Charged with a DUI/DWI? We’re here to help.
Being accused of drunk driving or driving under the influence is a terrifying experience because it is one of the most serious misdemeanors and traffic violations. Some may think that the term DUI, Driving Under the Influence, or DWI, meaning Driving While Impaired, charge is nothing more than a simple traffic offense. Anyone who has been prosecuted for either dwi charges or operating a vehicle with a blood alcohol content over the legal limit can attest that these are serious and complicated crimes that can result in lengthy prison terms.
Few crimes in District Court send defendants to jail more often than DUIs and DWIs, and no other traffic crime involves as much entanglement with the Motor Vehicle Administration. You can lose your driver’s license after a DUI in Maryland for an extended period of time. For many people, losing a driver’s license means losing a job. And depending on the nature of the crime, the State Attorney may even try to take your liberty and put you in prison.
A DUI or DWI often represents a crossroads in a person’s life. If you are convicted of a DUI or DWI, you may face jail, lose your driving privileges, and pay heavy fines, or all of the above. DUIs can have permanent legal and lifestyle implications. For example, DUIs are the only type of crime that is never eligible for Expungement if you receive a Probation Before Judgement disposition.
It is important to seek immediate help from a Maryland DUI attorney. An attentive and knowledgeable attorney can assist you during this time period and even reduce the lasting damage to your life.
Defending a DUI/DWI is not like any other misdemeanor or traffic violation. In a lot of ways, Zirkin & Schmerling Law treat DUI/DWI’s as the “Homicide of the Misdemeanor world.” What we mean by that has everything to do with how much training and experience goes into being prepared to properly defend someone charged with these types of cases.
DUI/DWI officers are specially trained to how to investigate you for driving under the influence of alcohol or while impaired by drugs. Your attorney should understand your arresting officer’s training. That way, if the law enforcement officer made a critical mistake, your attorney will be able to identify it and defend you more effectively.
Zirkin & Schmerling Law has attorneys that have been trained just the same as the police on National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) DUI/DWI investigation guidelines. These guidelines are used by officers and troopers throughout Maryland, including local, state and federal police. With this training, our firm is able to leave no stone unturned in preparing to defend you when you have been charged with DUI/DWI.
What You Need To Know For Your DUI/DWI Case
Below is a Road Map of a case from investigation through trial that is designed to give you an idea of what to expect at any point in the process if charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Click on any of the links below to reveal more information and gain a better understanding of what to expect at each stage.
Road Map for your DUI/DWI Case
Day 1 – Road side
- In Maryland, one is “driving” a motor vehicle if they are driving or operating the vehicle. That means you can be technically meeting the driving element of a Traffic Violation crimes even if the car is not in motion. Additionally, there is no requirement that an officer see you in the motor vehicle if the officer has evidence that you were driving or operating the motor vehicle at the time of the Traffic Violation.
- Like most of the rest of the country, most officers investigating someone for DUI/DWI are trained in how to conduct a DUI/DWI investigation following NHTSA guidelines. This means that the investigation is standardized and predictable. Its important that you know and accept two truths if you are being investigated for a DUI/DWI: (1) The officer knows more than you know and (2) once you’ve been pulled over, you are likely going to get charged with a DUI/DWI.
- The first phase of all DUI Investigations is known as the “Vehicle in Motion phase.” During this time, the officer is trained to observe how your vehicle moves both before and after they activate their emergency light to pull you over. Remember, this officer has been trained that if they observe your driving to behave in certain ways, they already suspect that you might be under the influence of alcohol. This is significant to you because even before an officer makes direct contact with you, they are already trained to be on the lookout for whether or not you are under the influence or impaired by alcohol and everything the officer does next will be for the purpose of investigating that suspicion.
