Court: Smell of alcohol adequate for DWI license suspension

Court: Smell of alcohol adequate for DWI license suspension

Defense attorneys in the state of Maryland say that a new ruling could
jeopardize due process for motorists accused of drunk driving. The uproar
has come after a decision handed down by the Maryland Court of Appeals
that will allow officers to suspend a driver’s license if they smell
alcohol. This change could have important implications for
DWI cases throughout the state, as officers have now been granted a significant
amount of power to punish drivers without analyzing their blood alcohol
content and other important indicators of intoxication.

The ruling was handed down in connection with a 2011 traffic stop, in which
an Eastern Shore man was stopped by a law enforcement officer for a traffic
violation. When the officer spoke to the defendant, he noted that he smelled
the odor of an alcoholic beverage. The driver refused to submit to a field
sobriety test.

Now, the court has ruled that Maryland DWI defendants may have their licenses
suspended for 120 days simply because an officer accuses them of smelling
like alcohol. Defense attorneys in the state argue that this provision
assumes that the driver is guilty and contradicts traditional legal protection.
The smell of alcohol alone should not be considered adequate evidence
to support a license suspension and associated penalties, according to
those attorneys. Ultimately, it should be illegal to be intoxicated behind
the wheel, not to simply smell like alcohol – after all, someone
could have spilled their drink on a driver’s clothes, causing a
noticeable odor.

Representatives from the state, however, argue that officers are trained
to identify intoxicated victims, learning important physical and verbal
attributes that indicate impairment.

Maryland drivers who are facing license suspension because they simply
smelled of alcohol may benefit from the assistance of a qualified criminal
attorney. These professionals can help defendants learn more about their
legal rights under the new ruling.