Answering Your Questions About DUIs In Maryland
No one deserves their life wrecked on behalf of addiction or a simple poor judgment. At The Law Office of James E. Crawford, Jr. & Associates, LLC, we’ll help you in and out of the courtroom to manage your DUI charges – and to help make sure you don’t end up there again.
When you have questions about a DUI charge, we have the answers. While your case is going to be different, you likely want an answer to one of these questions below:
What is considered a “DUI” in Maryland?
When a Maryland driver is charged with a DUI, that means they are considered to have been “driving while under the influence” – D.U.I.
Law enforcement reports that a driver should be charged with a DUI if their blood alcohol content – or “BAC” – is above 0.08%.
(Contrary to its name, BAC can also be used to evaluate the presence of other mind-altering substances in a suspect’s blood – including legal and illegal substances both.)
Common tests Maryland law enforcement uses to evaluate a driver’s potential BAC include:
- Breathalyzer test
- Blood tests
- Urine tests
“Driving” also doesn’t mean just a passenger car. Tractor-trailers, motorcycles, bikes – operating any sort of vehicle with an elevated BAC can result in a DUI.
What happens when you’re stopped by a police officer for a possible DUI?
Typically, an officer will approach the vehicle. They usually already suspect that an individual has been operating a vehicle under the influence of alcohol.
As soon as the officer approaches the vehicle window, they will indicate that they smelled the odor of alcohol. They will ask the driver to exit the vehicle and perform field sobriety tests.
These tests include but are not limited to:
- Leg stand test
- Horizontal gaze nystagmus
- Walk and turn test
Even though you may believe that you did well on these tests, the officer will inevitably find some sort of problem to justify the stop.
(Thankfully, the field sobriety tests are nationalized exams, and a good Baltimore DUI defense lawyer can cross-examine an officer to determine whether or not the defendant completed the test properly.)
A police officer will also offer a preliminary breath test at the scene to determine if there is alcohol in the bloodstream of the defendant. If you refuse the temporary test, it is not held against you, but the officer will usually make note of the refusal and may detain you anyway.
After the field testing, the officer usually arrests the individual and takes them back to the station. Charges are then filed.
What happens when you get charged with a DUI?
DUIs and related charges have two different cases: The criminal case in Maryland district court, and the administrative case before Maryland’s Motor Vehicle Administration, or MVA.
The Criminal DUI Case
After the police report that they believe you were driving under the influence of a substance and thus were unable to drive properly, it’s up to the Maryland state attorney to press criminal charges against the driver.
The state attorney’s office will evaluate the nature and extent of the offense by determining:
- If there were any injuries involved;
- The amount of drugs or alcohol consumed;
- The extent of property damage involved in the situation;
- Any property damage that has not been paid for by the perpetrator;
- If there was any death or other serious injuries;
- The BAC level registered by the defendant;
- If the defendant refused to take a breathalyzer;
- The cooperation of the defendant;
- Whether or not the defendant is a multiple offender; and
- Any other criminal activities on the defendant’s record.
Once they determine whether and what kind of charges to press, the defendant is then called to court to be sentenced and punished.
The Administrative DUI Case
If charged with a DUI or similar offense, you must not forget the administrative case. This is what determines the status of your license and other civil penalties managed by the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).
You must request a hearing within 10 days of your initial traffic stop if you want to keep driving. If you do not, then you risk being unable to legally drive until your penalties are assessed and finalized.
If you do not request a hearing, your license is automatically suspended 46 days after the first stop.
Hearings requested 10 to 30 days after the suspension will have a hearing scheduled, but the license suspension still starts at 46 days until the hearing.
At the requested hearing, the Maryland administrative law judge will consider:
- If the traffic stop was justified to begin with;
- If the police officer heeded all laws and procedures during the stop;
- If the driver was truly impaired;
- What type of license the driver was using – either individual or professional; and
- If there were a driving accident or other incident involving other people.
I hired Mr. [Jim] Crawford to represent me. I was charged with DUI 3rd, subsequent offender and several other serious traffic violations. I was scared, and worried sick. Thanks to Mr. Crawford’s experience and advice, I walked out of the courtroom within eight days jail time, instead of eighteen months.
What are Maryland’s DUI penalties?
There will be different criminal penalties depending on the exact DUI charges the Maryland state attorney’s office presses, as well as administrative penalties.
Various punishments for DUI convictions include:
- Removal of your license – and any ability to drive for work – for up to three years, if you’re a repeat offender;
- Up to a year in jail and thousands in fines; and
- Mandatory participation in Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program, which installs a breathalyzer test in your vehicle to prevent future incidents of drunk driving.
What other charges besides a DUI could I get for driving intoxicated?
Not everyone who drives after having taken some sort of judgment-impairing substance will be charged with a DUI. The exact charge – and associated penalties – vary due to circumstances.
Related Maryland charges include:
- Driving under the influence of per se: This statutory charge occurs when the defendant takes the breathalyzer and their blood alcohol content (BAC) has a registered alcohol content level of 0.08% or more at the time of testing. The penalties involved are exactly the same as driving under the influence of alcohol.
- Driving while impaired (DWI): DWIs are considered a lesser charge than DUIs. Getting a DWI means the defendant was “less” unable to operate a vehicle than driving under the influence. Typically, this charge occurs with the accused’s BAC level at 0.04% to 0.08%. The maximum penalty for driving while impaired is 60 days in jail and a fine.
- Driving after an arrest for DUI or DWI: Often, licenses are suspended and driving is restricted until after an MVA hearing. Continuing to drive without permission in the interim can compound the state’s argument against you.
- Driving while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance/drugs: Alcohol isn’t the only substance that can impair a driver’s reflexes and judgment, thus making them a danger to others on the road. These substances can be illegal drugs such as heroin. They can also be regularly “prescribed” drugs, including medical marijuana or various medications ordered by a doctor. If you’re found to be driving dangerously while taking even legal substances, then you’re still at risk for traffic violations and penalties.
- Consumption of an alcoholic beverage while driving: Drinking beer, wine, ciders and other alcoholic beverages while driving is illegal in Maryland. If you’re seen doing so by law enforcement – or even have open alcoholic beverages in your car and within reach – then you may be at risk for this charge.
How can a traffic lawyer help with a DUI charge?
There are two major facets of a DUI case: the criminal and the administrative. Both require many detailed submissions and requests that the average person simply has no reason to know exist. That’s how they put themselves at risk of losing their license for years.
For example, you must request an administrative hearing to review your license suspension within 10 days of your traffic stop – regardless of what you get in the mail or are told otherwise. If you fail to do this, then you’ll automatically lose your legal right to drive.
There’s also the legality of the traffic stop to consider. Did the police officer actually have merit to stop you in the first place? Did they perform the tests correctly in the field? Chances are that they didn’t – but you’ll have difficulty convincing a prosecutor or judge of that by yourself.
Reach Out To Our Team
As criminal defense lawyers experienced in traffic law, we know about these and many other legal loopholes that can help you keep your license and your life as you know it intact.
You don’t want to stand up in criminal district court without a champion at your side, defending your right to a fair trial to the state. Call us at 443-971-8884 or send us an email to schedule your free consultation.