The ability to drive is considered a privilege and not a right in the eyes of the law. As such, among other penalties, Maryland law allows officers the authority to suspend licenses for incidents involving driving under the influence. A recent case determined how far the state can go in requiring a driver take sobriety tests before suspending a license.
Driver Passes and Refuses Tests
The case arose when an officer stopped the accused for having an improperly fastened license plate. The officer, sensing the driver may have been impaired, had the driver perform the standard field sobriety tests. The officer did not smell alcohol on the accused and a BAC test came back under the legal limit.
The accused then consented to a further “alcohol concentration test.” The accused took the test, which indicated zero breath alcohol concentration. Thus, the officer was confused, as he believed the driver to be intoxicated but the tests demonstrated otherwise. The officer then requested permission to administer a blood test to detect drugs in the driver’s blood, but the driver refused that test.
The driver had his license suspended, but requested a hearing on that suspension.
The Law of Implied Consent
When an officer has probable cause to suspect someone is driving under the influence, that officer can require a driver to take a sobriety test. Someone who refuses an alcohol test, can have his license suspended just for refusing a test.
The driver here argued that he did consent to (and passed) the alcohol test, but that the law does not allow the state to revoke or suspend his license for refusing to take the second blood drug test. He argued that the state could revoke a license for refusing either test—but did not allow suspension where a driver has passed one and refused to take the other, as he did.
The state argued that the statute does not limit the state to only one test, and the driver’s refusal to take any test, at any time, could warrant automatic license suspension.
Court Finds State Can Require Both Tests
The court first noted that the law does allow law enforcement to require someone to take either an alcohol or blood test. The law does not require law enforcement choose one or the other.
The fact that the statute used the singular term “test,” did not mean that the driver need only pass one test and could refuse the second. The court also noted that the legislature had amended the statutory definition of “test” to include drug testing, and thus, the legislative intent was to allow the state to suspend a license for refusal to take either an alcohol or a drug test.
The court also felt it would be illogical to suggest that the state had a legal right to request both alcohol and drug testing, but could not suspend a license for refusal to take one after a driver passed the other.
Make sure that if you are charged with DUI, you know your rights. Contact the attorneys of Brassel, Alexander & Rice, LLC today for a free consultation to discuss representation from arrest to trial.