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Over the limit- Under Arrest ?

I have always maintained that DUI defense in Maryland is a strange animal. DUI law it seems, is the only criminal field where the accused faces significant jail time and other life altering problems yet the defendant’s rights are severely limited. That is, limited Miranda rights, false advise by the police and limited access to counsel. I have previously written that the police can and do ask a lot of incriminating questions prior to making a formal arrest, without Miranda warnings, and can use the responses against you in court to advance your conviction.

However, we now have the State of Maryland promulgating false advise to the citizens of this State. How many readers have seen the digital signs on Baltimore’s beltway 695 that say “Over the limit- Under Arrest?” That sign implies to the driver, under the limit, not under arrest; everyone knows the legal limit is .08. So as long as you stay under .08 you have no problem- just like the sign says, right? Ehhh, no.

Many clients come to the office wondering how they were charged with an alcohol related offense when they only blew a .07 or less (.06, .05, .04, etc.). The nasty little truth is that there is another charge called DWI or driving while impaired. The courts and or the prosecutor generally lean towards DWI when they see a number like .06 or .07. If you blow in that range you will be arrested by the police and charged accordingly. You will face many of the same problems as if you blew a .08 or better. In fact, I see many defendants with numbers less than .06. I recently had a client blow a .03 in Prince George’s County; he was arrested and defended by my office; of course we got him off the charge but he still had to retain counsel and go through the motions.

Importantly…

Maryland driver’s should at least be properly advised by the State of Maryland. If the government is going to take the time to place a public service safety announcement, I believe it should at least properly advise the drivers of the law. A true statement would be “If you have alcohol in your system [at any level], you are probably going to be arrested [officer’s discretion]. If your level is .06 or more, you absolutely will be arrested.”

That is the truth- and you heard it here first. Pass it on.