If you’re reading this page, chances are you recently have been arrested for drunk driving in Maryland and looking for the best Maryland DUI lawyer to help you. First, take a deep breath and hear these words: “People make mistakes, we understand that and we’re here to help you through the process, you are not alone.”
We have defended thousands of DUI and DWI clients in Maryland, and we can help you too. A drunk driving arrest is not the “end of the world.” Call attorney Randolph Rice today ((410) 694-7291) and schedule a free consultation to sit down and get all the facts about what will happen next.
Drunk Driving Charges in Maryland Can Be Serious
Most of the alcohol and impaired driving laws and crimes can be found in the Maryland Transportation Article 21-902. When a police officer arrests an individual under the suspicion of drunk driving, they will typically charge or issue multiple tickets against the driver. This is done for a couple of reasons. The officer wants to make sure he includes the most serious offense (DUI) as well as the lesser offenses of driving while impaired (DWI).
As an example, let’s say you are pulled over and you refuse the breath and blood test, so the officer only has the field sobriety tests as evidence to present to the State’s Attorney. On the trial date, the prosecutor must make a decision as to whether he or she will proceed on the DUI, the more serious offense, or the DWI, the less serious offense. This is why the office has charged you with both offenses, so the prosecutor has options and the ability to still seek a conviction even though there may not be enough evidence to prove the DUI. Since the driver did not take the breath or blood test, there is no BAC to use as evidence or impairment.
The office will also charge drivers with payable citations, such as speeding or negligent driving. This is done to allow the prosecutor to have less serious offenses as leverage to garner a conviction or use as a negotiating tactic at trial when working out a plea deal with the lawyer hired by the drunk driving defendant.
Note: Do not pay any of tickets when charged with DUI, as these will more likely than not be dismissed or nolle prosequi when the trial date arrives.
An Overview of DUI (Driving Under the Influence) Laws in Maryland
In Maryland, DUI and DWI are classified as a misdemeanor. If you have questions about misdemeanor DUI charges, contact the Maryland DUI lawyer Randolph Rice today.
The Maryland DUI and DWI laws are complicated and always changing. The bulk of the drunk driving laws in Maryland can be found in Maryland Transportation Article 21-902. There are additional Articles within the law that define terms, some of the most commonly referred to Articles are:
- Driving under the influence and driving while impaired laws – Maryland Transportation Article 21-902
- Suspension or revocation on conviction of certain alcohol or drug related offenses – Maryland Transportation Article 16-205
- Suspension of disqualification for refusal to submit to chemical tests for intoxication – Maryland Transportation Article 16-205.1
- Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) – Maryland Transportation Article 16-205.2
- Assessment of Points – Maryland Transportation Article 16-402
- Punishment for Traffic Violations – Maryland Transportation Article 27-101
- Probation Before Judgment – Maryland Criminal Procedure Article 6-220
DUI or driving under the influence is the most serious of the drunk driving crimes in Maryland. If charged with DUI, it is alleged that you operate or attempted to operate a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. The penalties for a DUI are more severe than the DWI crimes in Maryland. When a person is charged with DUI or DWI in Maryland, the State’s Attorney for the County where a person is charged will take over the prosecution.
Almost all DUI charges filed by law enforcement will require a Court appearance and the State will look for a conviction if there is probable cause to believe the driver was under the influence. The State’s Attorney is the prosecuting attorney and represents the State of Maryland (State). The State will evaluate the charges and decide if they are going to continue with the prosecution of choose not to proceed with the charges.
For the State to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, which is the standard of proof for DUI and DWI charges, they must prove two key elements:
- That the person charged with DUI or DWI drove or attempted to drive a vehicle; and
- That the person charged was under the influence at the time of driving or attempting to drive the vehicle.
A vehicle can be “any device in, on, or by which any individual or property is or might be transported or towed on a highway.” Maryland Transportation Article 11-176. It does not include an electric personal mobility device.
What is Driving While Impaired?
Driving while impaired (DWI) is the lesser of the two categories of impaired driving in Maryland. Under the DWI statutes, there are 3 separate subsections that a person can be charged with:
- Driving While Impaired by Alcohol
- Driving While Impaired by Drugs, Drugs and Alcohol
- Driving While Impaired by Controlled Dangerous Substance
While each subsection of the DWI laws requires the requirement of driving or attempting to drive, the substance that causes the impairment distinguishes the appropriate charge.
The Difference Between DUI and DWI in Maryland
The difference between DUI and DWI in Maryland is the 1) penalty and 2) the elements that must be proven by the State at trial for a conviction. The penalties for a DUI are typically more severe than a DWI. A first offense DUI carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail whereas a first offense DWI is 60 days in jail.
The elements of a DUI or a bit different than a DWI. For a DUI, the State must prove the level of alcohol intoxication was .08 Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) or higher. For a DWI, the State could still prove this charge with a .08 BAC or higher as well as a BAC of .05, .06 or .07 per 210 liters of breath.
