FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

CRIMINAL DEFENSE

What are my legal rights?

Television shows like “NCIS” or “Law & Order” often show officers pulling out a card and advising suspects of their Miranda warnings, “you have the right to remain silent, anything you say can and will be used against you in the court of law…” But often times people ignore this basic right. When you are arrested you should seek legal counsel right away. This is one of your fundamental rights granted to you under the Constitution. The quintessential right you have is the right to counsel, because without that you couldn’t protect your other rights. Listening to a skilled criminal defense attorney is your number one asset in defending charges against you.

If the officer asks me if they can search my vehicle do I have to consent?

No. If the law enforcement officer has probable cause to search your vehicle they do not have to ask you for consent to search. You are better off telling them no. Oftentimes I see cases when the client told the officer no and the officer continued the traffic stop, issued the traffic violation or ticket, and allows the driver to continue on. However, the unknowing client will consent thinking it will result in a better judgement. You have a right at any time to contact a lawyer and you should do so if the officer is going to delay and take more than the time it would take to issue a traffic ticket.

Do I have to speak to the officer?

No, you do not have to speak to a police officer. In fact, your Fifth Amendment right guarantees you the right to refrain from self-incrimination. You do not have to answer any of the questions asked of you by the officer. This cannot be used against you in the court of law. Often times people who are under the suspicion of a criminal act fail to remain silent, which tends to lead to additional criminal charges.

What should I do if I have been pulled over for the suspicion of DUI/DWI?

The officer has to have a reasonable suspicion as to a traffic violation in order to pull you over. If you have been speeding, weaving in and out of the lanes, or driving to slowly, you could be pulled over. If you are pulled over for a suspicion of DUI or DWI, often the police officer will ask you to take a breathalyzer test. If you take the breathalyzer test and it is higher than a .08, you could be charged with DUI/DWI.

The officer may ask you to perform standard field sobriety tests. These tests include the nystagmus test, walk and turn test, and the one leg stand test. You do not have to take these tests. The officer will have to decide, at that point, if he/she believes that you are impaired. If they believe so, then you will be responsible for either taking the breathalyzer test or blood test. If you refuse either, you could be subjected to more severe penalties.

Regardless, you should always be polite and cooperative with the police officer.

Will I lose my driver’s license for DUI/DWI?

Once you are charged with a DUI/DWI in Maryland the officer is required to confiscate your Maryland driver’s license and replace it with a temporary license which will reflect a request for an MVA hearing and provide you instruction.

If your test result is between a .08 and .15 you should request that hearing within 30 days, otherwise you will be unable to do so. The MVA can suspend your license for 180 days if you have a blood alcohol content of that level. You can request through an MVA hearing that your license be modified to permit you to travel to and from work, within work, as well as for educational purposes, and medical purposes.

Additionally, if you are convicted of the crime and do not receive a Probation Before Judgement (PBJ), a DUI conviction carries 12 points, and the DWI conviction carries 8 points. This would exceed the number of points you can have and trigger a suspension notice from the MVA. Again, you would need to request a hearing and a modification to allow you to travel for permitted purposes.

What is the legal limit in Maryland for DUI/DWI?

The legal limit for Driving under the Influence in Maryland is .08. First time offenders could receive a maximum of up to one year in jail, a $1,000 fine, as well as 12 points, and a suspension on your license. If your Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) is between a .06 and .079 you could be charged with Driving While Impaired by alcohol. The maximum penalty for this offense is 60 days in jail and/or a fine of $500. Additionally, if you did not receive a Probation Before Judgement (PBJ) for that offense it could carry 8 points and trigger a suspension of your license from the MVA. You would have the right to request a hearing to determine if your license should be modified to allow you to travel for permitted purposes.

What clues do Maryland police officers look for when searching for suspected drunk drivers?

The police generally are looking for erratic driving which includes a variety of factors. This could include excessive speed, driving too slow, following at an unsafe distance, disregarding red lights or stop signs, driving in the wrong direction on the roadway, weaving from lane to lane, unsafe lane changes, and other traffic violations. Any of these violations could provide a reasonable suspicion to an officer that a driver is under the influence.

Should I take the standard field sobriety tests?

If you truly have not been drinking and have not used drugs you should take the field sobriety tests. However, if you have been drinking you do not have to take the field sobriety tests. These are tests that help to officer determine whether or not there is a probable cause that you are under the influence and if it has affected your ability to operate a vehicle. By performing such tests while under the influence, officers will develop evidence admissible in court to support that you were under the influence. Ultimately, if the officer believes that you have been drinking and asked you to take a breathalyzer test, you will incur serious consequences for refusal.

