Most drivers who are charged with a DUI in Maryland will be arrested and then released a few hours later from the police station with several traffic citations in hand and a 45-day temporary driver's license. The few exceptions are in cases where the driver is taken to the hospital due to an accident, or in cases where the defendant is also charged with a criminal offense such as resisting arrest or possession of a firearm or drugs. Baltimore City is one of the few jurisdictions where DUI defendants are actually booked into the jail, and unfortunately this means spending the night behind bars. While being pulled over, investigated and then arrested is unpleasant to say the least, if handled correctly, this should be the worst part of the experience. In order to assure the best possible outcome in the case, a defendant should start preparing for court in the days following an arrest. In all DUI and DWI cases there are two battles to fight; the first battle is with the MVA and the second is with the court system. Deciding how to deal with the MVA depends on whether the driver submitted to the breath test or refused. All drivers who either refuse or test .08 or higher will have their license suspended starting 46 days after the arrest. Out-of-state residents will not have their driver's license confiscated, but will still lose their privilege to legally drive in Maryland after the 45 day temporary license runs out. Those who refused the breath test face a 270-day suspension, and the only way to legally drive is to enroll in the interlock program, which typically lasts for 1 year. Drivers who submit to the test and blow under .15 have the option of requesting an MVA hearing and a license that is restricted for work purposes. The MVA hearing must be requested within 10 days and the interlock installed within 30 days in order to avoid a suspension due to a lapse in time. For this reason, the MVA battle must be tackled right away.
Dealing with the case in court is more of a process, but it helps to start preparing right away as well. Drivers who are charged with DUI should begin searching for an alcohol education program within a couple weeks of the arrest, even in cases that may end up in trial. It could take a least a couple months to receive and review the evidence before making a final decision whether to to fight the case at trial or to work out a plea deal, and starting an alcohol education class early will leave defendants with both options. The punishment for DUI depends on a lot of factors, but in our experience the most important factors are the defendant's prior record, whether there was an accident and the results of the breath test if the defendant. A first time offender that is arrested will likely not serve any jail time, as long as there were no injuries, the defendant cooperated with police and there were no minors present in the vehicle. But this is always depends on the jurisdiction where the case is taking place and who the judge happens to be that day. The Eastern Shore jurisdictions such as Talbot, Dorchester, Queen Anne’s and Worcester Counties tend to be tougher on drunk driving cases while Baltimore and Baltimore County can in some instances be more lenient. The outcome also depends on the specific prosecutor assigned to the case, and judges typically listen or at the very least take into account the recommendation of the State’s Attorney.
The penalty for drunk driving can include jail time, fines, probation and license suspensions. Jail time can range anywhere from zero days up to 1 year for a DUI conviction. Those with multiple convictions can be charged as subsequent offenders and the maximum penalty can increase. A two-time offender can be sentenced up to 2 years and someone who gets convicted of his or her third DUI faces up to 3 years in prison. First time offenders with a DWI can receive up to 60 days in jail, and again, the maximum penalty can increase if the defendant is a repeat offender.
A defendant that does not receive a jail sentence can also be punished in the form of a probation sentence. Probation for drunk driving can range from 1 day to three years, and may include mandatory alcohol classes and community service. There are also fees involved with probation that can be up to $50 per month. Violations of probation are common in DUI cases, and even a first time offender may face a jail sentence if he or she violates probation. Common reasons for violating probation include not attending classes, testing positive for drugs or alcohol (including marijuana) and not paying fees and costs of supervision. These are all considered technical violations, but that does not mean the judge will take them lightly.
A person who is convicted of drunk driving also faces the possibility of losing their license. A DUI conviction carries 12 points and an automatic suspension, while a DWI conviction carries 8 points. If you receive a probation before judgment or PBJ, you will not receive any points unless you violate your probation and the judge takes away your PBJ. Points are not the only thing that can suspend your license, as refusing a breathalyzer test or testing over the limit of .08 will also trigger a suspension. The suspension for refusing the test recently increased after the passage of Noah’s law. A refusal will now come with a 270-day suspension or a 1-year period of using the engine interlock device, which will disable your car unless an alcohol free breath sample is recorded. Drivers who are enrolled in the interlock program face potential jail time for violation of license restriction if they are caught driving a car without interlock. If you have any further questions about the penalties for drunk driving contact Benjamin Herbst at 410-207-2598.