4th of July: Know the Drinking and Driving Rules of the Holiday Road

Drinking and Driving

The 4th of July is always a celebration in Baltimore and with this year’s three-day holiday weekend, there’s plenty of time for festivities with family and friends, but you don’t want to get caught drinking and driving, it could cost you. But if alcohol is on the menu at your parties and picnics, you should probably brush up on DUI and DWI laws in Maryland; what you don’t know could hurt you.

Governor Hogan recently signed new measures that dramatically impact the penalties for DUI in Maryland. So before you hit the road for some 4th of July fun, here’s what you need to know about drinking and driving in Baltimore and what to do if you get arrested.

How much do I have to drink for a DUI or DWI in Baltimore?

That’s not really the right question to ask. A DUI or DWI in Maryland depends on your blood alcohol level (BAC), and there’s no set number of drinks that will make you impaired under the law. BAC depends on a number of factors:

  • Weight
  • Sex
  • Body fat percentage
  • Whether or not you’ve eaten
  • Whether or not you take certain medications
  • The amount of time you’re consuming alcohol

For example, a 140 lb female could be legally impaired after just two drinks and a 200 lb male could be legally intoxicated after three, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

Drinking and Driving Laws in Maryland

Laws in Maryland make it illegal for you to drive if:

  • You are under age 21 and have a BAC of 0.02 or higher.
  • You are over age 21 and have a BAC of between 0.04 and 0.79 (this is considered driving while impaired, or DWI).
  • You have a BAC of 0.08 or higher (the threshold for driving under the influence, or DUI).
  • You are a commercial driver and you have a BAC of 0.04 or higher.

You can use a free online BAC calculator to estimate your level of impairment, but it’s not a good idea to risk your future on it. If you’re drinking at all over the 4th of July holiday, it’s best not to get behind the wheel. Find a designated driver or cab instead of taking chances.

Do I have to take a BAC test if I’m pulled over for DUI in Baltimore?

Maryland has an implied consent law, which means that you are required to take a breath, blood, or urine test if an officer has reason to believe you are driving while impaired. The officer does not need to arrest you before asking you to take the test. If you refuse to be tested, your license will automatically be suspended for 120 days for the first offense. The penalty jumps to one year suspension the second time.

What happens if I am arrested for a DUI in Maryland?

In Maryland, you face potential consequences in two separate proceedings:

  • A criminal hearing, which typically takes place in District Court, and determines your guilt or innocence and any criminal penalties the judge may order.
  • An administrative hearing through the MVA, which determines your driving privileges after your arrest.

You may not realize that your driver’s license will be confiscated after your arrest and you will be given a 45-day temporary permit. If you haven’t made arrangements for an administrative hearing within 10 days of your arrest, your license will be suspended automatically. The administrative hearing is your opportunity to fight for your driving privileges so you can continue to work or go to school.

What are the administrative penalties for a Baltimore DUI?

The independent judges at the Office of Hearings and Appeals (OHA) will hear your case and decide whether they believe you are guilty of driving under the influence in violation of Transportation Article 16-205.1 This is entirely separate from any criminal charges you may face. Here are the penalties you may face:

BAC                                                       1st Offense                                           2nd Offense
0.08 to <0.15 45 days suspension (may be modifiable for work) 90 days suspension (may not be modified)
0.15 or higher 90 days suspension 180 days suspension

What about Maryland’s “Noah’s Law” for DUI?

The administrative penalties for DUI just got more complex this year when the Maryland Legislature passed new laws covering the use of Interlock devices. In the past, Interlock devices were only required for individuals who tested with a BAC of 0.15 or higher. Now, however, anyone who has failed a breath alcohol test (with a reading of 0.08 or higher), whether or not they are ultimately convicted of DUI, will be required to get an Interlock.

An Interlock device must be installed on your vehicle by an approved Interlock installer. It requires the driver to blow into it for a breath alcohol reading before the vehicle will start. If the device detects a reading of 0.02 or higher, it acts as a kill switch, preventing you from starting the car. Interlock devices are used to protect public safety while still allowing an accused individual to work or attend school. However, they are costly to purchase and require regular monthly monitoring and reporting; you can expect to pay up to $250 for the device and $50 per month for monitoring.

What are the criminal penalties for a DUI in Baltimore?

The state of Maryland doesn’t take DUI offenses lightly. If you are convicted of driving under the influence in Baltimore, you face potentially devastating consequences.

The following criminal penalties may apply if you are convicted of DUI in Maryland; please note that these are in addition to any administrative penalties assessed by the MVA or OHA.

Potential Fines          Jail or Prison License Suspension Other penalties
1st offense Up to $1,000 Up to 1 year minimum 45 days Penalties double if you were transporting a minor
2nd offense Up to $2,000 Up to 2 years 1 year suspension $3,000 fine and 3 years prison if minor in vehicle
3rd offense Up to $3,000 Up to 3 years prison 18 month suspension $4,000 fine and 4 years prison if minor in vehicle

What are the penalties for a DWI in Maryland (BAC of 0.04 to <0.08)?

While the penalties are less severe for a DWI in Baltimore, they are certainly not cheap or insignificant. In addition to receiving 8 points on your driver’s license (versus 12 for a DUI), the following criminal penalties may apply:

Potential Fines            Jail                                               Driving Privileges
1st offense Up to $500 Up to 2 months Up to 60 day suspension
2nd offense Up to $500 Up to 1 year Minimum 60 day suspension

What if I’m under age 21?

Maryland is a “zero tolerance” state and any minor with a BAC of 0.02 or higher will be charged with drunk driving and violating a legal license restriction, which is that it is illegal for anyone under age 21 to drive a car with any amount of alcohol in his or her system. Minors face a suspension of their driving privileges for six months for the first offense, which increases to a mandatory revocation of one year or until age 21 (whichever occurs first) for a second offense. This is in addition to any other penalties associated with a DUI if your BAC is 0.08 or higher.

Do I need a lawyer if I am arrest for DUI or DWI in Maryland?

As you can see, a drunk driving charge in Maryland is a serious, potentially life-changing event. In addition to crippling fines, loss of driving privileges, and the possibility of prison or jail time, a DUI conviction is a permanent criminal record and may affect your ability to get certain jobs. Even if you escape some of the more severe penalties, you may find that you cannot get car insurance in the state of Maryland, or your insurance rates skyrocket if you are able to get coverage. Over your lifetime, a DUI conviction can cost your tens, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in expenses and lost income. It’s no minor matter.

An experienced Baltimore DUI lawyer may be able to find holes in the prosecutor’s criminal case or even plead your case to a lesser offense, avoiding the onerous penalties of a DUI. He may also be able to lower or eliminate your fines or jail time or secure probation before judgment (PBJ) if it’s appropriate and beneficial in your case. It’s always a good idea to consult an attorney in Maryland for any offense that carries the possibility of jail time, as a DUI in Baltimore does.

Your DUI attorney may also represent you at your administrative hearing and preserve your driving privileges for work or school. Remember, you only have 10 days to arrange a hearing, so it’s important to consult an attorney as soon as possible after you’ve been arrested.

Randolph Rice is a Baltimore-based DUI, DWI, and criminal defense lawyer with extensive experience in DUI and DWI law. As a former Assistant State’s Attorney in Baltimore County, he has deep knowledge of the District Court system in Baltimore and can help you get the most favorable outcome from your DUI case. Contact the Law Office of G. Randolph Rice for a consultation today at 410-288-2900.

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