You don’t have a Constitutional right to drive. The Constitution does, however, provide protection against unreasonable police interference. This protection extends throughout the officer’s interaction with you. Two issues typically arise in my DUI cases.
Did Stopping the Car Violate the Constitution?
Every American should have a basic understanding of the relevant principles.
(1) Freedom of movement is a right; driving a car is not. The States give permission – a license – to drive.
(2) Governments, through their police, control their roads. In Maryland, you may be stopped by a State Trooper, the County police, or a municipal police officer, depending on your location.
(3) Maryland, with the local jurisdictions, has the power to take reasonable steps to maintain the public’s safety on the roads.
(4) The reasonableness of the use of this power depends on the nature and extent of the police officer’s intrusion on a motorist.
(5) Maryland Courts have long since decided that Maryland’s DUI and DWI laws are legitimate exercises of power.
Under the Constitution, when a police officer stops a motorist, courts analyze the legality of the stop in accordance with the motorist’s Fourth Amendment rights. The motorist has been “seized”, and, at minimum, the officer must have a reasonable basis for believing that the motorist has broken the law.
Did the Actions after the Stop Violated the Constitution?
Imagine that an officer sees a moving violation, such as a car swerving in and out of a traffic lane. The officer has a legitimate basis for a stop, since the driver has violated a basic rule of the road. Upon making contact with the driver, the officer orders the driver to exit the vehicle.
The officer requests that the driver perform field sobriety tests. Although the driver can refuse these tests, the officer has no duty to inform the individual of this right. The only Constitutional protection is that the police officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the motorist was driving under the influence of alcohol or while impaired.