DUI Defense FAQs


Q: Why do I need to hire an attorney?
A: If you are charged with any offense that can put you in jail, you have a right to a lawyer, and you should always get one. This is serious and is not a “do it yourself ” situation. Even if this is not the first time you’ve had this type of situation, that is more of a reason to get an attorney – there is more at stake, the punishments can be more severe and an attorney is your only shot at having the best possible outcome.

You wouldn’t do heart surgery on yourself, would you? An attorney will be aware of all possible defenses to help you in your case.

You’re not convinced? You’ve heard of “plea bargains?” Guess what? Unlike most other charges, a plea bargain for a DUI offense is not likely because tough new DUI laws are forcing prosecutors to seek punishments to the fullest extent of the law.

Q: What are the potential consequences of a DUI?
A: Potential Consequences of a DUI:

  1. Your Driver’s License The Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) can suspend your license before you ever appear in court — unless you take you take quick legal action. Depending on the level of alcohol in your system or if you refused to take a breath test, your license will be suspended for a minimum of 180 days and could be up to two years. If you are convicted, you could get an additional 12 points on your license and your license can be revoked. Obviously, being unable to drive to work, to the doctor, to see friends, to visit family, or to run errands is a good way to ruin your life. 

    But there are things you can do, and which I can do for you: 

    If you request a hearing in time, you may be able to keep your license until your court outcome. I can maximize your chances of winning at this hearing. If you later are found not guilty of the DUI charge, or if it is dropped, you keep your license. If we get a downgrade of the DUI to a lesser charge, you may keep your license. Even if you are convicted, I can help shorten the length of time you will lose your license. It is also possible to get you a restricted license so you can at least drive to work.

  2. Jail Several different factors will be involved in having a prosecutor or a judge order jail time if you are convicted. All DUI offenses carry the possibility of some jail time. The maximum penalty for a DUI is 1 year in jail for a first offense, 2 years for a second offense, and 3 years for a third offense.
    • Do you have a prior criminal/traffic record?
    • Did you cause an accident and were there any injuries because of the accident?
    • What was the level of your intoxication?
  3. Career Even if you go to jail, the DUI does not go away. Job applications may ask about your criminal history and employers can and often will verify this with a background check. Having a lawyer fight to get you acquitted or get the charge dropped is the best way to protect your reputation—and your career.
  4. Money Hiring an attorney and paying fines can add up. Here are some of the costs you could end up paying:
    • Attorney’s fees: Many attorneys charge a minimum fee of $1,500 and fees for some of these cases, depending upon the situation, could exceed $5,000. My fees are very reasonable because I want you as my client and I understand how expensive this entire process can be. I also recognize that if you become my client, there is a strong likelihood that I will impress you and you will use me or refer your friends to me for other legal matters.
    • Court imposed fine: A fine for even a first time DUI can be up to $1,000. See the section under Penalties for more detailed fine information.
    • Probation and Court Costs: These are costs that a defendant incurs from the court and the probation department.
    • Alcohol Treatment/education: As part of many DUI cases you will be required to take some form of DUI school course or alcohol treatment program, and you will have to pay for it.
    • Ignition Interlock: Depending on the severity of the DUI, you may be required to install an interlock device. This can be very expensive.
    • License costs: Reinstating your driver’s license – if it is revoked, also has fees.
    • Insurance: Having a DUI on your record will raise your car insurance rates.
  5. You could be looking at several thousand dollars. It is amazing to me that many people don’t consider hiring a lawyer because they’re worried about the cost – if a not guilty verdict is obtained, many of the costs disappear! A few hours of a lawyer’s time could save you thousands of dollars.
Q: What happens if I get a first DUI?
A: Many people think that based because this is their first offense the Judge will give them a break. Why would a judge do that? You are not the judge’s relative or best friend? You are somebody that has been charged with breaking the law. There is too much at stake to go through this process alone. You should never represent yourself in this type of a situation.
Q: How can a DUI lawyer help me?
A: I can help you in several ways. I will obtain all of the evidence and information that the police have regarding your DUI arrest charges. I will carefully analyze this information to see if there were any errors, or if any of your rights were violated. I can negotiate with the prosecutor to try to get charges reduced or dismissed. I can help you make an educated decision on whether to take the case to trial. If the case does go to trial, I will utilize my training and experience to present the most effective possible defense. You must understand that not every DUI is the same. To get the best possible result you need an experienced lawyer who knows the nuances of Maryland DUI laws to combat the State’s Attorney. If you do this by yourself you are facing an experienced Maryland lawyer (the Assistant State’s Attorney) who knows the rules of evidence, went to law school, and who has probably prosecuted and prepared hundreds of Maryland DUI cases. These factors don’t even begin to contemplate the MVA administrative hearing process.
Q: How do I beat alcohol-related charges?
A: Its important to remember that as a defendant you are presumed innocent and the state of Maryland has the burden of proving your guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In deciding which defenses could apply in your case, I will look at all the evidence produced by the police and interview witnesses. Here are some common defenses:

