When a law enforcement officer pulls you over believing that you are driving while impaired or under the influence of alcohol, you generally won’t be charged with a DUI or DWI upfront. The police officer most often will first ask you to take a field sobriety test along with a breath, blood alcohol test to confirm the alcohol content in your blood.
However, you can politely refuse to take some of these tests. Legally, you are under no obligation to comply with some tests, but please note that this does not include all tests. Refusing tests that you are under a legal obligation to take could result in heavy fines and penalties. Please also note, that while some tests can be refused in Maryland, this isn’t always the case in other states.
Knowing which tests you should or should not refuse can play a major role in traffic charges against you and the eventual results of your traffic defense case in Ocean City and Maryland courts. For more legal advice regarding DUI, DWI, and other traffic charges, contact The Law Office of C. Gregory Coburn for a free consultation with our traffic defense attorney.
Tests You CAN Refuse
Among the DUI and DWI tests you have the right to refuse in Maryland are field sobriety tests. The police officer may ask you to step out of your vehicle to perform a series of tasks that measure your coordination and focus that may be impaired when drunk.
Field Sobriety Tests
The problem with field sobriety tests, however, is their subjective nature. A driver’s performance on field sobriety tests will be judged by the observations of the police officer conducting the test. These sobriety tests reflect a driver’s physical coordination, ability to follow directions, and balance. Even sober drivers who struggle with simple coordination tasks can fail such sobriety tests, which may include:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: Nystagmus is a condition characterized by sudden eye movements made involuntarily that is common among drunk drivers. A police officer may ask you to follow a pen, flashlight, or their finger with your eyes and without moving your head to determine if nystagmus is an issue.
- Walk and Turn Test: Many people are familiar with this sobriety test in which an individual is asked to walk in a straight line for 9 steps before turning around and walking 9 steps back the same path. Have trouble staying on a straight line, maintaining balance, following the police officer’s instructions, or taking the necessary number of steps will indicate the presence of alcohol in the driver’s blood.
- Standing on One Leg Test: As the name suggests, in this test you are required to stand on one leg with the other leg is held 6 inches off the ground, while counting to the number 30. The loss of balance and or the inability to count properly or failure to keep one leg off the ground will indicate the presence of alcohol, unless the driver is physically unable to complete the test due to an injury or medical condition.
Tests You Should NOT Refuse
The police officer, whether or not they ask for a field sobriety test, usually will ask you to take a blood alcohol content (BAC) test that gives more objective evidence about the alcohol in your system. Refusing these tests can lead to the suspension of your license and sometimes even more serious consequences, especially for drivers with commercial driving licenses. Even if you are not driving a commercial vehicle at the time you are pulled over, such a license suspension and penalty can revoke your commercial driving rights for a year or more.
Breathalyzer or Breath Alcohol Test
This test measures the amount of alcohol found in the air your exhale into a device known as a breathalyzer. When you receive a Maryland driver’s license, you give automatic implied consent for officers to take a breath alcohol test or other BAC tests. This is generally true in other states as well or if you’re driving in Maryland with a license from another state.
Because of this implied consent, refusing a breathalyzer test can result in some unwelcome consequences that may be difficult to rectify. Many factors can lead to a false breathalyzer reading, though, such as burping or taking a breath mint. These can be used to create a strong traffic defense case on your behalf and may be easier to fight than should you refuse the test in the first place.
Blood Alcohol Test
Again, you give implied consent for an officer to take a blood alcohol test where a sample of your blood is measured for alcohol content. Considered the most accurate of the BAC tests, when given a choice for which BAC test to take, many individuals will choose a breath.
Should you be required to have your blood tested, however, outside factors can similarly affect test results and can be used to build your defense case. Blood test will be administered if the driver has been involved in an accident and/or is incapable of consenting or refusing to take a breath or blood test. The test itself is not taken on-site, but by hospital personnel, during which time the alcohol levels in your blood may have changed from the time of the incident. Problems can occur within the lab as well which can be uncovered by a strong legal defense team.
What Happens if I Refuse a BAC Test?
In most cases, we recommend taking a breath or blood test to avoid the repercussions that follow refusing. However, should you refuse the above BAC tests, understand what consequences will be involved:
- License Suspension: The police officer on the scene will suspend and confiscate your driver’s license and give you a temporary paper license. They will also begin filing a case against you with Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). The arresting officer will issue a temporary license valid for 45 days from the date of the arrest. After 45 days, a driver will be suspended for 270 days(9 months) unless an ignition inter-lock is installed on their vehicle for one year. Ignition inter-lock will allow a driver to continue driving without incurring a suspension. Out of state drivers – if a non-Maryland resident refuses to submit to a breath test their driving privilege in the stat of Maryland will be suspended for 270 days.
- Hearing: You have the right to schedule a hearing with the MVA to continue driving during your suspension, but the hearing must be scheduled within 10 days of the incident and take place within 30 days. Otherwise, your request could be denied and you will not be allowed to drive during the entirety of your suspension. For a first time offense, the suspension period is 270 days. Second time offenders will receive a two-year suspension.
Schedule a Free Consultation with a DUI/DWI Traffic Lawyer
Let an experienced traffic defense attorney defend you and your rights when you are charged or arrested with a DUI or DWI offense in Ocean City, MD, or if you refuse a BAC test. The Law Office of C. Gregory Coburn has been serving individuals as a trusted DWI and DUI traffic defense lawyer for over 30 years. We will gather all the evidence for your case to provide you with a strong traffic defense. Whether that involves inconclusive or inaccurate BAC test results or improper arrest proceedings, we’ll dig deep to help reduce charges or even throw out the case altogether.
Our experience is one you can trust. Give us a call to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation at our law office in Ocean City.