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Can one refuse to take a field sobriety test?


There are two legal levels of drinking and driving in Maryland. Driving under the influence (DUI) is when a driver's blood alcohol concentration is at or more than 0.08. With this BAC, the driver is assumed under the influence of alcohol per se. The second level is DWI (driving while impaired), with the blood alcohol concentration level of less than 0.07. There is a zero tolerance policy for underage drinking -- if an underage driver has had alcohol, but is not drunk or has a low blood alcohol concentration level, the driver would still get a DUI.

How do authorities determine if someone is driving under the influence? The police can stop a motorist on suspicion of a DUI and check them for various signs of impairment. They can ask the driver to submit to a Breathalyzer test to check their BAC. Not everyone wants to submit to a test however, especially if the driver has indeed been drinking but is unsure of how much they have had to drink and what the test would yield. However, in Maryland, a breath test refusal carries its own penalties.

When drivers in Maryland apply for their driver's licenses, they give their consent for both field sobriety tests and chemical tests that can help determine their impairment at a given time. If a driver refuses to take the test, the driver risks certain penalties. In Maryland, for the first refusal, the driver's license can be suspended for 120 days and for the second or subsequent refusal, it could result in a one-year suspension. This could be in addition to the penalties received for a DUI.

Drunk driving charges should be taken seriously. Just because a driver has submitted to a field sobriety test and the reading has come out high does not mean automatically that the person should receive a harsh sentence. An attorney may be able to challenge other aspects of the prosecution's case, such as the initial stop and the findings of the test itself. It may also be possible to come to an agreement for a lighter sentence. Maryland residents accused of drunk driving may want to consider consulting an attorney to defend their rights.

Source: FindLaw, "Implied consent laws," Accessed on May 10, 2016

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