If an individual is tested for alcohol concentration and their BAC is .05 or less, there is a presumption that the person was not driving while impaired (DWI). For more information on BAC levels and DUI in Maryland, read Maryland Criminal Procedure Article 10-307.
How DUI Court Works in Maryland
The cases are normally heard in the District Court of Maryland in the county where the citation was given. There are sometimes more than one District Court in a county, so make sure that you have the correct address. The District Court of Maryland is different from the Federal District Court of Maryland, of which there are only two: one in Baltimore, MD and one in Greenbelt, MD. You would only have to go there if the charge occurred on Federal property, including National Parks.
The administrative penalties, which include license restrictions and points on your record are assessed and administered by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). However, the number of points will be based on what you are or are not convicted of, so they are connected.
If you wish to appeal any administrative penalties, these are separate from the criminal case. Penalties can include suspension of license, revocation of license or ignition interlock program. Refusal to submit to the BAC test, when arrested will result in a suspension of your license for one year.
The ignition interlock program means that an electronic device is placed on your vehicle’s ignition system, so your blood alcohol level is tested before you start the car. If your level is above the allowed level, you will not be able to start the car. In addition, the failing test will be reported with further legal consequences that could include jail. You will also have to pay a monthly fee to have this service on your automotive vehicle
While it is not required to have an administrative hearing on any MVA penalties, it is required that you show up to Court for your trial date. Unlike speeding tickets, you must appear in court to face the charges. Failure to do so could result in an order to find you, arrest you and have you put in jail until you can appear before a Judge to explain why you weren’t there.
You do not have to retain an attorney when you do appear in court, but the Judge will certainly ask why you do not have one given the seriousness of the matter. You may request the case be postponed because you are without a lawyer.
The judge is not required to give you a continuance but will most likely do so if it is your first time in court on the charge. However, the judge is far less likely to postpone the case if it is the second or third time you have appeared without a lawyer. Without an attorney, the court may not think you are taking this matter seriously.
On the other side, your case will be prosecuted by an assistant state’s attorney for the county. They will have the case file with them, as well as the arresting officer who may be their only witness. If there was an accident, injuries or death connected with DUI charge, there will be more people involved, more urgency, and the possibility of facing increased penalties.
Usually, the assistant state’s attorney will wish to speak to you or your representative prior to the trial to determine what you plan to do, whether you wish to plead innocent or guilty and other administrative details prior to trial. After the trial, if you plead or are found guilty by the Court, the state’s attorney may have recommendations for your sentence, but ultimately the Judge makes the final decision.
Jury Trials for a DUI or DWI in Maryland
What is “Prayer Jury Trial?” A jury trial is an option for a defendant in Maryland is one of the charges in their case carries a maximum penalty of more than 90 days.
All DUI and DWI case begin in the District Court of Maryland. There are no jury trials in the District Court and thus the case must be transferred to the Circuit Court to conduct a jury trial.
A jury is 12 individuals selected from the motor vehicle records and voters rolls for the court. The county will summons individuals to appear in Court to be selected as a juror for trials.
If a defendant “prays a jury trial” in the District Court, their case will be heard in the Circuit Court and the defendant has the option of having their case heard by a jury. The State will present evidence and the defendant can present evidence, the jury will deliberate and determine if the defendant is guilty or not guilty.
Getting a DUI Placed on the Stet Docket
The Stet docket or a Stet is a motion filed by the State’s Attorney to indefinitely postpone a criminal case. If the matter is marked Stet, then the State has chosen to refuse prosecutions of the defendant. However, the State and defendant do have the option to recall or ask the court to set the matter in for trial after the case is entered on the stet docket.
The prosecutor can Stet a DUI case in Maryland. However, it does not happen very often as the State will attempt to prosecute most DUI and DWI charges. As an example, in 2017 there were 20,715 DUI and DWI cases filed in the Maryland District Court. Of those, only 440 charges were marked Stet by the prosecutors throughout the State.
Other DUI-Related Offenses
In addition to the Maryland drunk driving and impaired driving laws, there are other crimes a person can be charged with if operating a motor vehicle while impaired.
A person may not cause the death of another in Maryland as a result of the person’s driving, operating or controlling a vehicle or vessel in a grossly negligent manner (Maryland Criminal Law Article 2-209). If a person is found guilty of vehicular manslaughter in Maryland, they face up to 10 years in jail and/or a $5,000 fine. Vehicular manslaughter is classified as a felony in Maryland.
Homicide while DUI, DUI per se and DWI
Maryland Criminal Law Article 2-503, 2-504, 2-505, 2-506 defines the crimes of homicide while DUI, DUI per se and DWI. If a driver causes the death of another person as a result of the person’s negligently driving, operating, or controlling a motor vehicle or vessel while 1) under the influence of alcohol or 2) under the influence of alcohol per se. They can be charged with homicide by motor vehicle or vessel while under the influence of alcohol or homicide by motor vehicle or vessel while under the influence of alcohol per se. If convicted of homicide by DUI, DUI per se or DWI, a driver is guilty of a felony could be sentenced to 5 years in jail or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both.
