The Maryland State Police cannot pull you over without a good reason. In other words, they need probable cause.
It is important to understand your rights before getting into a confrontation with the police because too much misinformation is spread.
If you enter a dispute with an officer without knowing the facts, your actions can irritate the officer, and you may be faced with harsher penalties.
Defining Probable Cause
Baltimore City and Maryland State Police officers cannot simply turn on their lights, pull you to the curb, and filter through your trunk for cocaine. That type of behavior would be far too easy to abuse. Instead, traffic police need something like outdated plates or a broken taillight to throw on the red and blues.
Pretend that you get pulled over for speeding. If the officer sees a firearm or illegal contraband in your vehicle, the ticket is not the only paper evidence admissible in court. They keep notes in their cruisers. Notes cover every traffic violation and road interaction they have during their shift. So, if an officer fails to write a speeding ticket, their notes can be used as evidence.
If you appear in a Baltimore court for DUI charges and try to contest an officer’s word against your own, you will need the best DUI attorney Baltimore has to offer in order to properly present your case.
Probable Cause, DUIs, and Searches in Maryland
If an officer unfairly conducts a search, and you are found to be under the influence by way of an illegal search, you can fight it in court. Historically, these cases usually do not go well for the driver. That is because the court typically sides with the officer. Remember, if their notepad can be entered as evidence, their credibility probably supersedes yours.
Accidents add a whole new layer of trouble. If you are involved in an accident, an officer has probable cause. Most officers will not get involved for minor bumper scratches, but they can. If someone gets injured, officers will definitely investigate, especially if they suspect intoxication played a role in the collision.
The Importance of Pretext
In Maryland, officers cannot search for anything unrelated to their probable cause, and pretext gives cops a reason to take action. Certain behaviors and sensory information add pretext, but officers cannot act on base assumptions.
Probable cause is applied if you are resistant in any way, whether you are in a routine traffic stop, a checkpoint, or an accident. Rude behavior also gives officers pretext.
Two examples involving pretext:
- If an officer stops you for reckless driving and suspects that you have been drinking, he can administer a breathalyzer and ask you to step out of the vehicle. He cannot then search for drugs and firearms, or make assumptions about other behaviors (unless you bring it up).
- If an officer pulls you over for a broken taillight, he may not conduct business under any other pretense than the taillight. He may ask about alcohol, but only if something you say or do creates suspicion. Probable cause may lead to a DUI if your breath smells like alcohol or your speech is slurred.
When Can a Cop Search My Vehicle?
There are six instances when police officers have the right to search your vehicle. If any of these criteria are met, you cannot resist a search. Understanding search procedures is very important for those pulled over under suspicion of a DUI.
- Consent. If the officer asks to search and you say yes, then they have the right to conduct a thorough search. Refusal may make an officer suspicious, but they cannot open a door or look underneath trash. What they can do in the event of consent refusal is detain the suspect(s) for a period of time. Officers can use that time to gather additional evidence. A drug-sniffing dog can be allowed to whiff the premises. If they find something, officers now have cause to search.
- If They See Something. If a cop sees something in your seat in plain sight, then the officer is allowed to take matters into his or her own hands. In other words, if you have a shotgun or a bag of marijuana in the passenger seat, they can bypass consent to search more of your car.
- Search Incident to Arrest. If an officer arrests you with probable cause and you are put into the officer’s cruiser, then they may conduct a search.
- You Are a Crime Suspect. If you are driving home from a martial arts class and have a black eye, the officer has no reason to suspect you of illegal activities. The same goes with a pool of dried blood in your front seat. However, if you have a ripped purse hanging out of the glove compartment, two black eyes, and a bloody handprint on the backseat door, the officer may be suspicious and conduct a search.
- Exigent Circumstances. These situations are rare because it allows the officer to break all the rules for conducting a search of your vehicle, especially if they think evidence might be immediately destroyed after you drive away. Cops rarely exercise this right because, in a sense, they stake their career on the search. More often than not, this happens in apartments, homes, and other residences instead of cars.
- The Officer Has a Warrant. You absolutely cannot resist a warrant. Warrants come packed with limitations. It is important to know what the officer is trying to find. For example: if the police suspect that you have an illegal shotgun in the vehicle, the warrant disallows the trooper from searching anything too small for a normal-sized shotgun to fit inside. They can ask you to open the trunk, pull up the back seats, and check under the rest of the seats. In this instance, they would not be allowed to open the console or glove compartment.
If you were pulled over for a DUI in Baltimore, and believe an officer has violated your rights, you need a highly experienced DUI attorney. Dilip Paliath is one of the best attorneys in Maryland and defends countless clients against DUI charges. You deserve to be protected.