As an experienced Maryland criminal defense attorney, friends are always asking me “how do I beat a DUI?” Ironically, this question most comes up during, you guessed it, cocktail parties. My first response is automatically “don’t drink an drive.” Of course, no one wants to hear that response and the inevitably follow-up question is “seriously, what do I do if I am pulled over?”
This is a complex question, because the question of “what do I do?” begs the question of “how much did you have to drink?”.
Assuming the answer is “allot” or “too much”, the law allows for just about any Maryland driver to beat an otherwise certain DUI, albeit at a price (which we will get into later).
When an officer pulls over a Maryland driver, the driver is required to only provide a valid driver’s license and registration. Just because a driver has been pulled over, the driver is not required to speak. Imagine a situation where a police officer pulls over a driver for speeding. The driver cracks his window and hands the officer his license and registration. The officer suspects something is up and asked the driver if he is drinking, and the driver simply nods his head “no”.
The officer asks the driver to get out of the car to perform field sobriety tests. The driver gets out of the car and shakes his head “no”. The now irritated officer asked the driver why he refuses to speak and the driver simply shrugs his shoulders.
Next come the inevitable handcuffs and a trip to the station. The driver, who refuses to speak again nods “no” when asked if he wants to take the breath test. Into the cell he goes to be released within 24 hours.
When the criminal trial date arises, the prosecutor is now dumbfounded on how she is going to prove this case. No breath test, no slurred speech, no admissions to drinking, no field sobriety tests. All she has is the officer’s statement that he smelled alcohol, somewhere, but of course it did not come from the driver’s breath because the driver did not speak. Judge rules case dismissed for lack of evidence-assuming the prosecutor bothered to have a trial in the first place.
Now the downside, I tell my friends, to taking this tact. You have just guaranteed yourself a night in jail, the expense of a lawyer, and the possible loss of your Maryland driver’s license for 120 days for refusing the breath test.
After contemplating the downside and observing the puzzled look on their faces, I tell them once again just don’t drink a drive, a cab is safer, cheaper and easier than going through all this!