New Year’s has come and gone, but it doesn’t mean the night’s consequences aren’t still weighing on you. Crime spikes around the first day of the year with the increase in parties and celebrations. Though it may be fun to ‘let loose’ with friends, if you found yourself implicated in a crime, 2022 may not seem like it’s getting off to the best start. Read on to learn more about the three most common crimes committed on New Year’s:
Alcohol-Related Crimes, Property Damage, and
DWIs, Public Intoxication, and Other Alcohol-Related Crimes
People love to ‘live it up’ on New Year’s Eve as much as they can. For some, that may involve some moderate drinking, but for others, it may involve heavy drinking. With serious inebriation comes the potential for legal trouble if you break the law. You don’t want to start the new year in jail with a DUI/DWI charge on your plate.
Outside of the obvious “drink responsibly,” there are many ways to prevent an alcohol-related crime from happening. Celebrating in groups is never a bad idea, but make sure at least one of you stays sober and can help you get home safe. If you’re going out and plan on drinking, don’t take your car—let someone else drive.
Getting caught drinking and driving is a serious charge. A DUI—meaning “Driving Under the Influence”—applies not only to alcohol but also drugs or other types of substances that impair one’s judgment behind the wheel. Though you’ll see your day in court for a DUI if your Blood Alcohol Content was above 0.08% the night of your arrest, the prosecution doesn’t have to prove your impairment; Maryland law assumes impairment if your BAC is that high.
If you are hovering just below 0.08%, it doesn’t mean you are in the clear. DWI—“Driving While Impaired”—charges are for cases where a driver was still noticeably impaired but had a BAC below the legal limit.
DWIs and DUIs can result in either two months or up to a year in jail for a first offense respectively, thousands in fines, and license suspensions. These penalties increase with repeat offenses.
If you’re out with friends, make sure your friends look out for your behavior if you get a little too drunk. Public intoxication is another serious offense that may sound like a small-time misdemeanor, but it doesn’t look good on your record. You could face up to 90 days in jail and $100 in fines (depending on the county) for posing a threat to the safety of a person or property (or causing any disturbance).
Of course, all of these are fightable in court but avoidable in the moment. There are experienced defense attorneys who deal with these charges every day and will help you get the best deal that keeps you out of jail. In general, though, do your best to dodge the headaches of a New Year’s Day court appearance.
Property Damage: From Accident to Arson
In the moment, accidentally damaging someone’s property may not seem like a big deal. Maybe the circumstances are different, and a fun time playing with fire leads to some unintended destruction. Regardless, property damage is serious; not only does Maryland law take it seriously, but the property owners themselves take it seriously. You don’t want to end up with a lawsuit in addition to criminal charges.
Maryland Law defines property damage differently depending on the circumstances, but “Malicious Destruction”—the willful destruction, injury, or defacement of at least $1,000 of real or personal property—is a misdemeanor carrying up to 3 years in prison with up to $2,500 in fines.
It may have been an accident, but the state will push these charges against you; they’ll also look at the rest of the case and see if they can throw any other property-related charges your way. Trespass is another misdemeanor-heavy section of Maryland’s Criminal Code that carries relatively smaller penalties that add up fast. For example: did the damage occur on posted property? It could be an additional 90 days in jail and $500 in fines. Did you drive an off-road vehicle onto someone’s land? Same potential penalty. Maybe your defense attorney can argue these charges down, but it’s important to exercise caution in the moment—avoid these charges entirely.
The most serious allegations you can face regarding property damage are arson allegations. Arson crimes also exist on a spectrum of severity that increases in the alleged person’s intent and possible penalties if found guilty. For example, one of the least severe arson crimes listed in Maryland’s Criminal Code is the burning of a trash container, which carries up to 30 days in prison or a fine of $500. However, depending on the degree, malicious burning carries up to 5 years in prison and $5,000 in fines.
First-degree arson itself carries up to 30 years and $50,000 in fines.
All in all, what seems like a simple, harmless prank may turn felony fast. A strong defense attorney will help you fight arson or property damage charges but do what you can to keep your New Year intact.
Assault: When Things Get Carried Away
Finally, you may be surprised to see assault as a prevalent crime that arises on and around New Year’s Eve. Tempers tend to flare in public or private settings. The booze may be flowing, someone may bring up a hot-button issue or make a personal remark, and suddenly there’s a fight.
In Maryland, there is no assault and battery; both are the same in the eyes of the law. What will work against you if you’re accused of assault? Evidence. Videos, pictures, audio recordings: these are never in short supply in a heavily populated area. If you get in a bar fight, someone will probably snap a picture or sneak a video, and those will be used as evidence against you in court.
Contact our offices for a free initial consultation if you found yourself charged with any of these crimes over the New Year’s. There may be nothing you can do that changes the outcome of your celebrations, but you can change the prospects of your future. Call us for legal defense today!