Police Testimony About Your Driving 

The prosecutor always relies (sometimes exclusively) on the arresting police officer’s testimony about your driving behavior, including:

  • Very fast speeds (speeding)
  • Very slow speeds
  • Uneven speeds (very fast, then very slow, for example)
  • Weaving from one side of a lane to the other
  • Crossing the center line of the highway
  • Running a red light
  • Hesitation in going through a green light

After we talk and I learn what happened, I may be able to present explanations for these driving behaviors that did not have anything to do with being alcohol-impaired.

Police Testimony About Your Behavior

A police officer may also testify about your appearance and behavior when questioned, including:

  • Slurred speech
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Inappropriate joking or incoherent speech
  • Stumbling or not being able to walk very far
  • Pupil enlargement

Defenses to what the Police Office May Say

Some defenses include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Allergies
  • Contact lenses
  • Stress due to personal circumstances
  • Medications
  • Foods recently ingested
  • Nervousness over being stopped by police
  • Physical impairments

Field Sobriety Test Defenses

When an officer suspects you may be too intoxicated to drive, he or she will likely ask you to perform what are called “standard field sobriety tests.” These tests are designed to assess your physical and mental alertness. There are three standard field sobriety tests:

1. Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus test: This is a test where you track the officer’s pen, finger, flashlight, or some kind of stimulus moving just your eyes and not your head. What the officer is looking for there is a wobble in the eye, something called Nystagmus.

2. Walk and turn test: There are two phases to the test. There’s the explanation phase when individual has to follow instructions. If they can’t that provides the officer evidence of possible intoxication. The other phase that can provide possible evidence of intoxication consists of numerous ways that the individual might not follow the officer’s exact instructions. The possibilities here are numerous.

3. One Leg Stand Test: In this test, an individual is asked to stand on one foot and count to 30. What the officer is looking for is balance: do they hop, do they sway, do they use their arms for balance, or do they put their foot down?

In addition other non-standard field sobriety tests can include reciting the alphabet backwards and finger to nose test.

You do not have to do field sobriety tests: You are under no obligation to perform the roadside field sobriety exercises. They can be used against you in court if you are charged with DUI. The field sobriety exercises that Maryland police officers use are designed to be difficult and confusing. The goal of these exercises is to divide your attention and test your ability to listen to instructions and perform a task at the same time. The officer will judge not only your performance on the actual tests, but also on your ability to listen to the complex instructions. It is difficult for even someone who is sober and coordinated to perform these exercises the first time, much less someone who as consumed alcohol and is under the stress of a police officer watching.

You can politely decline: Very few people know that they can decline Field Sobriety tests. Understand that it will probably infuriate the police officer and will likely require you to spend a night in jail because the officer has already made up his mind that you had alcohol while driving. The good thing is that you depriving the police officer of evidence of your impairment.

The defenses to field sobriety tests are often the same as with officer observations. Medications and lack of sleep can make it considerably more difficult to perform these tests. Many people also have physical impairments caused by injuries – or simply aging – that make it impossible to perform these tasks under ideal conditions.

Your lawyer may cross-examine the arresting officer in detail as to whether the officer asked you if you had physical impairments or there were particular circumstances that would make it difficult to perform the tests. Your lawyer may also point out to the jury that many jury members may have similar difficulties performing the tests, such as by asking the jury if they could recite the alphabet backwards under the best of circumstances.

