DUI Stops in Howard County

DUIs are common throughout Howard County and Maryland. Local law enforcement officials are especially averse to DUIs because they pose a risk to public safety. A Howard County DUI lawyer explains the stop process and what draws police attention to potential DUIs. Call today to schedule a free initial consultation.

How Howard County Officers Detect Potential DUIs

Officers look for a violation of transportation articles such as speeding, or blowing a stop sign. They are also looking at other smaller nuances such as tag light, a broken tail light, or a cover that is over a license plate. These things don’t necessarily mean there is a driving violation, but the driver is violating some other aspect of the transportation article.

The kinds of things an officer looks for are when a driver is weaving in their lane, touches the white line, crosses two lanes without using their signal. These are reasons, some probable cause, to stop a person’s vehicle and make contact with the driver.

Types of Driving Behaviors That Initiate Stops

Speed is usually the number one culprit. The other is weaving in and out of lanes. Other reasons for a traffic stop are the tag light, tail light not working, brake light not operating properly or in inoperable condition, or a broken taillight. When the officer runs a tag, the results may show a vehicle that is not registered or has a suspension on the registration because the vehicle emissions test wasn’t done.

Typical DUI Stop Process in Howard County

Typically a person is stopped by an officer who approaches the vehicle and asks, “Do you know why I stopped your vehicle? Did you know you were speeding? I saw you weaving in and out of lanes.” Many officers will be very forward in asking a person for their license and registration and if they had anything to drink that day.

They are looking for eye contact, the person’s ability to take their license out of their wallet, find their registration in the glove compartment or center console, and the ability to keep it in their wallet. The officer looks for the person’s ability to cognitively relate to them, physically hand them something, the eye contact, and the words. The officer also tries to detect the smell of alcohol. An officer looks for reasons to approach a person’s car or reasons to stop their car and approach it so that they can make these observations.

Tests Police Officers Perform During Stop

Generally, the tests performed are the three most common Standard Field Sobriety Tests which are the

  • Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test: a person keeps their head focused and follows the pen only with their eyes, not turning their head.
  • Walk and Turn Test: the person should be able to touch heel to toe walk counting to nine, turn counterclockwise, and walk back nine steps while maintaining their balance, and while maintaining their count.
  • One-Legged Stand: the person maintains their leg six inches above the ground and counts.

These are divided attention tests to assess a person’s ability to do two things at once. Most officers ask that the person do the same type of counting while maintaining balance, but some vary it.

All divided attention is no different than driving a car, being able to touch the brakes, touch the gas pedal, look at the road, and maintain the vehicle in the proper speed and proper lane. These tests are the closest thing an officer can do to test those same abilities.

Vehicle Searches

An officer may want to search the vehicle if there is something in plain sight that they see such as an empty bottle or drug paraphernalia. A person’s vehicle is not necessarily protected under the fourth amendment for search and seizure purposes. So the officer may have that immediate right to do the search of the car, if they suspect that a contraband or illegal CDS is in the vehicle.

Does a Person Need to Consent to a Vehicle Search?

A person does not need to give consent for the officer to search their vehicle. There are allowable instances where a vehicle can be searched by an officer without a warrant if there may be circumstance to do so.

Biggest Mistakes to Avoid During a DUI Stop

A person should avoid talking too much or saying things they shouldn’t say. They do not have to answer questions or submit to the Standard Field Sobriety Tests or the breath test. The biggest mistakes are being rude and fighting with the officer. A person should be polite, and respectful. If they don’t want to take the field sobriety test say, “No sir. No ma’am.” The person doesn’t have to say much; the less said, the better.