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Primary Offense v. Secondary Offenses in Maryland

There are primary traffic offenses in Maryland and there are secondary offenses. A primary traffic offense in Maryland is one which gives the police the immediate ability to pull you over and issue a citation. Conversely, a secondary offense is one in which the police can issue a citation but they are not permitted to pull your car over in order to give you that particular citation. Thus, last year a seat belt violation was secondary and thus you could receive a ticket for that but the cops would have to first pull you over for a primary offense such as speeding.

The law has changed this year. Seat belt violations are now primary offenses; thus the police can now pull you over and effectuate a stop for a seat belt violation only. Additionally, texting on your phone has also become a primary offense whereas that used to be secondary. The other law that recently went into effect is designed to protect the cops on the road during a stop. As you come upon a police officer fulfilling his monthly quota by writing a motorist a speeding ticket or a ticket for a burnt out license plate light or some other equally notorious offense you are now required to brake, slow down and if possible to change lanes away from the officer. If you fail to brake, slow down and/or attempt to change lanes where possible, that officer can now quickly finish writing his speeding ticket and pile into his shiny cruiser and chase you down and issue you a ticket for your failure to follow this new traffic law. Additionally, if you or your passengers are not wearing seat belts you can be ticketed for that as well. Then while he is writing your tickets, he can keep a keen eye on the next victim who fails to brake/slow down and or change lanes and repeat the cycle.

According to a recent news report following a potentially serious accident in Virginia where a DUI slammed into the back of cruiser parked on the shoulder, roughly 12 officers die each year from motorist seeing police cruisers at night and then slamming into the back of them because it can be hard to tell initially that the cruisers are parked and not moving.

Motorist should be aware when new primary traffic offenses are put on the books in Maryland or any state because this gives the police a lawful basis to stop, detain and investigate your car. Such a lawful stop is always the precursor for a DUI stop or a more serious offense. One should always drive safely, wear a seatbelt and make sure your passengers are wearing seat belts and additionally move away from the police attempting to make their quota. Be advised however that if you fail to do so, or if you are caught texting while driving (also a dangerous activity) that they can and will stop and investigate. In one news report the police apparently didn’t have enough to do so they went to the trouble and expense of renting an 18 wheel truck in order to sit up higher and to watch people as they drove down the street and cited those found texting.