Police in Maryland were recently given greater authority to stop drivers who are spotted violating the state’s law on cell phone use while driving.
For the last three years, it’s been illegal in the state to talk on a handheld cell phone while driving. However, cops had a tough time enforcing the law because it was considered a secondary offense. That is, police couldn’t stop you on that basis alone. There had to be some other reason.
Now, the offense has been boosted to a primary offense, meaning that’s all the reason officers need to stop you.
Our D.C. DUI defense lawyers know that many of our drunk driving cases start out this way, with individuals initially pulled over for a seemingly minor offense.
Once the driver is stopped, the officer has the opportunity to observe drivers from the vehicle. They will be analyzing your every response, and they may even attempt to trip you up on certain questions, pumping you for answers on certain things in a round-about way so that you will end up incriminating yourself.
The thing to remember in these encounters, whether you are intoxicated or not, is that while you should remain polite, you should also keep your guard up. Police mostly initiate these stops not because they are heavily concerned with the offense for which you were pulled over, but rather because they suspect you of some other offense, such as DUI.
In many cases, their best evidence comes from what you provide in the form of your answers, your admissions, your demeanor. So again, the best thing to do is to remain polite, but quiet.
In D.C., there are both cell phone and texting bans in place, and those are already considered primary offenses. The law is applicable to all drivers, regardless of age or occupation. (In some states, handheld cell phone bans apply only to novice drivers or those who operate school buses or certain commercial vehicles.)
But the reasons that officers have to stop you don’t begin there. The Washington Post recently offered a cursory list of traffic offenses for which you can be stopped:
- Improper display of tags;
- Improper use of dealer tags;
- Use of radar detection device;
- Failure to give right-of-way to pedestrian;
- Failure to wear your seat belt;
- Driving with a suspended license;
- Failure to secure a child in the proper restraint;
- Failure to yield to a school bus or emergency vehicle;
- Failure to use proper signals for turning or stopping.
The list goes on. This is just to give you an idea.
The cell phone issue, though, is likely to result in an increased number of DUI arrests because more people stopped means more people who will be cited for other offenses. A Post poll conducted in June found that 65 percent of those in the D.C. area report “very often” seeing drivers with cell phones to their ears. Yet only 15 percent conceded they actually do this as well.
The onus is on the officer in these cases to make sure that whatever the reason for the stop, it amounts to probable cause. Otherwise, everything discovered from that point on has the potential to be thrown out in court.
If you are facing DUI charges in D.C., contact the Scrofano Law, PC at 202-765-3175.