Is It Illegal to Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Maryland?

refusing breathalyzer test in maryland

When you’re driving and you see flashing blue lights appear behind your vehicle, it can be an intimidating experience for any Maryland driver. If the police officer begins asking whether you’ve had anything to drink, the experience becomes especially alarming. When law enforcement suspects that you’re driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, they will ask you to take a breathalyzer test so your blood alcohol content (BAC) can be measured. If you experience this, you’ll undoubtedly wonder whether you can refuse the breath test.

In Maryland, anyone who drives a vehicle is considered to have consented to a chemical or breath test when lawfully stopped for suspicion of intoxicated driving—a law known as implied consent. But does this give law enforcement full entitlement to request a breathalyzer test from you? Let’s consider what may happen if you refuse.

When Do Police Officers Require a Breathalyzer Test from Drivers in Maryland?

Police officers use breathalyzer tests when they have reasonable suspicion that a driver is under the influence of alcohol. The test measures the driver’s BAC, and any reading over the legal limit of .08 may result in an arrest for DUI. However, despite the widespread use of breathalyzer tests, they are not always accurate.

It’s critical for Maryland drivers to understand that law enforcement can only ask you to take a breath test if you’ve been legally detained or pulled over for alleged DUI. Any police officer who pulls you over without probable cause to question whether you’re intoxicated while driving may be infringing on your rights.

Causes for law enforcement to develop reasonable suspicion of DUI include:

  • Reckless driving or excessive speed
  • Slurred speech or the smell of alcohol on the breath
  • Admission to drinking earlier that day
  • Strange behavior, like acting sleepy or jittery
  • Failure of a field sobriety test

What Happens If I Refuse a Breathalyzer Test in Maryland?

Refusing a breathalyzer test when a police officer has reasonable suspicion to suspect you of driving under the influence results in an automatic suspension of your Maryland driver’s license for 270 days. A second offense can result in a license suspension for one year.

The only exception to having your driving privileges suspended after refusing a breathalyzer test is if you contact the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) within ten days of the incident and request a hearing. If the MVA permits a hearing, be prepared to have an ignition interlock device (IID) set up in your vehicle to maintain your driving privileges in Maryland.

Driving with an IID on your vehicle can be laborious. There’s an additional expense involved in installing the device that you’ll be required to pay, and each time you need to start your vehicle and at specific intervals while driving, you must blow into the IID. The device measures your BAC, and if any alcohol is picked up, the MVA could again suspend your driving privileges.

What Should I Do If I’m Pulled Over for Suspected DUI in Maryland?

It is often in your best interest to agree to the breath test when pulled over in Maryland. With a first offense DUI, you can generally obtain probation before judgment if found guilty, with some exceptions. Probation before judgement means you are not convicted, nor will points be assessed to your driver’s license.

No matter what you decide, it is imperative that you contact a Maryland DUI attorney as early as possible. You could face additional penalties for either refusing or accepting a breathalyzer test, such as fines and a criminal offense on your record. A qualified DUI attorney can tell you how to effectively manage either situation to protect your Maryland driver’s license and freedom.

Consult with an Experienced Baltimore DUI Attorney

Whether you refuse or accept a breathalyzer test in Maryland when stopped for suspicion of DUI, there will be repercussions that could harm your future. Even first-time DUI offenders require legal support to assist them in achieving the best possible case result. Some DUI convictions involve a jail sentence, fines, points on your driver’s license, and compulsory treatment.

An accomplished Maryland DUI attorney can explain your options in detail and assess your case for prospective defenses. If you complied with taking a breathalyzer test, there might be weaknesses in the state’s case against you. Even if you submitted to a breathalyzer test, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t flaws in the system that can be used to your benefit.

Attorney Hillel Traub of The Law Office of Hillel Traub has been representing clients in Baltimore and throughout Maryland for over 20 years. Hillel Traub uses his experience as a former Assistant Attorney General for the MVA and tailors a strong defense for each case to protect his clients’ rights and driving privileges.

To schedule a free consultation with Hillel Traub to discuss your DUI matter, complete a contact form, or call (410) 580-1100.