What are the consequences/penalties associated with a DUI conviction?

Driving under the influence and driving while impaired are serious crimes in Maryland. First offenses for DUI carry up to one year in jail and fines not exceeding $1,000.00. The minimum suspension time from the MVA regarding your license is six months. For second time offenders, the penalties get enhanced or doubled, including up to two years in jail, fines not exceeding $2,000.00 and the MVA will suspend your license for a minimum of one year. There is the possibility of the installation of an ignition interlock device. Third offenses carry up to three years in jail, fines not to exceed $3,000.00, a minimum license suspension of up to eighteen months and the installation of an ignition interlock device is almost guaranteed. Other consequences include increased insurance premiums, community service and other probation requirements, and, of course, the installation of an ignition interlock device.

What are the penalties for theft crimes?

  • Stolen property or services of $100.00 or less – a misdemeanor charge with possible imprisonment of up to 90 days and/or fines up to $500.00.
  • Stolen property or services under $1000.00 – a misdemeanor charge with possible imprisonment of up to 18 months and/or fines up to $500.00.
  • Stolen property or services between $1000.00 and $10,000.00 – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 10 years and/or fines up to $10,000.00.
  • Stolen property or services between $10,000.00 and $100,000.00 – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 15 years and/or fines up to $15,000.00.
  • Stolen property or services greater than $100,000.00 – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 25 years and/or fines up to $25,000.00.

If I have a drug charge pending, what are the penalties in Maryland?

  • Possession of marijuana less than 10g – a civil charge with possible $100.00 fine.
  • Possession of marijuana greater than 10g – a misdemeanor charge with possible imprisonment of up to 1 year and/or fines up to $1,000.00.
  • Possession of CDS not marijuana – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 4 years and/or fines up to $25,000.00.
  • Possession of marijuana with intent to distribute – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 5 years and/or fines up to $15,000.00.
  • Possession of CDS not marijuana with intent to distribute – a felony charge with possible imprisonment of up to 20 years and/or fines up to $25,000.00.

Do I have to hire an attorney if I plan on pleading guilty?

If you have been charged with a crime you should hire an experienced criminal defense lawyer. Even if you believe you are guilty, an experienced lawyer will be able to make sure the state is able to prove each and every element beyond a reasonable doubt. An attorney will be able to examine your case by analyzing the law and the facts and making a determination as to whether or not the state can meet its burden.

Even if the state can prove its case, you should still hire an experienced criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help mitigate whatever sentence that you would otherwise receive if you had initially pled guilty yourself.

What types of crimes does your firm handle?

The Law Offices of Thomas E. Pyles, P.A. handles a wide variety of criminal charges which include:

  • DUI/DWI;
  • Domestic violence;
  • Fraud and identity theft;
  • Drug offenses;
  • White collar/financial crimes;
  • Misdemeanor traffic offenses;
  • Sex crimes;
  • Weapons and firearm violations;
  • Violent crimes (murder, robbery, aggravated assault).

Regardless of whether this is your first offense or a subsequent offense our firm can help you.

What is probation before judgement (PBJ)?

Under the criminal procedure of the Maryland Annotated Code 6-220 a, a person can be granted a probation before judgement on first offense. A probation before judgement strikes the guilty finding, and the individual is placed on a formal probation. If they adhere and obey all laws and meet the conditions placed on them by the court, they ultimately will be able to expunge (wipe-out) the charge from their record.

Why should I hire your firm?

You should hire my firm because I have over 25 years of experience in handling criminal cases. A large portion of my practice is devoted to criminal defense and I have a wide array of trial experience ranging from murders down to petty theft. Not only do I have extensive experience, but our firm personalizes each case to make this the best experience possible. Unlike large firms, my office is able to devote time, attention, and care to your matter.

One key factor that you should look for in any attorney is there history of success in the courtroom. This is important because whichever practice area you are engaging that lawyer in, they need to be well-known and well-respected in their practice area. In criminal defense, I am well-known among state’s attorneys across the state. I have tried numerous cases in each jurisdiction.

My history of winning cases in criminal court speaks for itself. Most of my clients receive a favorable judgement and often expunge their charges. I have extensive trial experience in the field of DUI/DWI, drug possession, and violent crimes. If you need an experienced criminal defense attorney call my firm at (301) 705-5006.