Police Officers Don't Have to Specify the Type of Blood Alcohol Test When Drivers are Suspected of a DUI/DWI, Court says

Police Officers Don't Have to Specify the Type of Blood Alcohol Test When Drivers are Suspected of a DUI/DWI, Court says

While a Maryland driver can refuse to take a sobriety test to determine if there is any alcohol or drugs in his/her system, there are consequences. The first time that a driver refuses to take a drug or alcohol concentration test in Maryland, the driver’s license will be suspended for 270 days. Of course, if there has been an accident that results in the death or a life-threatening injury to another person, then a Maryland driver cannot legally refuse to take the test.

In a case recently considered by Maryland’s top court, the Court of Appeals was asked to decide whether an officer is required to specify the type of test – breath or blood – when law enforcement asks a driver to take an alcohol concentration test.

After a Baltimore County man crashed the vehicle he had been driving, he was approached by a St. Mary’s County Sheriff. The man was conscious but unable to move and said he was drunk. The Sheriff noticed a strong smell of alcohol. The law officer asked the man to take an alcohol concentration test. The driver refused and was unable the satisfactorily complete the Standardized Field Sobriety Test, the court said in the opinion. On behalf of the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration, the officer confiscated the man’s commercial driver’s license.

At the administrative hearing, the administrative law judge determined that the driver had violated the Maryland law that allows for the automatic suspension of the licenses of drivers who refuse to submit to testing for alcohol and drugs. The law is based on the concept that anyone who drives on Maryland’s roads and highways is deemed to have consented to take a test if the person is detained on suspicion of driving or attempting to drive under the influence of alcohol (DUI) or driving while impaired by alcohol (DWI) or while impaired by drugs (Maryland drugged driving) or a combination of drugs and alcohol.

The administrative law judge ordered that the man’s commercial driver’s license be disqualified for 12 months and that instead of having his driver’s license suspended for 270 days, the driver would participate in the Ignition Interlock System program. The driver asked the circuit court to review the decision. The circuit court reversed the ALJ, reasoning that Maryland law required the enforcement officer to be specific when requesting that the driver take a blood test.

On appeal, MVA argued that Maryland law simply requires that an officer ask a detained driver to take an alcohol concentration test, but does not require the officer to advise whether the alcohol concentration test will be a breath or a blood test. The driver’s attorney argued that the officer was required to specifically identify the type of alcohol concentration test that the driver was being asked to take. The court disagreed with the driver.

The Court of Appeals said the plain language of the law simply requires an officer to request that a driver take an alcohol concentration test; in other words, an officer is not required to specifically advise the driver whether the alcohol concentration test will be a blood or a breath test. “Simply put,” the court said, “nothing in TR §16.205.1 requires an officer to specify the type of alcohol concentration test when requesting such a test be taken.”

If you have been charged with a DUI, DWI or with drugged driving in Baltimore, you should talk to a Baltimore DUI/DWI/drugged driving lawyer. The experienced attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick can provide you with the legal assistance you need to get the best result for your case. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 202.288.0167, the law office at 410.885.1775 or via our website for a free consultation.