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What is a DWI Arrest?

What is a DWI arrest

Drunk driving is a serious problem in Maryland. A DUI conviction could lead to jail time, fines, and difficulty securing employment. A DUI on your driving record could also lead to a suspended license and higher rates from the insurance company. If you are facing a DWI arrest, what should you do next?

At Innovate Criminal Defense Lawyers, we are here to defend your rights. We will explore all possible options after a DWI arrest. Our goal is to secure the best possible outcome for you.

Learn more about a DWI arrest below. Then, contact us to schedule a free case consultation.

Definition of DWI (Driving While Intoxicated)

Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) refers to operating a motor vehicle while your ability to drive safely is impaired by alcohol or drugs.

In Maryland, you can be charged with DWI if your blood alcohol content (BAC) meets or exceeds the legal limit of 0.08% or if drugs impair your driving. This serious charge carries serious consequences that can affect your daily life and future.

Impairment from alcohol or drugs can drastically reduce a driver's reaction times, decision-making abilities, and overall vehicle control. Law enforcement officers are trained to recognize signs of impairment and are vigilant in enforcing these laws.

If you're pulled over and suspected of DWI, you may face various tests to determine your level of intoxication. This includes a blood test. Understanding the specifics of DWI is important for anyone who finds themselves facing such charges.

The DWI Arrest Process

The DWI Arrest Process

The process of a DWI arrest begins when a law enforcement officer suspects that a driver is impaired. This could be due to erratic driving, involvement in an accident, or a traffic violation.

Once pulled over, the officer observes the driver's behavior, speech, and ability to follow instructions to assess whether they are under the influence. If the officer believes the driver is intoxicated, they will conduct further tests.

Initial Traffic Stop

A DWI-related traffic stop is a critical moment in the arrest process. The officer approaches the vehicle and speaks with the driver to observe any signs of intoxication, such as the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, or visible alcohol containers.

This interaction helps the officer decide whether to conduct field sobriety tests. Drivers need to know that this initial stop must be legally justified.

Reasons for Being Pulled Over

Officers can stop drivers for various reasons that might indicate impaired driving. Common reasons include speeding, running a red light, or swerving between lanes.

These actions can catch an officer's attention and lead to a stop for suspected DWI. It's important to understand that any traffic violation can lead to scrutiny for impairment.

Signs of Impaired Driving

  • Erratic steering. If a driver is swerving or unable to maintain a straight path, it often signals impairment. Officers look for these patterns as initial indicators of DWI.
  • Inconsistent speeding. Alternating between speeds or failing to adhere to speed limits can indicate that a driver is not fully in control.
  • Delayed reactions. Slow responses to traffic signals, stop signs or other driving conditions can suggest impaired motor skills and decision-making.
  • Poor coordination. Difficulty with simple tasks like retrieving a driver's license from a wallet or opening a window can be telltale signs of intoxication.
  • Breaking traffic laws. Frequent violations like not using turn signals or headlights at night are often more scrutinized under suspicion of DWI.

Field Sobriety Tests

  • Horizontal gaze nystagmus test. This test involves following an object with the eyes to detect jerking movements that can indicate intoxication.
  • Walk-and-turn test. The suspect must walk in a straight line and turn on one foot, testing balance and ability to follow directions.
  • One-leg stand test. Standing on one leg for 30 seconds tests balance and concentration, both affected by intoxication.
  • Portable breath test. This preliminary breathalyzer test gives an immediate BAC estimate to assess impairment further.

Accuracy and Reliability of Tests

While field sobriety tests are standard procedure, their accuracy can vary based on the situation and the officer's interpretation.

Factors like physical conditions, nervousness, and weather can affect the results. Understanding that these tests are subjective and can be contested in court is important.

How Breathalyzers Work

Breathalyzers measure the amount of alcohol in your breath, which correlates to your blood alcohol content.

The device uses a chemical reaction that changes color based on the alcohol level, providing a readout that law enforcement uses to determine if you exceed the legal limit. These tests are more scientific than field sobriety tests but can still be subject to errors.

Refusal to Take a Breathalyzer Test

Refusing a breathalyzer test during a DWI stop invokes Maryland's implied consent laws, which can result in automatic penalties such as license suspension. This refusal can be used against you in court, suggesting you knew you were over the legal limit.

However, the consequences of refusal are often less severe than those of a possible DWI conviction.

Arrest and Booking

If the tests indicate intoxication, the officer will arrest the driver for DWI. The next step is taking the suspect to the police station for booking, which includes fingerprinting and formal charges. This process officially records the incident in the legal system.

Booking Process and Holding

During the booking process, personal information is recorded, and the charge is formally entered into the system. The suspect may be held in a cell until bail is posted or until a court appearance. The booking process also includes taking a mug shot and collecting personal items for storage.