- The second phase of all DUI Investigations is referred to as the “Personal Contact” phase. This phase includes those times from when the officer initially approaches your vehicle and asks for your license and registration and ends after they have observed you to step out of your vehicle, if they requested for you to do so. During this phase, you may think you are being asked harmless questions like “Can I see your license and registration?”, or “Can I see your proof of insurance,” or even “Where were you heading?” These questions may seem procedural, harmless, or natural. But while you are focused on being pleasant with the officer, the officer is observing you to see if you are exhibiting any symptoms of being under the influence or impaired by alcohol. Is there an unusual odor in the car? Are you slurring your words? Are your eyes bloodshot? Did you struggle to pull your registration from the glove compartment? Do you need to pull yourself from your car to stand up? These are just some examples of all of the things an officer is trained to be on the lookout for while you are thinking that you should just stay focused on being polite and cooperative. If you exhibited any alerting behavior, this in conjunction with your observed poor driving could already be enough for the officer to arrest and charge you with drinking and driving.
- The third phase of all DUI Investigations is referred to as the “Pre-Arrest Screening” phase. This is the phase where the officer will ask you to perform some tests while you are still on the side of the road. Remember, the officer may already have enough evidence to arrest you before performing these tests. Asking you to take these tests does not always mean that an officer lacks probable cause to arrest and charge you with DUI/DWI. It could just mean that the office would like to add more evidence to make the case even stronger against you.
- These side of the road tests collectively are known as Standardized Field Sobriety Tests. There are three of them: (1) The Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus Test, (2) The Walk-And-Turn Test, and (3) The One Leg Stand Test. An officer may also ask you if you are willing to complete a fourth test, known as a Preliminary Breath Test. This is a breathalyzer test completed right on the side of the road. It is different than a breathalyzer completed at the police station.
- Keep in mind that you should always be polite to the officer. But remember that if you speak to the police, your statements are treated as admissions. If you know you are doing something illegal, you do not have to answer the officer’s questions. The only thing you are required to do is provide the officer with a copy of your driver’s license and registration for the vehicle. Being polite absolutely includes remaining silent.
- You should also assume that you are being audio and visually recorded when interacting with the officer. Many, but not all, officers are now equipped with either Body Camera or Dashboard Camera. This can be used as evidence against you. How you behave on Day 1 can have a dramatic effect on your trial date.
- Also, and this is very important, remember that none of the tests the officer asks you to complete while on the side of the road are required. You may think that not taking the tests will look bad. Taking the tests and performing badly on them is treated just the same as admission by you out loud that you have been drinking alcohol and you know it was unsafe for you to drive.
- If an officer makes you feel that you are required to take any of these tests or answer any of their questions other than providing your license and registration, tell them you do not want to speak without consulting an attorney. This may make their questioning come to an end. If they really want to talk to you, they must give you an opportunity to call an attorney. If this should occur, contact an experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney to help you how to get through this confusing situation.
Day 1 – Police Station
- Whether you take the three Standardized Field Sobriety Tests, pass or fail, or you refuse to take the tests, most officers will still arrest someone that they suspect of driving under the influence or while impaired by alcohol. Remember, they are trained to suspect you of DUI/DWI just based on how you drove and how you behaved before being given any tests. That amount of observation can give an officer probable cause to arrest you and take you to a police station.
- Once at the police station, a different officer will read to you from a form. This form is long and takes about 10 minutes to read aloud. While listening to someone else read for 10 minutes can seem very boring, you are being read very important information. The officer is reading to you that you are about to be offered the opportunity to take a Breathalyzer test. In the advice, you are being told that if you take the test and fail, your license can be suspended for no less than 6 months. The advice also explains that if you refuse to take the test, your license can be suspended for no less than 9 months. If you are a CDL Licensed driver, you CDL privileges could be disqualified for life.
- What should you do? If, and only if, you ask to speak with an attorney, an officer must give you the opportunity to call your lawyer to seek advice in how to make this decision. You cannot use this an opportunity to stall forever. Depending on the type of test being administered, an officer has either 2 or 4 hours after stopping you to administer this test. If that time elapses because you could not make a decision, it is marked down that you refused to take the test and you will face at least a 9 month suspension of your driving privileges.
