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Vehicle Stops in Maryland

In Maryland, a driver may be lawfully stopped by police for questioning. This can be the result of any lawful traffic stop, such as committing a traffic violation (i.e. speeding, an illegal u-turn, etc.) If a person is only briefly detained and is not moved to a different location, this is considered a stop, not an arrest.

After a driver has been stopped, a police officer must have “articulable reasonable suspicion to believe the defendant may be impaired by alcohol” before requiring the driver exit the car to conduct standardized field sobriety tests. Basically, “reasonable articulable suspicion” means an officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the driver has, been or is going to commit a crime, specifically a DUI or DWI.

After a driver’s use of alcohol is reasonably suspected by an officer during an initial stop, there exists reasonable grounds for the officer to request a chemical breath test. Conducting field sobriety tests is considered a reasonable detention for a stop. The reasonable suspicion allowing an officer to request a chemical breath test stems from the smell of alcohol, slurred speech, bloodshot eyes, failed field sobriety tests, etc. (See Maryland DUI Handbook.)

A secondary stop after a routine traffic stop did not violate the 4th Amendment where the driver was weaving across a yellow line, increased and decreased speed in 10 mph increments, had bloodshot eyes and smelled like alcohol. Blasi v. State, 893 A.2d 1152 (2006). After the driver gave the officer his license and registration, the officer noticed the smell of alcohol, asked him to exit and to perform field sobriety tests. The Court concluded the “erratic driving, coupled with the strong odor of an alcoholic beverage on his breath, and his bloodshot eyes, provided enough of a basis for the officer to conduct standardized field sobriety tests.” (§ 7:20 Maryland DUI Handbook.)

Unlawful stops in Maryland include any which are not based on an articulable reasonable suspicion. Specifically, after the purpose of an initial stop has been fulfilled, such as giving a speeding ticket, the officer needs an articulable reasonable suspicion concerning the commission of a different crime to continue to detain the driver. An officer did not have articulable suspicion in a case where he pulled the driver over for speeding. He issued the ticket, and then noticed the   driver had bloodshot eyes, and he and his passenger appeared nervous and fidgety. Ferris v. State, 735 A.2d 491 (1999).

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