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DUIs in Maryland: Knowing Your Constitutional Rights


In Maryland, driving under the influence (DUI) is covered under Maryland Transportation Code Ann. § 21-902. According to this statute, it is illegal to operate or attempt to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. A conviction for DUI in Maryland can carry severe penalties, including up to one year of incarceration and/or a fine of up to $1,000. Additionally, individuals may face driver's license suspension for up to a year.

When confronted with law enforcement during a DUI stop, knowing your rights can prevent you from making inadvertent statements or actions that could be used against you in court. For instance, remaining silent preserves your right against self-incrimination, preventing law enforcement from using anything you say as evidence. Similarly, refusing consent to searches safeguards your Fourth Amendment rights, preventing officers from potentially collecting incriminating evidence without a warrant.

Hiring an attorney is essential. Legal representation can uphold your rights throughout the process and help identify and address any violations that may occur during your arrest or subsequent proceedings. A defense attorney can provide invaluable guidance, negotiate on your behalf, and work toward a favorable outcome.

At Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake, we proudly serve the Howard County community. Contact us today at (410) 927-5137 to schedule a consultation.

The Right to Remain Silent

Miranda rights, derived from the landmark Supreme Court case Miranda v. Arizona (1966), refer to the constitutional rights afforded to individuals upon arrest or custodial interrogation. These rights include the right to remain silent and legal representation.

How Miranda Rights Apply to DUI Cases

In DUI cases, Miranda rights may not be read immediately upon a traffic stop, as they are typically administered after an arrest and before an interrogation. However, this does not diminish the importance of understanding and exercising these rights. If pulled over on suspicion of DUI, individuals have the right to politely refuse to answer any questions beyond providing basic identifying information, such as their name and address.

Benefits of Exercising the Right to Remain Silent

Exercising the right to remain silent in DUI cases can have several significant benefits. Firstly, it prevents individuals from inadvertently providing evidence that could be used against them in court. DUI cases often rely heavily on statements made by the accused, and remaining silent helps avoid potential self-incrimination.

Additionally, by staying silent, individuals maintain control over the information they disclose and can better protect their legal interests.

Furthermore, invoking the right to remain silent does not imply guilt. Instead, it serves as a proactive measure to safeguard one's defense.

The Right to Legal Representation

The right to legal representation, enshrined in the Sixth Amendment of the United States Constitution, guarantees individuals facing criminal charges the right to have an attorney present during critical stages of the legal process. This fundamental right allows defendants access to competent legal counsel to advocate for them and safeguard their constitutional rights.

Importance of a Lawyer in DUI Cases

DUI charges can carry severe consequences, including fines, driver’s license suspension, and incarceration, making competent legal representation indispensable. A DUI attorney can provide invaluable guidance and support at every stage of the legal process, from advising on plea negotiations to representing clients in court proceedings.

Additionally, a lawyer can:

  • Assess the evidence against the accused
  • Identify any procedural errors or constitutional violations
  • Develop a strategic defense tailored to the case circumstances

The Right to Refuse Searches

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution safeguards individuals against unreasonable searches and seizures by law enforcement. This fundamental right protects individuals from arbitrary intrusion by government officials.

How the Right to Refuse Searches Applies to DUI Stops

In the context of DUI stops, drivers possess the right to refuse searches of their vehicles without explicit probable cause. Law enforcement officers may request permission to search a car during a DUI stop. Still, drivers are not obligated to consent to such searches. However, exceptions to this rule exist, such as the plain view doctrine, which allows officers to seize evidence of illegal activity visible during a lawful stop.

Possible Consequences of Consenting to a Search

When drivers consent to searches, they waive their Fourth Amendment protections against unreasonable searches and seizures, potentially allowing law enforcement officers to discover incriminating evidence that could be used against them in court. Even if individuals believe they have nothing to hide, consenting to searches can still result in adverse consequences, such as strengthening the prosecution's case or uncovering unrelated legal issues.

The Right to Due Process

The Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution safeguards individuals' rights in criminal proceedings, including the right to due process. This amendment prevents individuals from being deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law.

Other protections under the Fifth Amendment include:

  • The right to remain silent
  • The right to a grand jury
  • The right to be free from prosecution for the same crime twice

Importance of DUI Process in DUI Cases

In DUI cases, due process is essential to safeguarding the legal rights of the accused and contributing to a fair legal process.

Due process, in conjunction with the Sixth Amendment, guarantees that individuals facing DUI charges can:

  • Present a defense
  • Challenge evidence presented against them
  • Receive a fair and impartial trial

It also prohibits arbitrary or unjust actions by law enforcement and the judiciary, protecting individuals from wrongful convictions or excessive punishments.

Safeguarding Your Rights with Legal Help

If you are stopped or arrested on suspicion of DUI, remember that you have rights afforded by the Constitution. These include the right to remain silent, legal representation, and refuse searches. Exercising these rights can protect your interests and facilitate a fair legal process.

An attorney can provide invaluable guidance and support in a DUI case. They can help you understand the charges, evaluate the evidence, and develop a strategic defense tailored to your situation.

Take the first step in protecting your rights by contacting Shapiro Zwanetz & Lake at (410) 927-5137. We provide legal representation in Howard County.