- Use this opportunity to ask to call an experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney to help you decide how to make this decision on whether or not you should be taking a Breathalyzer Test.
Day 1 – the Officer formally charges you
- When an officer charges someone with a DUI/DWI, they have the right to either issue you traffic tickets and release you or to arrest you. If you are issued traffic tickets, you can return to your life and wait for a notice in the mail alerting you to when your case is scheduled for a trial date. But pay close attention to the next section on the Road Map about other paperwork that the officer gives you.
- Because your ticket has jailable consequences, you must appear for court. You do not need to file anything to request a trial date no matter what the ticket says. If the officer also issued you Fineable Traffic Violations tickets with your DUI/DWI tickets, do not pay those before trial date unless an attorney advises you that it is in your best interest to do so. If you are unsure what to do at this point, contact an experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney to assist you.
- On the other hand, if the officer arrests you, remember to remain silent. You have a right to remain silent. Anything you say and do can be used against you. You have a right to an attorney. If you cannot afford one, one will be provided to you. These are known as your Miranda rights. These are your full and complete Miranda rights. Law Enforcement are not required in all situations to notify you of these rights. To the extent that you ever encounter a situation where you are in an encounter with law enforcement, this article has just advised you of your Miranda Rights. Assert them always. Why? Because your own words and actions can be used as evidence against you to convict you of a crime. It is always the State’s Attorney’s job to prove that you are guilty of a crime beyond a reasonable doubt. This is a very high standard and difficult for even the best prosecutors to overcome. When you offer up evidence against yourself, you are making the State’s Attorney’s job that much easier.
- If the police try to interview you, tell them you do not want to speak without consulting an attorney. This may make their questioning come to an end. If they really want to talk to you, they must give you an opportunity to call an attorney. If this should occur, contact an experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney to begin the preparation of your defense in your case.
Day 1 – other paperwork the officer gives you beside Traffic Citations
- When you are released, you will be given certain paperwork. All of it is important for different reasons. Your attorney will want to see it. If you delay on hiring an attorney, some of it you need to know immediate what it says.
- The most important paperwork, in terms of timeline, that an officer will give to you is your temporary driver’s license. It is labeled DR-15A on the top right hand corner and says Officer’s Certification and Order of Suspension. In the middle of the page, it will say in red lettering that it is a TEMPORARY LICENSE. It is valid for 45 days. This is a full sheet of paper. Its actually two sheets of paper attached to each other. The front side of each page is the same. The back sides are very different. One of those pages is called the Election to Participate in the Ignition Interlock System Program and explains to you about how to install an Ignition Interlock in your vehicle, if you are so inclined. The other sheet’s backside is a HEARING REQUEST and explains how you can request an MVA Hearing. There is a filing fee for this: $150.00. This Hearing Request must be submitted within 10 days from when you were stopped by the officer if you want to extend the temporary license’s validity until your MVA Hearing Date.
- An officer will also give you a copy of an ADVICE OF RIGHTS Form. This will be labeled DR-15 on the top right-hand corner. It is double sided. One side is in English and the other in Spanish. At the bottom if will have indicated whether or not you agreed to take the Breathalyzer Test.
- If you agreed to take a breathalyzer test, the officer will give you a print out with the rests of that test. This is usually on a small strip piece of paper. It will be typically stapled to another document called a Notification to Defendant of Result Of Test For Alcohol Concentration. This has information on it that is very relevant to any possible defense. Your attorney will want to see this.
- Some officers will write up a document called a Statement of Probable Cause. If they did, and you received a copy, this is very helpful to your attorney as well. Of all of the above listed documents, this one is the least likely one to exist so don’t be too nervous if you did not receive it. If you did not receive one, it is probably because the officer gave you traffic tickets.
- If the officer did not give you a Statement of Probable Cause, they most likely did give you traffic tickets. Your attorney will want to see those so that they can explain to you what to do and what not to do at this point.
