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Constitutional Issues in DUI Cases

The most common and crucial constitutional issue in Maryland DUI cases is going to be the Fourth Amendment, freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures. Any time a police officer stops somebody’s vehicle it implicates the Fourth Amendment. The officer is detaining an individual and is conducting a search or seizure of that individual, which means that the officer has to comply with certain constitutional requirements. For an officer to stop a vehicle, he or she does not need to have probable cause. The officer has a lower standard—reasonable, articulable suspicion that the crime took place. Because of that, almost every DUI case implicates the Fourth Amendment.

Fourth Amendment Protections

It does not allow officers to pull vehicles over just because an officer says, “I thought that they might be doing something wrong but I cannot really put my finger on what it was.” That would be a non-reasonable, articulable suspicion. The officer has to see the traffic offense take place or have reasons to believe that a traffic offense is taking place so that he can issue a traffic stop.

“Search and Seizure”

A search and seizure means that the officer detains an individual, even temporarily, and then conducts some type of search or one’s person or property. That can be a vehicle search, it can be a pat down search, or it can be a search done at home. All of those fall under the legal definition of search and seizure.

“Unreasonable Search”

An unreasonable search is when the stop is not based on a probable cause, reasonable, articulable suspicion, or a warrant.

“Warrantless Search”

A warrantless search is going to be a search that is conducted without a warrant. Now that search can be legal if it is based on independent probable cause or exigent circumstances. An officer does not always need to get a warrant to search a vehicle.

Legal Searches

They need to show some kind of independent probable cause to effectuate the search or show that the search was done pursuant to a legal warrant.

Other Constitutional Issues

Usually, one will see Fifth Amendment issues in DUI cases where an individual is questioned subsequent to being detained and was not properly Mirandized. Those are pretty rare because most DUI investigators do not question individuals subsequent to being detained. That is the only situation where Miranda applies.

If the officer asks questions when someone is pulled over on the sides of the road and one has not been arrested yet, there is no need to Mirandize that person prior to asking those types of questions. For DUI investigations, that is usually where the questioning of the defendant takes place. The Supreme Court has also ruled that submitting to a breathalyzer test is not an interrogation, so even though the officers never advises someone of one’s Miranda rights, they can still request someone to submit to a breath test and that does not count as an interrogation.

Constitutional Issues in Maryland Court

Maryland courts applies state constitutional interpretations and federal constitutional interpretations of a case. There is usually not going to be a conflict for most issues related to a DUI case between state and federal constitution, so Maryland judges abide by both constitutions, state and federal, in making constitutional decisions.