Q: How does the Blood Alcohol level (BAC) testing work?
A: Blood Alcohol Level (BAC) – When you consume alcohol it is absorbed into your blood stream. The amount of alcohol in your blood is called your Blood Alcohol Content (“BAC”) and it is normally measured either by a Breathalyzer test (most common), or a blood test.

Breathalyzer Test – this is the most common method used to get a reading of your BAC. Breathalyzers do not directly measure blood alcohol content or concentration, which requires the analysis of a blood sample. Instead, they estimate BAC indirectly by measuring the amount of alcohol in one’s breath.

Blood Test – Your BAC can be determined from taking your blood, which is often automatically taken if you are involved in an accident and there is a suspicion that you may have been drinking.

Your blood will also be drawn if you are taken to the hospital because the police are concerned that you may have had so much to drink that you are in danger of alcohol poisoning and should be hospitalized for observation and/or treatment.

In all states, you are presumed to be unable to safely operate a vehicle if your BAC is .08, or 8 percent, or greater.

In Maryland that 8% level is used, and Maryland also has a “zero tolerance” law that makes it illegal for people under age 21 to operate a vehicle with ANY amount of alcohol in their blood.

Q: Am I required to submit a breath test?
A: Generally speaking, a person cannot be forced to incriminate themselves. However, under Maryland law, as in most states, DUI’s remain an exception to this rule. Under Maryland DUI law, having a driver’s license is considered a privilege and is not automatic right. Therefore, by having the privilege to drive, you also give “implied consent” to submit to a breath test if the police officer has “reasonable grounds” to believe that the driver is under the influence of alcohol. The theory is that since you chose to drive on a public roadway, you consented to the rules regarding driving while intoxicated.

However, a police officer can not force you to take the Breathalyzer test at any point and you have the right to refuse it. Understand though that your refusal can have several additional consequences including a potential longer suspension of your driver’s license.

You are not required to take a Preliminary Breath Test.

You may refuse the Preliminary Breath Test without any penalty. The officer might ask you to take a breath test immediately upon being pulled over, but the test is merely a preliminary alcohol screening, and is not the breath test you are required to take. You may refuse to take this breath test without losing your license. In fact, this preliminary screening device is not very accurate for a variety of reasons. If you have had anything to drink, it is best not to take this test. Just be sure to tell the officer that you would like to refuse this preliminary screening test only and that you will submit to a blood or breath test at a police station.

Assert Your Right To A Lawyer

Suppose a police officer pulls you over, asks you to do some tests roadside, and then, after you finish those tests, asks if you to take a breath test. He hasn’t read you any of your rights. He hasn’t told you that you have a right to a lawyer.

The whole time you are wondering to yourself – IS THIS LEGAL?

Deciding to take a breath test is not an easy question, especially when you have limited time and information. Maryland’s highest court has said that you have a right to AT LEAST try and talk to an attorney before making a decision to submit to a breath test. Many times police officers will try to rush you through the decision.

Assert your right to talk to a lawyer. Appreciate you are probably going to be arrested, but, now there is no chemical evidence of the level of alcohol in your system.

So Should I Blow? It Depends

The impending consequences in court must be considered when deciding whether to blow or not to blow. Generally, in Maryland state court, a first offender can obtain a probation before judgment (no conviction and no points), if found guilty of a DUI. An exception to that can be in serious accident cases and cases with extremely high test results. That being said, a first offender is usually better off submitting to a breath test since the penalties in court may be tolerable irrespective of the blow test result.

However, if the driver has had a prior DUI within the previous ten years, probation before judgment is not possible. A breath test then makes it more likely that the driver will be convicted of the higher level DUI offense. In these cases, refusal can often yield a less severe outcome, and may enhance the chances of winning or reducing the case in court.

If a person is stone cold sober or has had only a small amount of alcohol, then it is advisable to take the test. If a person is highly intoxicated, probably little good will come from a high breath test result.

How I Attempt To Beat The Testing In Court?

Most people have their alcohol level tested by blowing into a breath-testing device at the police station after being arrested for a DUI.

