Question: Can you discuss the issues surrounding the Supreme Court case of Birchfield v. North Dakota and its implications for Maryland DUI cases?
Answer: The Birchfield v. North Dakota case was a case where a plaintiff had raised that the state should have to have a warrant for a breath test. Essentially, the court came down and stated that, well, it kind of had a split verdict—it stated that as far as breath tests are concerned, that they do not need warrants for them. And it also, though, does not extend the warrantless search to blood tests, because the court deemed that a breath test, it’s just air that the person is pushing out as opposed to blood that they have to actually go and get. So they deemed that that was actually a search and seizure that they would need a warrant to get through.
What it also did was that in Maryland—well, as far as how it affects Maryland—in Maryland currently there is a 60-day possible punishment, even though I’ve never seen it actually enforced, where if somebody violates implied consent—which is basically that you agree to take a test when driving in Maryland if asked by an officer—there’s an additional 60-day penalty if you refuse. That was sort of part of what was on the agenda with this case, was that, essentially, Maryland’s law is valid—that they can be charged with 60, with a 60-day offense in a separate criminal proceeding for refusing.
However, I still have never seen that applied, never actually seen anybody actually go to jail for that. It also, in this case, what it really did was, is it allowed the state to avoid a lot of headaches. Because if the state had to get warrants every time they wanted a breath test, there would have to be an officer calling a judge all the time, or it just really would of kind of set back everything. So although it wasn’t a total victory for the state, the state now has an easier way because it is, they are allowed to have warrantless breath tests. And that’s essentially it.