- As you can see, there is much to be discussed after you are charged with a DUI/DWI. Contact a DUI/DWI Defense Attorney within 10 days of the incident to begin preparation of your case and assist you in making crucial decisions before certain deadlines expire.
Initial Bail Hearing
- If the officer decided to arrest you, they will bring you to a police station where they will write up the charges against you. Within 24 hours of being arrested, you must be released or taken before a Commissioner. A Commissioner is someone who will advise you of the charges against you and decide if you should be released while your case is pending or hold you in the jail until your trial date. A Commissioner can also order you to have to pay a bail in order to get released. Finally, a Commissioner can order certain pretrial conditions on release on you including, but not limited to, staying away from certain people/locations and reporting to a Pretrial Agent who will stay in touch with you while the case is pending.
- The standard that a Commissioner will consider is (1) whether you are a flight risk and (2) whether you are a danger to the community. They are applied like a balancing test. One can be enough to keep you detained while your case is pending. This is not a trial and most Commissioners will say they must accept the police report as fact for this hearing alone. Asserting that you are innocent until proven guilty is not enough to be deserving of pretrial release.
- You have a right to an attorney at your Bail Hearing. Notify the Commissioner that you want an attorney to represent you at this stage and the Commissioner will give you an opportunity to call your attorney. Contact an experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney to represent you at your Bail Hearing.
- If you are released at this stage, and you have not already done so, contact a DUI/DWI Defense Attorney within 10 days of the incident to begin preparation of your case and assist you in making crucial decisions before certain deadlines expire.
- If you are not released from the Detention Center after your Bail Hearing, you will have a court appearance on the next business day with a Judge who will conduct a Bail Review. A Bail Review serves the same purpose as a Bail Hearing: to determine if you should be released while your case is pending or hold you in the jail until your trial date. Also, Judges have more discretion that Commissioners; there are certain situations where Commissioners are not authorized by law to release a Defendant, but a Judge still can.
- The standard that a Judge will consider is (1) whether you are a flight risk and (2) whether you are a danger to the community. They are applied like a balancing test. One can be enough to keep you detained while your case is pending. This is not a trial and most Judges will say they must accept the police report as fact for this hearing alone. Asserting that you are innocent until proven guilty is not enough to be deserving of pretrial release.
- You have a right to an attorney at your Bail Review. Contact an experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney to represent you at your Bail Hearing.
- If you are released at this stage, and you have not already done so, contact a DUI/DWI Defense Attorney within 10 days of the incident to begin preparation of your case and assist you in making crucial decisions before certain deadlines expire.
- When you are charged with a DUI/DWI, the State’s Attorney is required to turn over copies of the evidence they will use against you as well as any evidence they have that may tend to show you are not guilty
- For DUI/DWI cases, there is no specific date that evidence has to be turned over before a trial. The only language in the rules of evidence for incarcerable traffic cases is that the State’s Attorney is required to exercise due diligence to identify all of the material and information that must be disclosed. In terms of timing, that isn’t very specific. And for any client, this can be very frustrating if your attorney does not explain this to you in advance.
- Essentially, it means that evidence must be turned over before trial begins. So what happens if the State’s Attorney turns over evidence on the day of trial? A good attorney should not hesitate to consider postponing a case if the evidence turned over requires further investigation.
- Also, one of the reasons you are hiring an attorney is because your attorney knows what should be turned over typically in a case. An experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney will be on the lookout for certain evidence and know when it is missing and when this missing evidence is significant enough to affect the entire case either positively or negatively for their client. An experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney will also know that such circumstances may also require the need for a postponement to protect their client.
- Contact an experienced DUI/DWI Attorney to represent you so that you can obtain all of the Discovery that you are entitled to.
- On the back of your temporary license, this is a Request for a Hearing. The purpose of this is to avoid having your license be suspended for a specific period of time. The lowest suspension period for a DUI/DWI is 6 months and can be as high as 2 years.
- You have 30 days from the incident to request a hearing. If you request the hearing within the first 10 days, your temporary license privileges will be extended automatically until your MVA Hearing date. If you request a hearing being days 11 and 30, you will be granted an MVA Hearing but your temporary license privilege will not be extended.
