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DUI Enforcement in Howard County

The following is taken from an interview with a Howard County DUI lawyer as they discuss the enforcement of DUI’s in the area. To learn more about driving under the influence in Howard County call and schedule a consultation today.

Law enforcement officers in Howard County take DUI charges very seriously. This is partly due to the fact that Howard County has a lot less violent crime than other surrounding jurisdictions, making DUI a more serious crime on the scale then in somewhere like Baltimore where law enforcement is dealing with dozens of murders every month.
So for this reason, officers in Howard County definitely strictly enforce DUI laws.

What Constitutes Driving Under the Influence in Howard County?

There are two types of driving under the influence charges in Howard County, Maryland. The first is DUI under transportation article 21902(a)(1). That involves operating a motor vehicle while your ability to operate that vehicle was significantly impaired. That’s a subjective standard. The court is basically asking how drunk an individual was when they’re looking at a 21902(a)(1) citation.

There is also DUI per se, which is transportation article 21-902(a)(2),  that’s operating a motor vehicle with a breath alcohol content of 0.08 or higher. On that charge, the court isn’t looking at your subjective level of impairment, rather they’re looking at the results of the administered breathalyzer test.

Are DUIs An Area of Focus For Law Enforcement Officers?

Yes. There are a lot of officers who work the night shift that tend to do a lot of DUI work. So there are officers who do almost nothing but DUIs. They’ll be available to be called in on something else but as a general rule, on their patrols they’re looking for DUIs because they work at that time in the evening.

There are also officers who are specifically trained in conducting breathalyzer tests and those officers will have shifts where they do nothing but conduct a breathalyzer test over and over again. Additionally, some officers are trained as drug recognition evaluators and they will be called in when another officer suspects that a driver may be operating under the influence of some type of narcotic and they’ll perform an evaluation to form their own opinion of that.

A lot of that is the function of how DUIs have to be prosecuted. Meaning that you have to have a certified operator to administer a valid breath test. You need to have a drug recognition evaluator (DRE) if you’re going to have any hope of admitting evidence that the individual was impaired by some type of narcotic. So, the way that the law is structured requires some officers to focus more heavily on DUI enforcement.

DUI Checkpoints in Howard County

There are certainly a couple of DUI checkpoints every year, usually in the summer months. Officers will perform a DUI checkpoint in areas where there are a significant amount of DUI arrests. Specifically we see a lot of DUI checkpoints on route 40 as well as route 175. Those are some of the more common areas where you will see DUI checkpoints in Howard County.

Where Are DUI Cases Handled In Howard County?

DUI cases are initially charged in the district court in Howard County. That’s located on Courthouse Drive right off of Rogers Ave near route 40. Usually the case will be resolved in District Court in Howard County because our district court bench tends to be pretty reasonable. If a defendant wishes, the case can be heard in the circuit court in Howard County.  The way you would have the case transferred to the circuit court is by requesting a trial by jury in the case.

When a defendant requests a trial by jury, the case is automatically transferred to the circuit court for Howard County where the case could be heard either in front of a circuit court judge or in front of the jury.

What Makes Howard County DUI Cases Unique?

Personalities, the personalities in the prosecutor’s office, the personalities in law enforcement and the personalities of the bench. The individual who hears the case is going to have a huge impact on the outcome of it. So the personality of your judge matters a lot. That’s the probably the single most important defining characteristic for a given DUI case.

Nuances To Law Enforcement Practices in Howard County?

Generally law enforcement practices and certainly the law are pretty consistent statewide at least when it comes to DUIs. Most officers are going to be trained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration NHTSA in how to conduct standardized field sobriety tests. All officers, regardless of county, are going to be trained the same in how conduct breathalyzer tests if they’re breathalyzer operators. The law is a statewide law so it’s pretty rare for there to be any substantive legal nuances l that are county-specific.

Howard County DUI Enforcement Trends

Although DUI practice in Howard County have been relatively consistent across the past five or six years, there have been some changes on the bench which tends to create some differences in how you handle cases.

One of the Howard County judicial appointments is still vacant, so there’s usually five judges in Howard County but right now there’s only four.  So now there is a visiting judge who’s not a usual Howard County District Court judge, and that has created some new uncertainty for practice in the past couple of months.

How Long Does A Howard County DUI Case Take?

A Howard County DUI case can resolve within two to three months or it could drag out for almost a year. Sometimes the case will resolve at the first district court court date, either by a trial then or the case may be postponed to a second district court date or even postponed further by asking for a jury trial. So the typical range for Howard County DUI cases is between two and six months.