These testing devices can be faulty and sometimes are not maintained properly, or they are not properly calibrated. They can register false results based on your consumption of food and other non-harmful substances other than alcohol or drugs.

I can get police records on how the breath-testing machine operates and how it was maintained and calibrated. If there are problems with the testing, the operation or functioning of the testing, or how the machine was calibrated, these can be used to knock out the results and this evidence. I can also hire an expert for you who can examine what happened, and if there was a problem can testify that the particular breath-testing machine the officer used had a problem. This could have the effect of having the evidence thrown out.

Blood tests are hard to beat. I am giving this to you honestly. Blood tests are hard to beat. I am giving this to you honestly. It is very difficult to challenge the result of a blood test, so it is very likely that your level of alcohol, if coming from a blood test, will come in to evidence to prove your level of intoxication. Also, a blood test is usually very accurate, and the blood sample can be retested for even greater accuracy.

Q: What are the DUI/DWI penalties?
A: The offense you are charged with after a police officer pulls you over will depend on a few factors.

  1. The amount of alcohol in your system
  2. The police officer’s judgment on the level of your impairment
  3. Your performance on Field Sobriety Tests

Definitions

This is the lesser of the two drinking and driving offenses in Maryland.

  • DWI: Your level of intoxication is 4% – 7%. A conviction for a DWI offense can result in fines, suspension and imprisonment. Also, penalties can be more if you had a passenger in the vehicle under the age of 18.
  • DUI: Driving Under the Influence — Your level of intoxication is 8% or more.

Penalties

DWI

  • First time DWI conviction:
  • Up to 60 days in jail
  • Up to $500 fine
  • 8 points will be assessed on Driver’s License
  • Possible 6-month Driver’s license suspension
  • Face possible 1-year suspension if Driver was under age of 21
  • Second DWI conviction:
  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • $500 fine
  • 8 points will be assessed Driver’s License
  • Possible 9-12-month Driver’s License suspension
  • Possible 2-year suspension if Driver was under age of 21

DUI

  • First time DUI conviction:
  • Up to 1 year in jail
  • $1,000 in fines
  • 12 point will be assessed on your Driver’s License
  • Driver’s License may be revoked for up to 6 months
  • Ignition interlock device required for 6 months

Second DUI conviction:

  • Up to 2 years in jail (mandatory minimum 5 days)
  • Up to $2,000 in fines
  • 12 points will be assessed on your Driver’s License
  • Driver’s License may be revoked for up to 1 year
  • Ignition interlock device required for 1 year
  • If the second DUI conviction is within five years of the first offense, drivers will suffer mandatory license suspension (followed by participation in the Ignition Interlock Program when the license is reinstated) and drivers must participate in an approved alcohol abuse program.

Third DUI conviction:

  • Up to 3 years in jail
  • Up to $3,000 in fines
  • 12 points will be assessed on your driver’s license
  • Driver’s license may be revoked for up to 1 year
  • Ignition Interlock device required for 3 years

Q: What is the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) process and its penalties?
A: In addition to criminal penalties for an alcohol related offense, there are also administrative penalties from the MVA that can affect your driving privileges. You must understand the administrative process or you could lose your license.

If you are stopped the police officer may request that you to submit to a field sobriety test or portable breath test. If you are arrested for impaired driving, the officer will advise you of your rights and provide you with an Advice of Rights form (DR-15) before requesting that you submit to a chemical (BAC) test.

If you test above the legal limit for alcohol (0.08 BAC), or refuse an officer’s request to submit to a chemical test for alcohol or drug use, you will be issued an Order of Suspension (form #DR- 015A) along with your traffic citation(s).

The police officer will confiscate your driver’s license (Maryland Drivers License Only) and may issue you a 45-day temporary paper license. That paper will be your license for now. The officer MUST give that paper license to you. You MUST carry it around as if it is your driver’s license.

Timing is critical!

Your driver’s license or privilege will be suspended on the 46th day after the Order of Suspension unless:

  1. You request a hearing within 10 days of the date of the Order of Suspension (you can still request hearing up to 30 days, but it may not stop the start of the suspension of your license) or, if eligible; Or:
  2. You elect within 30 days to participate in the Ignition Interlock System Program.

You Should Request an Administrative Hearing immediately!

