Procedural Errors by the Police and What They May Mean to Your Maryland DUI or DWI Case

If you are pulled over because the police suspect that you were driving drunk, you face an array of potential outcomes, and many of them are not good. Sometimes, though, the police may make procedural errors in the conduct of your investigation and/or arrest, and those errors may allow you to obtain a lesser punishment or to get the charges dropped entirely. If such an opportunity exists, a Maryland criminal defense lawyer knowledgeable about DUI and DWI law can help you put on the strongest possible defense.

There are actually multiple different ways in which a DUI arrest can go awry procedurally. J.D.’s case, while occurring outside Maryland, makes for a good illustration. J.D., while allegedly driving drunk, lost control of her Ford Mustang and hit another car. One of the passengers in that other car died. A state trooper allegedly noticed that J.D. smelled of alcohol, slurred her speech, had bloodshot eyes, and also was unable to perform field sobriety tests successfully.

Eight law enforcement officers responded to the crash scene, but none of them contacted either the “on-call” prosecuting attorney or a judge concerning obtaining a search warrant. Instead, a trooper took J.D. to a nearby hospital for an involuntary blood draw. (The driver had twice refused requests for a voluntary blood test.) The test result was .130 and was a key piece of evidence in her DUI manslaughter case, which resulted in a conviction.

Because J.D.’s case occurred in Florida, the lack of a warrant resulted in the test result being thrown out on appeal and J.D. getting a new trial. The law in that state says that, unless there are special “exigent circumstances” in a particular case, the police have to get a warrant for an involuntary blood test in a DUI case.

Here in Maryland, the law operates a bit differently. The Maryland Code has Section 16-205.1(c) of the Transportation Article, which explicitly says that, in a specific class of cases, law enforcement officers don’t need a warrant to do an involuntary blood test. This category of cases involves incidents where there’s already been an accident, where someone has suffered “a life-threatening injury” or has died, and where there were “reasonable grounds to believe” that the driver was under the influence. (These grounds can include things like glassy or bloodshot eyes, slurred speech, or the odor of alcohol on the driver’s breath.)

So, had J.D.’s crash happened here, that lack of a warrant would not have made the blood test result inadmissible. However, even if your warrantless blood test isn’t suppressed, you still have options.

A lack of ‘probable cause’ may be a strong way to weaken or destroy the state’s case

There are other potential flaws that, if they occurred in your case, could strengthen your defense. For example, if the police neglected to read you your Miranda rights before they started questioning you, then you may be able to suppress the responses you gave in that interrogation. You may have undergone an inaccurate field sobriety test that was not a proper assessment of your condition. The equipment used to assess your blood-alcohol content may have been calibrated inaccurately or otherwise not working properly, or the blood sample itself may have been mishandled and, therefore, tainted.

What can be even more helpful are the facts leading up to your encounter with the police. If the police pulled you over but, when they did so, lacked the required degree of “probable cause” necessary to initiate any kind of traffic stop, then that may result in all of the proof against you being excluded, which could trigger the prosecution’s dropping the charges.

In other words, there are several ways to attack a DUI or DWI arrest in Maryland. The key is to reach out to legal counsel as quickly as possible. For your defense, count on the knowledgeable DUI/DWI defense attorneys at Anthony A. Fatemi, LLC to handle your case zealously and diligently to get you the best possible outcome. To get us started on your case, contact us at 301-519-2801 or via our online form.

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