Maryland DUI Chemical & Breath Tests
The most common chemical test in DUI cases is the breathalyzer. Very rarely will they do a blood test. You also have to give permission for a blood test, unless there is an injury and you are taken to hospital. There are ways for a blood test to come into play there. In Maryland, all blood tests have to be performed in a hospital and get analyzed by a state forensics lab. The resulting evidence will be used against you. However, the blood test is typically only administered if the suspected DUI involved a serious auto accident.
If you are injured and unconscious, then there is no need for you to give consent. Blood tests have very unique reliability; there is a lot of error that goes along with them and people don’t handle the tests well. When they clean your arm to test for alcohol, they rub you down with alcohol. That is something that people don’t know. I have talked to plenty of officers and nurses about that. I ask them, “How do you start your test?” They say, “I make sure that the area is clean by sanitizing it. I take alcohol, wipe the area, and then draw a drop of blood with a clean needle. The vial is marked and stored and then it is submitted to forensics for chemist tests to break down what the alcohol content was.”
I usually stop them at that point, especially in front of a jury, and make sure they understand that they said they wiped the person’s arm with alcohol to test for alcohol. That alcohol is around 100 proof, so it can contaminate the actual sample. Also, if the sample wasn’t stored in a refrigerator and it sat out, that can exacerbate these different things. There are a lot of things to challenge. Certain things happen when the chemists and forensics are involved. It has to be handled in a specific way.
Refusing Chemical Tests
The portable breath test given at the scene of the stop does not have to be done, but the breath test at the police station does. At the police station there will be a chemist and an officer available to run the machine. The machine has to be tested first. They turn the machine on, they test until it reads zero, they clear it, they test it again, it should come out to 0.08, and then they zero it out. Then you blow into it, they zero it, you blow into it again, they zero it again, and then they try to test it out to 0.08. If it comes back with 0.079 or 0.078, that is close enough. At the end, they put it back to zero.
That system shows that the machine is in working order, that it was cleared each time, and that your breath was in there. They want to prove that is was properly registered. If you don’t give them a breath sample, it could be held against you in some fashion, but if you refuse, they do not get a distinct BAC number. In court, the lower the number is, the better. In Maryland, there is driving under the influence, driving under the influence per se, and then driving while impaired. The penalties for those are all different. The penalty for DUI or DUI per se is one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. The penalty for DWI is a $500 fine and 60 days in jail. The penalties are less severe for DWI and that is all they can charge you with if they do not have a BAC.