When can an officer in Howard County or Montgomery County charge you with DUI or DWI in Maryland?

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Whether you have been pulled over by a Maryland State Trooper or a Howard County, Montgomery County, Baltimore County or Prince George's County Police Officer, the Maryland Court of Appeals has dictated six factors that officers should pay attention to when deciding whether to charge you with a DUI or DWI. Each of these factors pertains to the basic legal question, whether the person was in "actual physical control" of a vehicle. In other words the critical test is whether the intoxicated person was in control of an operable vehicle, and not necessarily driving. The case which sets forth the DUI factors for officers to follow is known as Atkinston v. State, 331 Md. 199 (1992). The six factors are as follows:

1. Whether or not the engine is running or the ignition is on. In a case one of our Howard County DUI/DWI lawyers in Columbia, Maryland recently did, our client was sleeping in his car after a concert at Merriweather Post Pavilion. The engine was off and the keys were not in the ignition. He was intoxicated, but was not guilty of DUI in Maryland;

2. Whether and in what position the person is found in the vehicle (we have seen several DUI cases in College Park, Rockville, Gaithersburg, and Silver Spring where people have become intoxicated and elected to sleep it off in the back seat). Each one of these DUI cases turned out with a dismissal by our Montgomery County, Maryland DUI/DWI lawyers and Prince George's County DWI/DUI attorneys. However, our client was sleeping in the front drivers seat while on the side of the road with the keys in the ignition;

3. Whether the person is awake or asleep (in DUI cases we have seen recently in Greenbelt and in Tacoma Park our clients were dozing off and not asleep in the front seat). In both cases our Prince George's County DWI/DUI attorneys were hard pressed to argue that the drivers had no intention of driving and were merely safely sleeping it off and therefore, were not guilty of DUI/DWI in Maryland.

4. Where the vehicle ignition is located (if you want to "sleep it off" in Howard or Montgomery County, or for that matter in any Maryland county, our first advice is to put the ignition key on the floor in the back before you slumber). Further, it might be a wise idea for you to also go in the back or risk being found guilty of a Maryland DUI/DWI.

5. Were the vehicle's headlights on (It goes without saying that if your headlights are on and you are pulled over by a police officer in Prince George's, Montgomery or Howard County, these officers will not give you a break anymore if you are intoxicated and driving over the legal limit). You will be found to be in control of a vehicle and arrested for Maryland DUI/DWI.

6. Whether the vehicle is located in the roadway or is legally parked (I have had countless Maryland DUI/DWI cases in Baltimore County, Howard County, where my client has been parked legally and not driving). In each case, we at least initially attempted to argue that our client was not in control of the vehicle for purposes of a Maryland DUI/DWI.

As noted above, obviously, you can be charged with a DUI/DWI in Maryland even if you are not "driving", sleeping it off in a car is not a great idea since you still could be found to be in control of a vehicle. Hence, to avoid a DUI/DWI charge in Maryland while intoxicated, simply don't get behind the wheel of your vehicle. If you do, be aware of the "control test" and the six factors set forth above.

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