Question: What does probable cause mean in Maryland?
Answer: Probable cause is the legal basis that’s required for the police officer to exercise his domain over you as a defendant. As you know, you have a Fourth Amendment right in this country to be free of legal invasions on your personal property and your person. Your house, you have a Fourth Amendment right to privacy in your house, in your office and in your person. So, if a police officer is going to take that away from you and he’s going to arrest you and thereby take away your liberty, he needs to have a legal basis to do so.
In order for that to happen, he needs to see a misdemeanor being committed in his presence. In this case, a misdemeanor is the DUI charge, and he sees you driving down the street and swerving or you can’t keep your lane or you’re speeding, or whatever the case may be. This begins to give him, initially, it’s reasonable articulable suspicion to believe that a crime is being committed, and then he stops your car, and then from there he sees the watery, glassy eyes and he perceives the slurred speech and he asks you to get out of your car. Maybe you’re leaning against your car, maybe you can’t walk in a straight line, or maybe you can walk just fine but the field test did not come out perfectly and, therefore, he assumes that your normal coordination is impaired.
So, when he tallies all of those up under the totality of the circumstances approach, and he says that your field tests weren’t great, and you had slurred speech and you had red, glassy eyes and whatever else he perceived about you; that is the probable cause to arrest you, because he needs to have probable cause to make an arrest for a DUI. That’s why he’s asking you to do the field sobriety test, which you can refuse without penalty. That’s why he’s asking you to blow in the preliminary breath test, which you can refuse without penalty. But when you elect to engage in these various activities, you are ostensibly giving them, more likely than not, probable cause to make that arrest and to charge you.