State, 300 Md. 485, 479 A.2d 903 (1984), the Maryland Court of Appeals similarly stated that DUI checkpoints are legal under Maryland law and statute.
Maryland DUI Checkpoint Requirements
Law enforcement must comply with a number of legal requirements when establishing a DUI checkpoint. Specifically, a DUI Checkpoint in Maryland must meet the following requirements:
It must be non-discriminatory, systematic, and non-arbitrary
Its purpose must be the protection of public safety
It must be publicized ahead of time
Drivers must be given an opportunity to turn around if they don't want to stop at the checkpoint
The checkpoint must be approved by a high-ranking member of the police force
DUI Checkpoint vs. a Traditional DUI Stop
There are a few key differences between a traditional DUI traffic stop and a DUI checkpoint. A traditional DUI stop typically involves a traffic infraction that provides the officer with probable cause to perform the stop. For example, prior to such a stop, the officer usually observes a driver weaving, speeding, or running a red light.
A DUI checkpoint, on the other hand, is a stop that is conducted without any kind of suspicion that a traffic infraction has occurred. The Supreme Court of the United States has ruled that DUI checkpoints are an exception to the general rule that a police officer must have reasonable suspicion that a crime has been committed to perform a traffic stop.
Thus, law enforcement officers may conduct DUI checkpoint stops in Maryland without specific reasonable suspicion of any wrongdoing on the part of drivers.
As noted above, it is legal to purposely avoid a DUI checkpoint in Maryland. As a driver, you may make any kind of legal traffic maneuver to avoid a checkpoint, including turning off the road or conducting a legal U-turn.
Avoiding a DUI checkpoint does not constitute a traffic violation, nor is it a reason or justification for a police officer to stop a vehicle.
However, the police sometimes watch for this type of behavior and then follow the driver to watch for an independent reason to conduct a traffic stop. Depending on the circumstances, this may or may not be legal.
Therefore, any driver who is pulled over by a police officer after avoiding a DUI checkpoint should contact an experienced Maryland DUI attorney for assistance.
Your Rights at a Maryland DUI Checkpoint
Should you ever find yourself at a DUI checkpoint in Maryland, it is important that you understand your rights. Countless drivers are arrested at DUI checkpoints each year in Maryland, and some of these arrests could have been avoided had the drivers understood the law affecting such checkpoints.
Below is an overview of your rights at DUI checkpoints in Maryland.
Often, the first thing that police officers do at DUI checkpoints is ask the drivers of stopped vehicles a series of questions. Typically, they use motorists' answers, as well as their speech and behavior, to determine whether they may be under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
In other words, answering an officer's questions at a DUI checkpoint can be risky, as it can give the officer cause to single you out for further investigation.
Often, people answer the questions posed to them by law enforcement officers because they feel obligated to do so. In other words, they believe that if they don't answer an officer's questions, they risk going to jail. This isn't the case.
You are not legally required to answer an officer's questions at a DUI checkpoint. However, you are required to present your license and registration if requested to do so by a police officer. And although you aren't required to answer questions, it is recommended that you remain courteous and non-combative even if you choose to decline to answer an officer's questions.
Performing field sobriety tests:
In addition to questioning drivers, law enforcement officers often request that drivers suspected of driving under the influence perform field sobriety tests.
While these tests alone are not enough evidence to prove that a driver is intoxicated, they can be used to determine if additional testing, such as chemical testing, may be required.
Thus, a driver who performs poorly in field sobriety tests runs the risk of being asked to submit to a chemical test.
You are not legally required to perform field sobriety tests when requested to do so by a law enforcement officer. However, refusing field sobriety tests does not guarantee that you will not be charged with drunk driving.
Submitting to chemical tests:
As noted above, if the authorities have probable cause to believe that a driver is intoxicated, they generally ask him or her to submit to chemical testing.
Chemical tests, which include breath, blood, and urine tests, are used to determine motorists' blood alcohol or drug concentration levels. Although you may choose to refuse chemical tests, doing so has consequences.
Specifically, refusing a chemical test in Maryland will initially result in the confiscation of your license. Next, following a hearing before the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings, you may have your driving privileges suspended due to your refusal.
If you are a first-time offender, you may receive a 120-day license suspension. Such suspensions often accompany other penalties that may be imposed due to a DUI conviction.
Contact a Maryland DUI Attorney Today for Assistance
If you have been charged with DUI or DWI in the state of Maryland, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney in your corner. At FrizWoods, our experienced Maryland criminal defense attorneys will mount an aggressive defense on your behalf, doing everything we can to ensure a successful result in your Maryland DUI or DWI case.
Experienced criminal defense attorneys Max Frizalone and Luke Woods have a deep and thorough understanding of the Maryland criminal law system, and we will use this knowledge and experience to provide you with the most effective legal representation possible in your Maryland DUI or DWI case.
24/7 DUI Lawyer Maryland
In addition, we take pride in the fact that we remain accessible to our clients throughout the DUI defense process. As opposed to many larger law firms, we provide our clients with 24/7 service through our 24-hour attorney phone line.
Therefore, if you are in need of aggressive legal defense in your Maryland drunk driving or impairment case, please contact us today to schedule a free initial consultation with one of our talented Maryland DUI attorneys.