Vehicle Searches at Maryland DUI Stops

The following is taken from an interview with a Maryland DUI lawyer as they discuss vehicle searches in Maryland and whether you are required to consent. If you believe your rights may have been violated, call and schedule a consultation with an attorney today.

An experienced lawyer will be able to examine how the stop and subsequent search took place and determine whether law enforcement were within their legal rights to search you.

Will Police Want To Search My Car At a DUI Stop?

Yes, typically at a DUI stop police officers love to have a reason to search the vehicle. That’s true for a couple of different reasons. One, the officer is looking to see if there are any alcoholic beverage containers located within the car because it’s very damaging evidence if an officer were to testify that they found empty alcohol containers or half-full alcohol containers.  There is not much worse evidence than having an officer testify that there was a half-drunk beer or bottle of liquor in the center console right next to the driver.

The other reason is that if a police officer where to find anything illegal in the vehicle, then that would be a totally separate basis or totally separate charge that the officer could the charge the defendant with. So, for example, if the officer can search the vehicle and find some type of drug in the car, then the officer, on top of charging for the DUI, can also include charges for illegal possession of some sort of drug.  For these reasons, the officer will definitely want to search the vehicle.

Do You Need To Consent To a Search of Your Vehicle?

No, a driver does not need to consent to a search of the vehicle and the driver should feel free to refuse to give consent because that is the driver’s right.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that a search will not take place because if the officer can articulate a legal basis to go search the car, then the officer will.

For example, just in plain view without having to conduct the search, if the officer could see something illegal in the vehicle, that could the legal justification to search the car. In that situation, the police officer does not need to get consent from the driver. It may end up that the vehicle gets searched anyway, but regardless of that, the driver has the right to refuse to give consent for a search of his vehicle.

Do You Have to Consent To a Search After Being Arrested?

No.  You do not need to consent.  The driver has the same right that he had prior to being arrested and that’s the right to refuse the officer permission  to search the vehicle.