At present, no right exists for suspected drunk drivers to consult with an attorney prior to consenting to a blood alcohol content test. A lower court judge ruled that a woman pulled over in 2012 should have been allowed to call a friend, who was also an attorney, prior to giving her consent to a breath test. The Maryland Vehicle Administration appealed the ruling, and now the Maryland Court of Appeals will decide whether an individual who has indicated a desire to do so should be allowed to contact an attorney, if one is available to him or her, before making the decision whether to submit to a test to determine blood alcohol content.
The woman's defense counsel is not implying that officers advise individuals that they have the right to an attorney or that one be appointed prior to testing. His contention is that the person should be allowed to do so if they have made a specific request to contact an available attorney. The MVA argues that such a request could cause significant delays in a process that must occur within two hours of being pulled over by police.
In Maryland, a person's license can be suspended for either refusing to take such a test or if that person's blood alcohol level is .08 or more when tested. Having the opportunity to talk to an attorney in order to fully understand the implications of either decision could prove helpful. The woman's attorney clarified for Maryland's highest court that it is possible many people could contact an attorney without it interfering with testing protocols. Granted, not everyone will have such an opportunity and that could be problematic.
Oral arguments in this case took place on Jan. 9, and the court's decision is expected sometime within the next six months. If the court rules in favor of the woman, the effects will be felt across the state. Considering the fact that the results of blood alcohol content tests could ultimately be used in criminal proceedings, both law enforcement and criminal defense counsel will clearly be interested in how the Court of Appeals decides the issue.
Source: delmarvanow.com, Delmarva DWI case heard by high court, Vanessa Junkin, Jan. 16, 2014