The first element in proving a violation of Section 21-902 is that the accused was “operating” the vehicle. The law does not require that the accused was actually driving a car. Parking on the side of the road, particularly with the engine running, is sufficient. Even driving on your own property can be a violation, although protections of the Fourth Amendment can exclude any evidence against you.

Police Stops and Your Constitutional Rights

The Fourth Amendment provides that:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause . . . .”

The more challenging area for debate concerns the application of the Fourth Amendment when a police officer stops a moving vehicle on a public road. The United Supreme Court has explained that the police violate the Fourth Amendment when stopping a vehicle without “reasonable suspicion that the car is being driven contrary to the laws” or that “any of its occupants is [in] violation of any other applicable laws”.

Typically, a police will report either that there was a traffic violation or that the driver’s operation of the car indicated an impairment. The Maryland Court of Appeals has ruled, however, that a driver’s “momentary crossing of the edge line of the roadway and later touching of that line did not . . . support the traffic stop”. Thus a technical violation does not produce a legal basis for stopping the car.

The Exclusionary Rule

It is critically important to test the legality of the traffic stop. If the police made an unlawful stop, then a court must exclude from evidence all testimony, observations, and information gathered because of the stop.