Being arrested for drunk driving in Maryland can be a scary and unsettling experience, especially if this is your first time. When you are brought in to the police station, you are asked to take a chemical (breath, blood, or urine) test to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC). In most cases, this will be a breathalyzer test. In Maryland, you have the right to refuse the chemical test, but there are severe consequences for doing so.
Penalties for Refusing a Breathalyzer in Maryland
When you apply for a driver’s license through the Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA), you automatically give your consent to take a chemical test at the police station if an officer has probable cause to arrest you for drunk driving. This is known as “Implied Consent.” Refusing to take the test results in an automatic suspension of your driver’s license. For the first offense, the suspension period is 270 days. For the second and subsequent offenses, the suspension period is two years. You have the right to request an administrative hearing with the MVA to challenge your suspension. But you must act quickly, because you are only given 10 days from the time of your arrest to request the hearing.
Preliminary Breath Test is not the Same as the Mandatory Chemical Test
It is important to note that there are two different breath tests that you might be given after you are stopped for DUI. When you are first pulled over for drunk driving, the officer may ask you to take a preliminary breath test (PBT). The PBT is different from the chemical test that is given at the police station in some very significant ways. Although the officer may imply that you have to take it, the PBT is not mandatory, and refusing to take it has no effect whatsoever on your driving privileges. The main purpose of the PBT is to help the officer establish probable cause to arrest you for DUI. There is really no good reason to take this test, unless you are absolutely certain you are below the legal limit of .08 BAC.
Reinstating your Driving Privileges after a Breathalyzer Refusal
In Maryland, there are only two ways to reinstate your driver’s license after refusing the chemical test at the police station; request an administrative MVA hearing to challenge the suspension and win the hearing, or you can request an MVA hearing to opt into the state’s ignition interlock program. Winning a challenge to your suspension can be extremely difficult, depending on the facts and evidence in your case. If you are considering this option, it is imperative that you work with an experienced DUI lawyer.
Participating in the ignition interlock program has some costs attached to it as well. You are required to pay for the installation of the device, as well as the costs to have it serviced and keep it in your vehicle each month. Having this device also restricts your freedom as you are required to blow into it at various times while operating the vehicle. If you register alcohol in your system a certain number of times during a specified period, the MVA may decide to suspend your license again and not allow you to drive even with the ignition interlock device installed.
Are there any Benefits to Refusing a Breathalyzer Test?
Though the consequences of refusing the mandatory chemical test in Maryland can be severe, there are some instances when refusal could be the better option. For example, if this is your second or subsequent offense within the past 10 years, the penalties for a DUI conviction are much stiffer. In such cases, you might have a better chance to avoid conviction without the chemical test results being available to the prosecutor as evidence. Another instance when refusal might be better is if you are highly intoxicated and you believe you might register .15 BAC or above. If this occurs, you can be charged with aggravated DUI, which also carries stiffer penalties.
Contact a Skilled Maryland DUI Lawyer
If you have been arrested for drunk driving and refused the breath, blood, or urine test that is administered at the police station, you are facing the loss of your driving privileges for an extended period of time. And if you are a commercial driver, a second refusal can potentially result in a lifetime suspension of your commercial driver’s license. With so much at stake, you need strong legal counsel in your corner aggressively advocating for your rights and interests.
At Grabo Law, LLC, we have extensive experience standing up for those charged for DUI and other criminal offenses in Maryland. Attorney Robert Grabo understands the complexities of this area of law, and he has a successful track record winning cases on behalf of his clients. For a personalized consultation with Attorney Grabo, get in touch with us today by calling our office at 301-938-7652, or filling out the form on our contact page.