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James N. Papirmeister, P.C.

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Do you have to take a chemical breath test during a traffic stop?

Given that laws vary from state to state, it's not that surprising that many people feel confused about their legal rights and options. For example, some people don't understand what rights they have during an enforcement traffic stop related to alcohol.

Whether you get pulled over as part of a sobriety checkpoint or due to individual enforcement efforts, you may wonder what rights you have when law enforcement officers suspect you of impaired driving. As with any other kind of criminal offense, you have certain basic rights that apply regardless of what police officers may suspect. Understanding your rights can help you assert them when you need them the most.

Many people believe that they have the right to avoid self-incrimination in any situation. They make conflate their rights in court under the Fifth Amendment with their rights during an encounter with law enforcement. Specifically, many people don't understand that there are laws in Maryland that require that they consent to chemical testing by police while driving or that they can challenge test results later.

Implied consent laws make anyone on the road subject to chemical testing

Maryland has a statute on the books known as an implied consent law. This law effectively requires that anyone driving on public roads in Maryland or carrying a Maryland license agrees to submit to chemical testing if police suspect that they may be under the influence of alcohol.

If police officers have reason to believe that someone is under the influence of drugs or alcohol, that driver is under a legal obligation to agree to a chemical test. However, it's important for people to also understand that while the law compels people to comply with a testing request, law enforcement officers cannot force you to perform a chemical test.

Still, they can arrest you for refusing the test under the implied consent statute. You will likely face the suspension of your license for 270 days if it is the first time you refused to take a chemical test or two years if you have previously refused a test.

Not taking the test doesn't mean you avoid charges

While the refusal of a breath test does prevent law enforcement officers from obtaining chemical evidence of impairments at the time of a traffic stop, it doesn't stop the state of Maryland from bringing impaired driving charges against you. You could very well find yourself facing both impaired driving charges and the penalties associated with refusing a chemical test.

In fact, officers can testify about your unwillingness to submit to the test as evidence that you may have thought you would fail the test. It is possible for someone to refuse a chemical test and still wind up convicted of an impaired driving charge.

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