Here is why and how to do so:

By requesting a hearing, you avoid having your license suspended on the 46th day. You will receive a hearing date to appear in front of an administrative law judge (ALJ), where you can argue that your driver’s license or privilege should not be suspended. You must request a hearing within 10 days of the date of the Order of Suspension to ensure that your privilege to drive is not suspended prior to your hearing.

Your request for a hearing must be made in writing. The back side of the hearing request provides information and a form to request an administrative hearing. Send your request to the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH) at 11101 Gilroy Rd., Hunt Valley, MD 21031-1301. You must include a check or money order for $150.00, which is the required filing fee, made payable to the “Maryland State Treasurer.” Your request for a hearing will be invalid if submitted without the required $150.00 filing fee or applicable fee waiver.

Is Fighting the Suspension a Good Idea?

It depends on a number of factors. The circumstances of your arrest, whether you have a prior DUI (with or without conviction), and how badly you need to drive your car are among these factors.

There are a number of good defenses to the MVA administrative hearing, but sometimes it is better to either take the suspension or request the interlock device. For example, if you have a high BAC or if this incident caused an accident, it might be better to consent to the Interlock, to show the judge you are willing to accept the consequences and put yourself in a better position to obtain the PBJ in the criminal case.

IMPORTANT: If you submit a valid hearing request, a suspension will not be imposed unless a decision is rendered against you, or if you fail to appear for the hearing.

MVA Penalties

If you do not challenge your DUI arrest by way of an administrative hearing, the MVA will impose the following sanctions on your license.

A) If you submitted to the test and failed: Blood Alcohol Content 0.08 through 0.14

  • 1st offense- 180 day suspension
  • 1st offense involving fatality- 180 day suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent 180 day suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent involving fatality- 1 year suspension

B) If you submitted to the test and failed: Blood Alcohol Content 0.15 or more

  • 1st offense- 180 day suspension
  • 1st offense involving a fatality- 1 year suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent offense- 180 day suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent involving fatality – revocation

C) If you refused to submit to the test:

  • 1st offense- 270 day suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent offense- 2 year suspension

D) If you were operating a commercial motor vehicle at the time:

  • 1st offense- 1 year Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) disqualification
  • 2nd or subsequent offense- lifetime CDL disqualification

E) If you were operating a commercial motor vehicle carrying hazardous materials at the time:

  • 1st offense- 3 year CDL disqualification
  • 2nd or subsequent offense- lifetime CDL disqualification

Important: In order to receive credit for the suspension, you must surrender your driver’s license or certify that you no longer have the license in your possession. 

Q: What are the Commercial Driver's License Penalties?
A: If you have a commercial driver’s license (CDL) and use it to make your living, getting charged with an alcohol related driving offense is going to jeopardize your job.

There are additional penalties for bus drivers, semi-truck drivers, and others who operate commercial vehicles. Please understand that any and all of the ways we try to beat intoxication charges apply here. These are the same and do not change because you have a CDL. The only difference is that the rules are tougher for you if you got stopped and you were driving with your CDL.

Penalties

Not only can drivers be charged with DUI for operating a commercial motor vehicle with a BAC of .04 percent or more, these drivers can also lose their commercial driving licenses if they are charged with DUI while driving a regular vehicle. Commercial drivers face the following penalties:

An alcohol concentration of 0.04% or more when driving a Commercial Motor Vehicle will:

  • First Offense-disqualify you from driving a commercial motor vehicle for 1 year (3 years if the vehicle was required to be placarded for HAZMAT)
  • Second Offense-disqualify you for life

An alcohol concentration of 0.08% or more while operating on a commercial driver license, regardless of the vehicle type, will:

  • First Offense-disqualify you from driving a commercial motor vehicle for 1 year
  • Second Offense-disqualify you for life

A refusal to submit to take a test will:

  • First Offense- Disqualify you from driving a commercial motor vehicle for 1 year
  • Second Offense-Disqualify you for life

Options for Defense-Immediately Request an Administrative Hearing

The MVA has a zero-tolerance policy regarding alcohol related offenses by commercial drivers.

