Prince George’s County DUI Stops

Due to the importance of the DUI stop in any DUI case, it is imperative that you know what to expect and don’t do anything to make your situation any worse. With this in mind, the following is what you can expect if pulled over and suspected of being under the influence. To learn more or begin building your defense, call and schedule a consultation with a Prince George’s County DUI attorney today.

What Officers Look For Before Pulling Drivers Over

The expectation is that an officer is looking for probable cause to stop you. Swerving on the road, high speed, a rapid change between low and high speed, braking, going over the center line, and turning the wrong way down a one way street are examples of behavior that a law enforcement officer can use as a reason to stop a vehicle and approach you to issue the proper traffic citation, and possibly check on the health and safety of that driver. This would help establish their initial contact with the driver.

The Initial Stop

More often than not when you are pulled over, the officer will come to your window and ask for your license and registration, and then ask you, “Do you know why I stopped you?” The officer will be looking at you and asking these questions in order to see how you interact with them.

The officer is asking questions to see if you are responding timely.  For instance, if they asked for your driver’s license are you presenting your license immediately, or are you fumbling with your wallet? They want to see your reactions and assess your physical ability to comply with the requests as well as your cognitive abilities to respond and converse with them. This is your initial contact with the officer and it is in this conversation they may detect an “odor” of alcohol.  Subsequently, the officer may ask, “Have you been drinking? Where are you coming from?” in order to further assess your current state.

Do You Have To Consent to a Search of Your Vehicle?

Generally you do not have to consent to the search of your vehicle, but there are exceptions. If the officer believes that you are under the influence of alcohol and looks into the vehicle and sees containers filled with beer, they may be able to search the vehicle. If they smell the odor of marijuana they can look in and may be able to search the vehicle. They may have the right to conduct those searches in those circumstances and they may be reasonably protected by the law in doing so. So in effect, the officer always has the right to look inside your car during a traffic stop, and if they see anything that gives just cause, they can search the vehicle. Generally speaking, you are not well protected by the Fourth Amendment in your vehicle and may not have a right to be protected from search and seizure in that situation.

A good attorney knows when to challenge the charges by trying to suppress the evidence, but it may not change the fact that the police can look into the vehicle without your consent.

Speaking To An Attorney

You can ask to speak to a lawyer during a DUI stop. However, you do not have an immediate right to one, because a DUI stop is time sensitive.  There are rules requiring certain tests be done within a certain window of time. Courts have ruled that is unreasonable to believe that a call to your attorney could be answered in a timely manner or properly, as the majority of DUIs happen late at night. You may not get your attorney on the phone immediately, and because that may delay the officer’s ability to test for drugs and alcohol properly under the rules, you therefore do not have an immediate right to speak to a lawyer during a DUI stop.

Determining Whether To Charge Someone With a DUI

In regards to drug-related DUIs, officers will typically decide to charge you when they believe that you are under the influence of a Controlled Dangerous Substance (CDS).  The CDS can be marijuana or any other drug, and can be prescription, over-the-counter or illegal. Sometimes their decision will be made by observing you do a Field Sobriety Test. If you do poorly but do not have any alcohol in your breath, they might believe that you are under the influence of something else.

There are Drug Recognition Expert (DRE) officers who can be called to the scene as well, and they will put you through a subsequent set of tests. Based on those test results and their expert opinion, they can charge you with a DUI if they believe you are under the influence of some drug. These opinions must be substantiated by real evidence in court.