Legal Rights During a DWI Arrest

Legal rights during a DWI arrest

During a DWI arrest, you have specific legal rights that are important to remember. These rights protect you from potential abuse and ensure fair legal treatment.

Right to Remain Silent

You can remain silent when pulled over for a suspected DWI. This means you do not have to answer questions about where you have been, whether you have been drinking, or any other details about your situation. This right helps protect you from providing self-incriminating information.

Right to Legal Representation

You also have the right to contact an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced DWI lawyer can provide advice on how to proceed during the arrest and can represent you during any legal proceedings. Access to legal counsel is vital in navigating the complexities of DWI cases.

Understanding Implied Consent Laws

Maryland's implied consent law requires drivers to submit to a breathalyzer test if lawfully arrested for DWI.

Understanding this law is important because refusal can lead to automatic penalties, including a driver's license suspension and fines, regardless of whether a DWI conviction occurs.

Immediate Consequences of a DWI Arrest

  • License suspension. One immediate consequence of a DWI arrest is the potential suspension of your driver's license. This action can severely impact your ability to work and perform daily activities.
  • Increase in car insurance rates. After a DWI arrest, you can expect your auto insurance rates to increase substantially. Auto insurance companies view DWI offenders as high-risk drivers.
  • Employment issues. A DWI arrest can lead to job loss, especially if your job requires driving. Even the arrest itself can damage your professional reputation.
  • Social stigma. Being arrested for DWI often carries a social stigma that can affect personal relationships and community standing.
  • Financial strain. The costs associated with a DWI arrest include bail, legal fees, higher insurance rates, and potential fines. These expenses can create major financial pressure.

The Legal Process Following a DWI Arrest

The legal process following a DWI arrest

Following a DWI arrest, the legal process unfolds in several stages. Understanding each stage can help you prepare for what's ahead.

Arraignment and Plea Options

You will hear the charges at your arraignment and be ordered to submit a plea. The options typically include pleading guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Each choice has different implications for your case; your lawyer can help decide the best action.

Pre-Trial Motions and Hearings

Before the trial, your lawyer can file motions to challenge evidence or request certain rulings. These pre-trial hearings determine much of how the trial will proceed. This stage is critical for setting up your defense.

Trial Process and Possible Outcomes

During the trial, the prosecution and your defense team will present evidence and argue the case before a judge or jury. The outcome can range from acquittal to convictions with varying penalties. The trial is the vital moment where your defense strategy is tested.

Defenses We Might Use To Defend Against DWI Charges

  • Questioning the traffic stop. A common defense is to challenge the legality of the initial traffic stop. If the stop was unjustified, any evidence gathered could be deemed inadmissible.
  • Disputing test results. We can contest the accuracy of the breathalyzer test or field sobriety tests. Issues with the device or its operation can cast doubt on the reliability of the results.
  • Proving conditions. We may argue that external factors, such as illness or medication, affect your performance on sobriety tests. This defense aims to show that the signs of impairment were unrelated to alcohol consumption.
  • Rights violations. If your rights were violated during the arrest or booking process, we could use this to challenge the prosecution's case.
  • Witness statements. Gathering statements from witnesses who can speak to your sobriety or behavior during the arrest can help counter the charges.

Long-Term Consequences of a DWI Conviction

A DWI conviction can have severe long-term consequences that affect various aspects of your life. These effects go beyond the immediate legal penalties and can linger for years.

The most direct impact of a DWI conviction is often on your driving privileges. A conviction can lead to a long-term suspension or revocation of your driver's license, making it difficult to commute to work or perform daily tasks.

A DWI conviction can also substantially affect your career. Some professions, particularly those involving driving, may no longer be viable, and you may face barriers to employment in other fields. Moreover, the conviction can lead to strained personal relationships and social isolation due to the stigma associated with such offenses.

The Importance of Enlisting Legal Help as Quickly as Possible

When facing a DWI charge, seeking legal assistance immediately is important. The right attorney can change the outcome of your case. Early intervention allows your lawyer to collect evidence, contact witnesses, and develop a strong defense strategy.

Acting quickly also ensures you understand your rights and the legal processes involved. An experienced DWI lawyer can protect your interests as the legal system unfolds. The goal is to minimize the impact of the charges on your life and future.

Connect With Our Baltimore DUI Lawyer for a Free Consultation

Connect With Our Baltimore DUI Lawyer for a Free Consultation

Don't wait to seek legal representation if you or someone you know has been arrested for DWI. Innovate Criminal Defense Lawyers would be honored to listen to your situation. We are dedicated to defending your rights and achieving the best possible outcome in your case.

Driving under the influence is serious, but we can defend you against an alleged DUI offense. Contact us today to schedule a free case review.