Maryland’s top court has held that a Maryland driver was fully advised of the sanctions imposed upon him after he refused to take a breath test when he was suspected of drunk driving.
“We hold that the DR-15 fully advises motorists of the length of time the ignition interlock is required in the event of test refusal or when a motorist has an alcohol concentration of .15 or higher,” the Court of Appeals said.
The DR-15, which officers read to motorists during a stop on suspicion of drunk driving, clearly advises a motorist that a commercial driver’s license (CDL) will be disqualified if the motorist refuses a blood alcohol concentration test, and, thus, motorists receive sufficient notice of potential sanctions as required by due process, the court ruled.
Under Maryland law, a motorist who operates a motor vehicle on Maryland roadways has given consent to take a chemical test to determine drug or alcohol concentration if stopped on a reasonable suspicion of drunk driving. When stopped, officers must advise motorists of the test and provide information regarding the consequences of a test refusal and a positive test result. A positive test result occurs when the motorist has a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more.
Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration has a standard form, the DR-15 or “Advice of Rights” form that officers use to advise detained motorists of the sanctions that will be imposed as a result of test refusal or a positive test result. The DR-15 outlines important information for the suspected drunk driver including the possible sanctions associated with varying levels of blood alcohol concentration, the sanctions for refusing to take the test and the right to have an administrative hearing, among other things.
The Ignition Interlock Program, allows drivers who were stopped under suspicion of driving while intoxicated to continue driving after their vehicle is equipped with an ignition interlock device. MVA provides these individuals with a restricted license, which may be granted despite test refusal.
Officers are required to advise motorists of the administrative sanctions, including ineligibility for modification of a suspension or issuance of a restrictive license unless the person participates in the Ignition Interlock System Program.
The MVA can disqualify a commercial driver’s license if the driver refuses to submit to an alcohol concentration test while driving a commercial vehicle. Disqualification of a commercial driver’s license is not subject to any modifications, nor may a restricted CDL be granted. Despite a CDL qualification, the motorist may retain privileges to drive a non-commercial vehicle through participation in the Interlock Program.
The DR-15 says that if you hold a commercial driver’s license and were driving a non-commercial motor vehicle when you were stopped and you refuse to submit to a test, your CDL will be disqualified for one year for a first offense. If you were operating a commercial motor vehicle or hold a commercial driver’s license and refuse to take the test, then the commercial driver’s license can be disqualified for one year for a first offense.
In this instance, the driver was stopped after he was observed to be driving erratically. Officers said they smelled alcohol on the driver. Suspecting that the driver was under the influence of alcohol, the driver was asked to perform several field sobriety tests, which he was unable to do in a satisfactory manner, the court’s opinion says.
The driver was detained for driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). After being taken to the police department, he was provided the DR-15, “Advice of Rights” form. The officer told the driver to follow along as he read the form aloud. The DR-15 says, in part, that drivers can refuse to submit to a test unless they are involved in a motor vehicle accident resulting in the death of or life-threatening injury to another person. The form also says that if a driver refuses to submit to the test and the results indicate an alcohol concentration of .08 or more at the time of testing, the driver’s license will be confiscated, an Order of Suspension will be issued, and a temporary license valid for 45 days will be issued. The driver did not respond. The officers did not repeat the advisement that the driver’s CDL would be disqualified for one year if he refused the test. After “repeatedly” asking the driver if wanted to take the test and based on his lack of responding, the officers treated the lack of response as a refusal. An Order of Suspension was issued.
At the administrative hearing, the driver said that, based on what the officers said, he believed that he could get his license and commercial driver’s license back after 270 days. He said that, had he known that his commercial driver’s license would be disqualified for one year, he would have taken the test. He said the officers’ statements and the DR-15 are “false, misleading and violated his due process rights.” The administrative law judge rejected the driver’s arguments, held that the DR-15 provided sufficient advice and also held that the officer’s statements were factually correct. The trial court affirmed the decision of the administrative law judge. The Court of Appeals agreed.
The Court of Appeals noted that Maryland law specifies that an officer shall advise a detained person of the resulting sanctions from refusing a test or blowing at or above a specified alcohol concentration. But, the court noted, the sanctions are clearly outlined in the DR-15 and a reading of the form provides full advisement to detained motorists. In this instance, the driver was fully advised of the sanctions when he was read the DR-15 in full, the court said, noting that the form is “unambiguous and provides full advisement of the resulting administrative sanctions.”
If you’ve been charged with a DUI or DWI in Ocean City, Baltimore, or other area of Maryland, you should talk to a lawyer. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick can help. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.934.3007 or via our website for a free consultation.