You must therefore respond to any notice of CDL disqualification within 15 days and request an administrative hearing to fight the suspension. It is important to an attorney experienced in CDL laws as soon as possible for non serious and serious traffic violations, CDL specific charges or DUI charges. The attorney may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced, and the penalties reduced based upon a review of the evidence. If your CDL is suspended, an experienced attorney might be able to help you obtain a hardship license so that you can continue working.

Q: Can I still be charged with a DUI while sleeping it off in my car?
A: “Sleeping It Off” in Your Parked Car is grounds for an Arrest

  • Most of us believe that if someone had too much to drink they have the option of “sleeping it off” in their parked car as a way to avoid a DUI arrest. And although this certainly seems logical, in Maryland, a person can still in fact get arrested and charged with a DUI even though they weren’t “driving” their car.
  • The reason this can happen is because “driving” for purposes of DUI law does not mean “driving” in the classic sense of the word. “Driving,” for legal purposes, is being in “actual physical control” of a vehicle.
  • The issue is if you were in “actual physical control” of your vehicle:

Factor 1: Whether or not the engine is running or the ignition is on

  • The strongest factor is whether there is evidence that you started or attempted to start the vehicle’s engine. If you started the engine or attempted to do so, it’s probable you will be found to be in control.

Factor 2: Whether and in what position the person is found in the vehicle

  • If you were in the driver’s seat it’s more likely you were in “actual physical control”
  • If an officer were to see you in this position, it is reasonable for him or her to assume you got behind the wheel with the intention of driving. He or she has no way of knowing if you passed out while trying to start the car or if you just choose to sleep it off.
  • However, the position of the drivers seat is also important. If you are in the driver’s seat, was the seat reclined (indicating asleep and not in control) or positioned upright in driving position?
  • If you were in the back seat or a passenger seat that would tend to indicate you were not in control.

Factor 3: Whether the person is awake or asleep

  • If you were asleep in the back seat, under a blanket, this is stronger evidence you were not in “actual physical control,” even if the engine was running.

Factor 4: Where the vehicle’s ignition key is located

  • Is the key in the ignition–even if the engine isn’t turned on–or somewhere else? Courts are interested in how many steps away the person is from putting the vehicle in motion. If the key is already in the ignition and only needs to be turned to start the engine, that is more indicative of control than if the keys are in a pocket, purse, or anywhere else.
  • Just because you have not yet started the car does not mean you did not try it and then later changed your mind. The fact that they keys are actually in the ignition shows that you had every intention of driving when you entered the car, at least in the eyes of the law.

Factor 5: Where the vehicle’s headlights are on

  • If headlights are off you are less likely to be in “actual physical control”.

Factor 6: Whether the vehicle is located in the roadway or is legally parked

  • The location of the vehicle can also be a determinative factor. A court will look at whether your vehicle was parked legally, or for example stopped in the roadway, where the driver is obligated by law to move the vehicle, and because of this obligation could more readily be seen to be in “actual physical control.” Thus, it is clear from the factors above, that one can be charged and convicted of DUI/ DWI in Maryland without ever actually moving his or her vehicle. Getting into a cars driver’s seat, turning on the engine for heat, and falling asleep while drunk technically, legally, can expose you to alcohol related driving charges.

Q: What are the immigration consequences of a DUI?
A: Immigration law does not specify driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) as grounds for deportation or removal from the United States. In recent months, however, these offenses have been grounds for deportation.

Why is a DUI/DWI Guilty Conviction Now Such a Problem?

In November 2014, the Homeland Security Secretary issued new guidance for all of DHS, including Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), concerning the agency’s “enforcement priorities.”

It is very important to note that among those considered as the second-highest priority for apprehension and removal are noncitizens convicted of DUI.

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN?

ICE is now actively searching for, arresting, detaining, and prosecuting removal of non-citizens with convictions for DUI and DWI. The following groups of non-citizens with a DUI or DWI conviction are all being adversely affected:

  • Non-citizens without immigration status in the United States are being arrested and detained without bond (or with a very high bond, sometimes in excess of $25,000.00). In immigration court, requests to lower the bond amount are frequently denied if the DUI conviction is recent and/or there are no significant mitigating factors. Requests for voluntary departure are likewise frequently denied. Noncitizens without any other recourse for relief in removal proceedings are being deported without first being released from ICE detention.
  • Non-citizens with outstanding final orders of removal are being arrested and detained without bond, and oftentimes removed from the United States within weeks of their arrests.
  • Lawful permanent residents with old criminal convictions are being subjected to removal
    proceedings, because their conviction for DUI or DWI makes them a target for ICE investigative officers. Non-citizens who would otherwise qualify for Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) do not qualify if they have a conviction for DUI or DWI.

