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Constitutional Issues in Salisbury DUI Cases

If you have been arrested and charged for DUI in Maryland your constitutional rights likely came into play at some point during the stop and arrest process. With this in mind, a Salisbury DUI lawyer discusses how your rights could potentially have been violated and how that could impact your case. For more specific information schedule a consultation today.

Most Common Constitutional Issues in DUI Cases

There are two pretty common constitutional issues: violations of the Fourth Amendment and violations of the Fifth Amendment due to the fact that both of these amendments often come into play in nearly every DUI case. The first issue is that the Fifth Amendment provides that a defendant does not have to provide evidence that is incriminating and they’re protected from self-incrimination. Someone cannot be forced to answer questions; in a DUI case, oftentimes the state will rely on statements that the defendant makes.

The defendant may make statements about how much they’ve had to drink, specifically what they drank, or how long ago they consumed alcohol. Those statements could be very damaging to the defendant at trial. So it’s very important for the attorney to look at their statements and analyze them from a constitutional perspective. When the defendant made his statement, was he Mirandized? Was it a situation that required the Miranda warning or was it not? Was the defendant coerced or were any promises made to get the defendant to make those statements? There’s a whole analysis that takes place regarding these statements.

Other Constitutional Issues in DUI Cases

The next constitutional issue that is relevant to DUI cases is the Fourth Amendment, because the Fourth Amendment protects us from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the person’s vehicle is searched and if there was anything that could be used against them in court found during that search, then the attorney needs to look at the facts and see if was it a constitutionally permissible search. If it wasn’t, an attorney will look at if it is possible to get that evidence suppressed.

There’s also the issue of the Sixth Amendment—a person’s right to counsel if they request counsel. If a person requested counsel, were they denied that right? Did the officer gloss over the person’s request to meet with an attorney and, as a result, was there evidence seized that could be suppressed?

Fourth Amendment Rights in DUI Cases

The Fourth Amendment protects all of us from unreasonable searches and seizures. It doesn’t protect us from all searches and seizures, just those that have been defined as unreasonable by the appellate courts in our country. In, the context of a DUI, search and seizure is when a police officer wants to search the vehicle, the defendant’s person, or containers within the car or a purse or a backpack. All of those examples are potential searches and seizures, which involves the taking of some item that later could be used as evidence. An example of that would be searching the car and finding alcoholic beverage containers; maybe one of them is open and half consumed, which would be evidence that would be used against the defendant at trial and that evidence was seized as the result of the officer searching the car. We are protected from unreasonable searches and seizure, and it is an important for an attorney to analyze the facts and determining if a search was unreasonable.

Some searches are perfectly legitimate. For example, if the officer asks permission to search the vehicle and the driver consents—and the driver consented not as a result of being coerced or promised anything but just consented—then that search is going to be considered a legal search and whatever is found could be used against the defendant at trial. An attorney is going to know how to analyze the facts and determine if there is any relevant Fourth Amendment argument that could be made.

What Do Officers Need To Show For Searches?

The officer will have to show that it was a permissible search. They would have to show that the search was reasonable. There are many exceptions, but the Fourth Amendment says you are protected from unreasonable searches and seizures, and case law in our country and in the state of Maryland defines what is unreasonable. For example, a search that is conducted because the officer got a warrant to search that particular area is typically going to be considered a legal search. They have to show that there was probable cause to believe that it made sense to conduct a search.

A lot of times, we see this when it comes to vehicles being stopped. Officers may attempt to articulate that they thought that the driver was extremely nervous. They spoke to the driver and perhaps a passenger separately and those two people gave inconsistent statements about where they were going, where they had been, etc. That could potentially be the basis for the officer to search the car. Under Maryland law, if there is a trained K-9 and that dog performs a scan of the vehicle and alerts to the presence of drug, that would be probable cause for the officer to search the car. There are many different scenarios where the police may be able to search a car and they have to show that legally it was appropriate for them to do so.