Maryland DUI Enforcement
Maryland law enforcement targets drunk drivers very aggressively and use a variety of different methods to catch those driving under the influence. There is a push to have police officers stopping cars and checking to see if the drivers have consumed any alcohol to the point where it is impacting their coordination. There are also overtime assignments available to police just to enforce DUI laws. So it’s an area of aggressive enforcement for law enforcement in Maryland meaning that if you are charged you should take your case very seriously and consult with a Maryland DUI lawyer right away.
There has been so much time and money and effort put into educating the public about the dangers of drunk driving, the fact that drunk drivers can cause motor vehicle accidents, they can cause motor vehicle fatalities and it is information that has been shared with the public. There also has been a great amount of effort put into organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving, Students Against Drunk Driving.
Are DUI Checkpoints Common in Maryland?
They are in certain areas of Maryland. For example, in Wicomico County and on the lower eastern shore, it is not unusual for there to be DUI checkpoints on the larger highways like Route 50 or Route 13. Typically, they seem to happen most often during the holidays. There will be checkpoints around Thanksgiving or Christmas because there is an increase in the number of people who are attending parties or going to holiday events and may have too much to drink and get behind the wheel of a car. You see them more on larger state roads, not necessarily happening on busy city streets because just logistically, it slows down traffic when you have DUI checkpoint, but they do occur on the bigger state roads.
Why Does Law Enforcement Target Those Specific Roads?
They target those roads because they’re going to be able to access the greatest number of drivers on those major roads. The main purpose or one of the main purposes of the checkpoints is to also distribute information to the public, make them aware of what the laws are in Maryland regarding DUIs. So they are attempting to make contact with the drivers and provide some educational information, but at the same time, they also are going to be looking for anybody who appears to have had too much to drink. So the larger state roads are the best opportunity to make contact with a large number of people.
Are DUIs An Area of Focus For Maryland Law Enforcement?
Yes, absolutely. Law enforcement officers are instructed that if they are enforcing the DUI laws, then hopefully, they are helping to protect other drivers in and around that area to avoid being hurt by a potential drunk driver. There is a huge amount of training put into officers at the local police academies teaching them how to observe who potentially has had too much to drink. They are instructed at the academy how to perform the standardized field sobriety test so there is a huge amount of focus on drunk driving.
If a drunk driving case or drunk driver is not taken seriously, if they go back out into the public and they re-offend, it’s a public relations nightmare for law enforcement in general and for the court system. No judge wants to be the judge that did not sentence seriously a drunk driver and then see in the paper however many months later that that same person was drunk again and killed somebody else on the highway. There are organizations out there like Mothers Against Drunk Drivers who pay attention to all of those statistics and they will publish and make known those types of scenarios. So there’s a lot of pressure placed on law enforcement and the court system to aggressively go after and charge potential drunk drivers.
Does This Focus Every Result in People Being Unjustly Charged?
Yes. I think that it does, because an officer if given the choice, is going to err on the side of charging the individual even if there is just the most minimal amount of evidence to charge the person. In order to charge a person, the police just have to show probable cause, the very low burden of proof and that’s all they need in order to charge somebody and that’s very different than the standard of proof that has to be proven at a trial.
The burden of proof at trial is proof beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard than probable cause. An individual may be charged, but the evidence is not enough that they would actually be convicted. What’s important to realize about that is merely charging a person has huge consequences on that person’s life. In Wicomico County, in the local newspaper, everyone that is charged with a DUI, their name is published in the local paper.
Additionally, if you’re charged or the officer asks you to take a breath test, whether or not if you were refuse to do that, there are huge consequences at the MVA. There can be a lot of damage and consequences to a person who has been charged regardless of whether they will ever actually be convicted of the offense So this very aggressive focus on charging people can create the scenario where a person is charged with a minimal amount of evidence, but the consequences begin for that person immediately once they are charged.