Q: What are some other useful things to know related to DUI/DWIs?
A: There are many things that may affect you if you are stopped and suspected of or charged with an alcohol offense. Some of these may apply.

Underage Drinking and Driving

If you are under the age of 18, you are considered a minor, and if you are under the age of 21, you are “under-age”

Maryland has a high concentration of colleges and universities, and as a result, a large population of teens and young adults. The state’s proximity to Washington, D.C., in addition, makes it a desirable location for young professionals beginning their professional careers. It should come as no surprise then that Maryland law enforcement officers frequently come into contact with underage drinking and drunk driving.

When the consumption of alcohol is involved, however, social expectations do not always translate to compliance with state or federal law. If a party involving underage drinking is held in a home in Maryland, the homeowner could face serious penalties, including jail, even if the homeowner is absent at the time. Consequences may be far more serious for the underage drinkers themselves, who are at risk of injury or death from binge drinking, drunk driving or simply from being the passenger in the car of a drunk driver.

A minor who is caught driving drunk could face up to a year in jail, depending on the severity of the offense. Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) and driving while intoxicated (DWI) are the two possible offenses a driver could face with a Blood Alcohol Concentration (BAC) of 0.04 or higher. Penalties for both offenses increase in severity in relation to the frequency of alcohol- related driving offenses.

Additional penalties apply if a minor was a passenger in the car at the time of the offense. Second time offenders may face a 120-day license suspension, or up to a year in prison.

Alcohol education should not begin only after a drunk driver’s first alcohol-related offense. Parents in particular are urged to create change within their communities to influence more frequent discussions of alcohol’s risks with their teens. Parents who maintain a casual attitude towards underage drinking all too often unknowingly contribute to the growing numbers of injuries or deaths as the result of irresponsible or illegal drinking.

Drunk drivers could also incur administrative offenses from the Maryland Vehicle Administration (MVA) for failing or refusing a chemical sobriety test. DUI and DWI offenders may both opt-in to the installation of an Ignition Interlock Device (IID) in order to avoid license suspension or revocation. IIDs require that drivers blow into an attached breathalyzer in order for the car’s ignition to function. They must be installed by a dealer or mechanic approved by the MVA. Drivers are solely responsible for the costs of installation and maintenance for these devices.

Underage Drinking and Fake ID Laws

  • If you are under the age of 21 and found to have purchased, possessed or consumed alcohol, you face a fine of $500 for your first offense and $1,000 for your second or subsequent offense.
  • Anyone under 21 who violates their alcohol restriction must automatically participate in the ignition interlock program or face suspension. If assignment to interlock is for a second alcohol violation in 5 years, the duration of participation in the ignition interlock program is determined by how many times they have been assigned to interlock due to one of these violations.
  • If you are under 21 and in possession of a fake ID, you face a fine of up to $500 and up to 2 months in prison. Twelve (12) points will be assessed on your driving record, and your driver’s license may be suspended or revoked.
  • If you are caught selling fake IDs, you face fines of up to $2000 and up to two years in prison for each fake ID sold. You are also subject to prosecution for violating federal and homeland security laws.
  • If you are over 21 and knowingly furnish alcohol to a minor, you face a fine of up to $2500 for the first violation and a fine of up to $5000 for a second or subsequent violation.

ALEX AND CALVIN’S LAW–Parents Beware

The Maryland General Assembly passed a second bill that addresses alcohol crimes. Alex and Calvin’s Law gives judges the discretion to put parents who host underage drinking parties in jail. The legislation is named after two 18-year-olds who lost their lives last year, after they got in a car with an intoxicated driver leaving an underage drinking party hosted by an adult. The parent, who hosted the party and provided alcohol to underage drinkers, only paid a fine of $5,000 following the death of Alex and Calvin as previous legislation detailed that the maximum punishment for this offense was a $2500 fine per citation.