- There is no set rule for when your MVA Hearing will be scheduled for a hearing. It typically takes about two to four months. It is equally common for this hearing to take place both before and after your criminal case is resolved.
- The purpose of the MVA Hearing is not to prove that you were driving and driving. The purpose is to see if the officer had the right to ask you to take a Breathalyzer test and, if they did have the right, how did you perform on the test.
- MVA Hearings do not look like the trials we see and picture on TV. There will be a judge present but officers are not required automatically to appear and testify. Also, there is no State’s Attorney and no mandatory discovery that has to be provided. Instead, documents are submitted in advance to prove the case against you. You can request subpoenas but there are rules that apply to when you can and cannot do that. The judge assigned to your case listens to the evidence and decides alone if there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate if you improperly refused to take a breathalyzer test or, if you took one, received a failing result.
- Much work goes into preparing for an MVA Hearing. You may insist that you are Innocent but asserting that you are Innocent is not enough. You need to be ready to win your trial. Contact an experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney to defend you on your trial date when you are charged with committing a DUI/DWI.
Trial Date in the District Court
- In Maryland, the only types of criminal cases that can go to trial in the District Court are all misdemeanors and traffic violations and a very select list of felonies.
- There is no set rule statewide of when your DUI/DWI case will be scheduled for trial after you have been charged. It changes by county to county. Some counties will schedule a trial date one month later while others will schedule your trial months later.
- Your first trial date will be scheduled in a District Court in the county where you were charged. You will have a right to a trial as soon as that day. If you elect to have a trial while your case is in the District Court, the only trial you can have inside a District Court is a trial by judge, aka a Bench Trial. This is a trial where the judge assigned to your courtroom listens to the evidence and decides alone if the State’s Attorney has proven that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.
- Just because your case begins in the District Court does not always mean that it has to stay there. If you are charged with a crime where the maximum penalty for any one charge is more than 90 days of incarceration, you have a right to a jury trial. Jury trials are not tried in the District Court. They are only tried in the Circuit Court. The choice of whether or not to have a jury trial is the exclusive choice of the Defendant.
- If you are still in the District Court, and you request a jury trial, the case is postponed to be set in to the Circuit Court for a jury trial date. Again, when this will be varies by counties. Some counties set the case in as soon as the very next day while others will set the case in for trial several months later.
- Much work goes into preparing for a trial. You may insist that you are Innocent but asserting that you are Innocent is not enough. You need to be ready to win your trial. Contact an experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney to defend you on your trial date when you are charged with committing a DUI/DWI.
Trial Date in the Circuit Court
- If you requested jury trial in the District Court for your DUI/DWI case, your jury trial will take place in the Circuit Court.
- At your trial, a judge will preside over your case. The State’s Attorney is required to prove that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. You get to select before the beginning of your trial who will listen to the evidence and decide if the State’s Attorney has proven their case against you. You will be deciding between the Judge or a Jury. A jury is 12 people chosen from the voter and motor roles of the county where your case is being tried. The State’s Attorney will call witnesses to testify and present evidence that they have. Your attorney gets to ask questions of the State’s Attorney witnesses. This is called cross-examination. You have the opportunity to present evidence in your defense. This can be witnesses, evidence, and you have the right to testify in your defense. You also have the right to not testify and your silence cannot be held against you.
- At the conclusion of the trial, the judge or jury will decide if you are Guilty or Not Guilty. Much work goes into preparing for a trial. You may insist that you are Innocent but asserting that you are Innocent is not enough. You need to be ready to win your trial. Contact an experienced DUI/DWI Defense Attorney to defend you on your trial date.
Contact a Maryland DUI attorney
You deserve a Maryland DUI attorney who defends your rights and protects your future. To learn more about the services Zirkin & Schmerling Law offers and the many ways we help DUI and DWI defendants, call us at 410-753-4611. Your initial consultation is always free.