DUI vs. DWI: Everything You Need to Know About Impaired Driving in Maryland

What is Impaired Driving?

Impaired driving is operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or other intoxicants. They can hamper a person’s decision-making abilities when they’re on the road. People who are caught in the state of Maryland may face severe penalties. They could be charged with a DWI or DUI.

What is a DWI?

Driving while impaired (DWI) is the least severe offense of the two charges. Anyone with a blood alcohol content of .07 is regarded as an impaired driver. A DWI offense may be assessed against a driver who has illicit or prescription drugs in their system.

What is a DUI?

Driving under the influence (or DUI) is taken very seriously in Maryland. Current state law classifies drivers with a blood alcohol content of .08 or greater as being under the influence. Drivers under the age of 21 who have been drinking can be charged with a DUI.

How Can I Be Charged With a DUI?

If an officer suspects that a driver may be impaired, they may conduct a traffic stop. They can ask the driver to take a blood alcohol test. If the driver tests positive for driving under the influence or refuses the officer’s request, they can be charged with a DWI or DUI.

What are the Penalties for Driving Under the Influence?

A police officer can take a person’s driver’s license away. The state of Maryland may suspend that license if necessary. If that occurs, the offender will receive a temporary paper license. This document will allow them to drive for 45 days. After that, their license will officially be suspended.

Driver’s licenses can be suspended for anywhere from six months up to two years. The blood alcohol test and any prior driving while impaired offenses can determine the amount of time for the suspension. If the person who was stopped had any minors in their vehicle at the time, they may face added penalties as a result.

A person can legally ask to have their suspended license reviewed. A hearing will then be conducted by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Association (MMVA). The hearing request must be sent within 30 days to the association. If a driver wants to avoid a possible license suspension before the hearing, they must inquire with the MMVA within 10 days of the traffic stop.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Association will take the following items into consideration at the hearing:

  • If the person who requested the hearing was in an accident that caused another person to pass away as a result.
  • If any evidence of the driver’s use of drugs or alcohol was present.
  • If the offender had a commercial driver’s license or was using a commercial vehicle at the time of the incident.
  • If the arresting officer had reasonable suspicion that the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • If the stopped driver had a blood alcohol content of .08 or more or .15 or higher.
  • If the driver refused to take a blood alcohol test.
  • If the driver agreed to a blood alcohol test after the officer informed them of the possible penalties for failing or refusing the test.

The administrative law judge for the association can suspend the driver’s license if it was determined that the driver was fairly stopped, warned, tested and either refused testing or failed the blood alcohol test.

Drivers may ask to be a part of the state’s Ignition Interlock System Program. This system is operated and run by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Association. Participants will only be allowed to drive vehicles that have ignition interlock systems installed. The device will take a photo if someone tries to tinker with the system. It will also photograph anyone who takes a test after the mechanism has been installed.

DWI and DUI charges are considered misdemeanors in Maryland. A person can be fined $500 to $5,000 and/or be sentenced to two months to five years in prison at the most. If the impaired driver was transporting children or involved in an accident that resulted in another person’s death, they may face more severe penalties. Penalties can also increase for repeat offenses.

DUI and DWI convictions can also cause the Maryland Motor Vehicle Association to add points to the offender’s driver’s license. Points will remain on a person’s driving record for two years. DWI convictions receive 8 points, which are enough to have a person’s license suspended. DUI convictions are assigned 12 points, which are enough to revoke a driver’s license.

People with a commercial driver’s license who have been found guilty of driving under the influence of drugs, alcohol or other controlled substances may receive a one-year disqualification of that license by the MMVA. This penalty will be applied for a first offense. Additional DWI or DUI convictions can result in the commercial driver’s license being permanently disqualified.

What Can I Do If I’m Accused of Impaired Driving?

Contact the attorneys at JC Law if you’ve been stopped for suspicion of impaired driving. We’ll sit down with you and listen to what happened. Our trained professionals will provide valuable advice about what can happen and possible next steps.

Being stopped or arrested for driving under the influence can be a real eye-opener. It’s not what anyone wants, but it can put things in perspective. The accused may be looked at differently by their family members and peers, and it could cause them to improve their choices in the future. It could be the chance they need to turn things around and live a happier, healthier life.

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