DUI, DUI per se and DWI involving life-threatening injury
Maryland Criminal Law Article 3-211, 3-212.
Minors in the Car
If an individual is stopped and arrested for drunk driving in Maryland, and at the time, there are minors in the vehicle, the driver will face stiffer penalties or enhanced penalties if convicted. These rules and penalties can be found in Maryland Transportation Article 21-902 and 27-101. If a person is found to be DUI with a minor, the penalties are enhanced from 1 year in jail and a $1,000.00 fine for a first offense to 2 years in jail and a $2,000.00 fine.
If a person is found to have driving while impaired with a minor in the vehicle, the penalties are enhanced from 60 days in jail and a $500.00 fine to 6 months in jail and a $1,000.00 fine.
Hit and Run
Hit and run, also known as failing to remain at the scene of an accident is considered a serious traffic offense in Maryland. For more information about hit and run in Maryland, visit our hit and run page.
Driving While Suspended or Revoked
In Maryland, the MVA can suspend or revoke a driver’s license for a number of reasons. For more information about the driving with a suspended license in Maryland, read the Maryland Transportation Article 16-303 or visit our suspended license lawyer page.
DUI or DWI Under 21
If a driver is under 21 and is stopped and charged with DUI in Maryland, they could be facing a mandatory 1 year suspension for a first conviction. In addition to the possible suspension of the driver’s license, the under 21 defendant could be facing a 6 month suspension for violating the alcohol restriction on the driver’s license.
Since 21 is the legal drinking age in Maryland, the Courts and prosecutors do take special note of under 21 arrests for drunk driving. If you or your child has been arrested for drunk driving in Maryland, contact our office today to work on a plan to deal with the issue and for a alcohol education and treatment referral.
Commercial Driver’s License and DUI/DWI in Maryland
A holder of a commercial driver’s licence (CDL) faces a one year disqualification of their license if convicted of driving under the influence or driving while impaired under certain sections of the statute. (21-902 (a), (c) or (d)).
A CDL driver has four issues they must address through a drunk driving arrest and prosecution:
- Do I take the breath or blood test?
- If I take the test, how will the results affect my privilege to drive?
- Defendant must not be convicted of any charge greater than the DWI 21-902(b)
- Administrative penalties from a conviction in the Court.
How Our Maryland DUI / DWI Lawyers Can Help
If you have been charged with drunk driving in Maryland, the smart move it to retain a Maryland DUI lawyer to protect your rights and freedom. Driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI) are serious criminal/traffic violations and can result in jail, fines, costs, probation and other conditions as ordered by the Court.
Strict enforcement of the DUI and DWI laws in Maryland by law enforcement, State’s Attorneys and Judges can mean bad news for anyone facing a drunk driving arrest and prosecution. If you have been charged with drunk driving in Maryland, speak with a lawyer as soon as possible to discuss your options and how best to proceed with your case.
If you’ve recently been charged with drunk driving, you may be asking yourself if it’s worth getting a lawyer for a DUI? We may be a little biased, as we are DUI lawyers, but we think that anyone charged with a DUI should get a lawyer. There are a number of valuable and important factors to considers if you have been charged and now considering hiring a lawyer for your case.
A DUI lawyer will investigate and review your case, prepare you for court appearances and evaluate the evidence for trial. (Related Reading: Chances of Winning a DUI jury trial) And, if your case must be tried before a judge or jury, then you lawyer will conduct the trial, ask the questions or witnesses, cross-examine police officers and make the legal arguments before the trier of fact.
DUI and DWI charges are very technical and if the police officer or other agencies mishandle evidence or perform procedures improperly, then a lawyer may be able to use this to your advantage in securing a not guilty verdict.
Also, most drunk driving arrests are followed by some sort of administrative penalty for getting behind the wheel of a vehicle with alcohol in your system. Administrative penalties are consequences that a State agency, usually the DMV or MVA, will take against your driver’s license and privilege to drive. Most states, including Maryland, have procedures that a lawyer may pursue to ensure you keep your license and allow you to drive after a DUI arrest. Seasoned lawyers will know how to navigate these steps to keep you on the road and using your car for work or other personal responsibilities.
A DUI lawyer will also speak on your behalf at court appearances. Most people do not like to speak in public or in front of a crown and are worried they may say the wrong thing when they get up to speak before the Judge. Saying the wrong thing can actually get you in more trouble before the judge or prosecutor, thus another reason why it is worth getting a lawyer for a DUI.
If you’re looking for a Maryland DUI lawyer to assist in your case, contact attorney Randolph Rice today to schedule a free consultation and discuss your options. Drunk driving charges are serious and could result in jail time if the proper precautions are not taken. Even a first offense DUI in Maryland is serious enough to require legal representation at trial.