Question: What is the impact of a BAC number whether it is above or below a .08 in Maryland?
Answer: You know, that question is incredibly insightful and an incredibly important question for Maryland drivers. Because many times people come in to the office and they’ve only blown, say, a .07 or a .06 and they’re scratching their head and they’re asking me, “Why was I arrested for blowing a number less than a 0.08?” They thought that the legal limit is .08. And, a point of fact, if you read the billboards and you watch the television commercials in Maryland they always say, “Over .08, under arrest.” But, you see, this is unclear and it’s also a fallacy because DWI, driving while impaired, which is a lower alcohol charge, is based on a .07 number. So, right off the bat there’s a statutory offense, DWI, driving while impaired, which is based on a number which is lower than what they tell you about on TV and in the commercials. And if that wasn’t bad enough, it gets worse. If you blow, say a .06 or a .05 or a .04, if the officer is having a slow evening or is grumpy or otherwise in a bad mood, he will still arrest you for DUI or DWI.
Even though your number is significantly less than the legal presumptions that we have in Maryland, he will arrest you and he will try to point out that your normal coordination was impaired. So, how do they go about doing that? Well, if you were driving down the road and you were fiddling with your car’s radio or you answered your cell phone or something of this nature and you therefore swerved and you went over the shoulder line for half a second and the officer saw you do this one or more times, he is then going to arrest you. And that is indicator number one that you were impaired. Then, when he asks you to get out of the vehicle, which he can do under Maryland law for officer safety, he will then ask you to do the field sobriety test. And most people try to do these tests because: a.) they want to get out of being arrested and b.) they want to be helpful. But the problem is, when you’re trying to do a field sobriety test on the side of the road at 12 o’clock at night with cars and trucks whirling by you at high speeds and you have a man next to you with a revolver on his side, it becomes difficult to do these coordination tests perfectly.
Now, I think reasonable people would all agree that, because of the fact that you can’t necessarily take nine steps, looking down, counting out loud, making a perfect turn and coming back again, normal people would find that that may be difficult to do under those circumstances. However, the courts take a different view of it. The courts say, “Well, if you couldn’t do all of those things, you were probably impaired.” And that would be significant enough for them to find you guilty of the DWI, driving while impaired, despite the fact that when you went to the police station your number was only, say, a .06, .05, .04. Mind you, in our 20-year career here at Robinson & Associates, we have defended a number of those cases in the low numbers. Obviously, we win the absolute majority of them, but that doesn’t stop the police from charging them, and it doesn’t stop you from being under the pressure that you’re under and then you have to go retain counsel.
And if you retain counsel that is not as experienced in this field as they might otherwise be, you could very well easily end up with a conviction for these charges. So, that is why and how you get arrested for a number under a .08. Obviously, .08 or higher, you’re in per se type of trouble. But, by the same token, you can and will be charged with the lower number, say .03, .04, .05. It’s officer’s discretion. And like I said, if they have nothing better to do, they will still arrest you and you will still have to go through all of the actions following a DUI arrest.