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Constitutional Issues in Rockville DUI Cases

DUI stops and arrests are very common in Rockville, Montgomery County, and throughout the rest of Maryland. When a law enforcement officer pulls individuals over, they are looking for probably cause to conduct a search of a person’s vehicle for alcohol, drugs, or other incriminating evidence. The Fourth Amendment, Fifth Amendment and Sixth Amendment pose Constitutional issues that we see in DUI cases on a regular basis. Below, a Rockville DUI lawyer discusses these constitutional issues and how they present themselves in DUI cases. For more information, don’t hesitate to call our Rockville DUI lawyers for a consultation.

How Constitutional Issues Can Impact a Case

Fourth Amendment issues that come up during DUI cases have to do with why a person was initially stopped. The Fourth Amendment protects people from unlawful searches and seizures by police officers. If the person in the vehicle was not properly stopped then anything that happens as a result of that stop is considered “fruit of the poisonous tree,” which means it is inadmissible.

Similarly, we see issues with the Sixth Amendment in the courts on a regular basis. This amendment guarantees your right to a speedy trial. These issues come up in DUI cases in Rockville where there is a backlog of DUI cases to be heard. If too long a period of time has gone by between the time the person was charged and the time their case is heard in the court, the court will sometimes throw the case out because there was unfair procedure and the defense could not adequately do its job. Examples include when witnesses are missing and evidence such as surveillance tapes becomes unavailable due to the length of time between the crime and the trial. Accordingly, Constitutional issues play a major role in DUI cases.

Other Issues

Other than the Fourth Amendment there aren’t any major Constitutional issues. There are sometimes issues associated with how a person was advised of their rights once they were arrested and offered a chemical breath test. Those kinds of issues implicate the Fifth Amendment against self-incrimination.

In Maryland, a person does not have to submit to any chemical breath test or other kinds of tests once they are placed under arrest. They are advised of their rights before they submit to a test. They have a right to refuse that test if they elect to. Most of the time individuals will be given a form to review and waive their rights under the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution. If they are not properly advised of those rights then whatever happens as a result, whether it is a breath, blood or urine test or even a statement, it usually can be suppressed by the court.

Appealing a Rockville DUI Cases

You can appeal a DUI case in Rockville for no reason at all and that appeal becomes what is called a de novo appeal, which allows the case to be heard by the Circuit Court with a brand new trial. Essentially a person is returning with a completely clean slate for the appeal of their DUI case to the Circuit Court. The things that will travel with them are pieces of testimony from their original case which were taken under oath, including the testimony of the defendant, if there was any. The Circuit Court finder of fact, whether a judge or a jury, can then hear exactly what they stated on the record and it can be used against them in the Circuit Court appeal.

The judge will be listening to the arguments of both the state and the defense on whether or not there was a Constitutional violation. The judge ultimately makes the determination of whether or not there was a violation based on his or her interpretation of the law.

Meaning of Search and Seizure in Rockville

Search and seizure means you cannot be unlawfully stopped by a police officer or seized by a police officer unless the officer has reasonable, articulable suspicion that criminal activity is afoot, and subsequently a person cannot be arrested by a police officer unless that reasonable, articulable suspicion has matured into probable cause to place an individual under arrest. That means the officer has more than just a hunch that criminal activity is afoot. Once the officer has seized a person or stopped them, he does not have the ability to arrest that person unless he has more information that would make him believe that it was more likely than not that this individual has committed a criminal act.