Under the new legislation, a person who provides alcohol to someone under the legal drinking age of 21 can be incarcerated for up to one year and/or pay a fine of up to $5,000 for the first offense.

A second or subsequent offense would lead to incarceration for up to two years and/or a fine of up to $7,500.

Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program for Drunk Drivers

One of the most notable changes to Maryland’s impaired driving laws is the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016, commonly known as Noah’s Law. Noah’s Law went into effect on October 1, 2016, and expands the use of ignition interlock devices.

The law will require mandatory participation in the Ignition Interlock System Program for drivers who:

  • Are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, while impaired by alcohol, or while impaired by drugs (including first-time offenders)
  • Have had their licenses suspended by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) for a drunk driving offense
  • Are convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol

Offenders must have breath-analyzing devices installed in their vehicles for one year or longer, depending on the length of time between offenses. In addition, drunk drivers whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) registers between 0.08 and 0.14 percent may opt-in to the program for one year instead of losing their licenses.

Reinstatement of a Revoked Driver’s License

If your driver’s license was revoked because you accumulated 12 or more points on your driving record, or because you violated an alcohol restriction, you may be eligible to have your license reinstated after a specified period of time.

The minimum amount of time you must wait before requesting reinstatement of your license after it was revoked depends upon the number of times you have had your Maryland driver’s license revoked:

  • One revocation- 6 month waiting period
  • Two revocations- 12 month waiting period
  • Three revocations- 18 month waiting period
  • Four or more revocations- 24 month waiting period

The waiting period starts on the day that you turn in your driver’s license after it has been revoked, or the date of revocation, whichever is later. You must turn in your most recently issued license.

What do I need to do?

If you believe that you meet the criteria to reinstate your license, you may call or visit the MVA’s Driver Wellness and Safety Division request to have your driver’s license reinstated. You will be asked for your full name, address, date of birth and driver’s license number, if you know it.

The MVA will review your driving record for insurance violations, child support violations and any other problems that may disqualify you from reinstatement. If we discover a problem in your driving record, we will send you a letter explaining why you are not eligible for reinstatement. If there are no apparent problems, we will mail or hand to you an application form.

After you have completed the application for driver’s license reinstatement, return it to the Driver’s Wellness and Safety Division along with the appropriate application fee. Upon receipt of the application and fee, there will be a final ruling on the reinstatement of your driver’s license and you will be sent a letter either granting or denying reinstatement. If you are granted reinstatement of your driver’s license, take the letter to any full service MVA branch and apply for a new license. You may be required to take the law, vision and/or driving skills tests again. In addition, you will be subject to all MVA eligibility requirements.

If the reinstatement of your driver’s license is denied, you do have the right to appeal the decision of the MVA to the office of administrative hearings. Contact the MVA’s Driver Wellness and Safety Division for details about the appeal process.

Violations of License Restrictions

An alcohol restriction on your license prohibits you from operating a vehicle with any level of alcohol in your blood. If you are under the age of 21, your license automatically carries “Under 21 Alcohol Restriction.”

If you have a prior impaired driving offense, your license may carry an alcohol restriction on it that was placed there by the MVA or the Courts.

An alcohol restriction on your license also mandates that you submit to a chemical test when an officer suspects that you may be driving under the influence. If you refuse the test, or test positive for any level of alcohol, then you will be subject to additional sanctions.

Tips If You Get Pulled Over

  1. Think fast, but remain calm. Quickly evaluate how much you have had to drink. Try to keep your hands in view at all times, as the officer may view your movements as a safety risk.
  2. Be polite to police officers. You gain nothing by being rude and belligerent.
  3. Obey the police officers’ commands. Officers may order you to get out of the car, and refusing to do so can get you arrested. You are required by law to produce your license and registration.
  4. Know where you can easily find your license and registration. Fumbling for these things is often viewed as signs of impairment. Several people I know keep the insurance and registration in a separate glove-box wallet for quick and easy access.
  5. You do not have to say anything, including talk, beyond license, registration, and insurance. Don’t incriminate yourself.

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