Drunk driving is a serious problem in Maryland where impaired drivers account for about a third of all highway deaths. In recent years, the scale of the problem led to the extension of the state’s ignition interlock device program.
Every year on average Maryland sees almost 7,900 crashes caused by intoxicated drivers, resulting in about 170 deaths and 4,000 injuries, according to the Motor Vehicle Administration.
A majority of U.S. states including Maryland now use ignition interlock devices for drunk drivers. The technology is intended to keep intoxicated drivers off the road but to allow certain drivers with DUI convictions to continue driving as long as they are sober.
Although ignition interlock programs are relatively new in many states, Maryland was one of the pioneers. Maryland has the sixth highest number of ignition interlocks installed and the ninth highest usage rate in the country. The program began in 1989 and is monitored by the Maryland Department of Transportation’s Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).
An ignition interlock device connects a breathalyzer to the ignition system of a vehicle. It measures the alcohol concentration in a driver’s breath and prevents the ignition from starting the engine when a driver’s alcohol concentration exceeds the calibrated setting on the interlock. The device records certain information.
Specifically, the driver must blow into a mouthpiece connected to the device, allowing it to measure the driver’s breath alcohol content (BrAC). Because breath alcohol content is generally accepted to be proportional to the amount of alcohol present in the driver’s blood, alcohol calculators use the terms breath alcohol content and blood alcohol content (BAC) interchangeably.
If the device registers a BAC over 0.025 it will not allow the vehicle to start. If the device detects alcohol, the driver must wait before testing again. The initial time alcohol is detected, the wait time is typically a few minutes. If the driver fails subsequent tests, he or she is locked out for increasingly longer periods. Drivers who attempt to drive with alcohol in their system face a violation and the potential suspension of their license.
The ignition interlock device requests additional retests while the vehicle is being driven. It is not necessary to stop driving while taking a retest. The device will bleep, signaling the driver to take another test.
The rolling re-test makes sure a driver does not drink alcohol after performing an initial test. Usually, it will tell the driver to stop by blowing the horn and flashing the car’s lights if the driver returns a positive test.
Drivers who fail a breath test or refuse to take one in Maryland face the suspension of their driver’s license.
If you are stopped by a police or a highway patrol officer and are suspected to be under the influence of alcohol, the officer may ask you to submit to a field sobriety test or a portable breath test. After an arrest for impaired driving, the police officer will advise you of your rights and give you with an Advice of Rights form (DR-15) before requesting you submit to a chemical blood alcohol concentration (BAC) test.
If you test above the legal limit for alcohol which is 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.
The police officer will then confiscate your Maryland driver’s license and you may be issued with a 45-day temporary paper license. If you do not request a hearing or your hearing was unsuccessful, your license will be automatically suspended from 46 days after your arrest.
If you are convicted on an alcohol-related offense, you face an additional MVA hearing. The MVA has the power to suspend or even revoke a convicted drunk driver’s license. The penalties are more severe for people under 21 and commercial drivers
An eligible drunk driver may immediately opt-in to Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program instead of serving the suspension period. If you have an ignition interlock device installed while you have your temporary license, you should avoid MVA court and a further administrative license suspension.
Drivers are also referred to the interlock program by District Courts, administrative law judges, and the MVA.
The MVA’s Administrative Adjudication Division (AAD) may require or suggest a driver participate if he or she has accumulated sufficient points or is a repeat offender.
Although using an ignition interlock can be burdensome, most drivers prefer it to the alternative of not being able to drive. Using an ignition interlock can reduce some of the negative consequences a DUI has on a driver’s life. The driver may be able to get to work, run errands and pick up his or her children.
Restricted licenses are issued to drivers whose licenses have been suspended and revoked due to legal problems, usually driving under the influence. Drivers found guilty of intoxicated driving can request a restricted license. Not all DUI drivers are eligible for a restricted license. If you refused to take a chemical test or your BAC was above 0.15, you won’t be eligible for a restricted license.
However, these drivers may be able to get back on the road with a restricted license using an ignition interlock device.
Once it is determined that your driving privileges will be restricted, you will receive a letter explaining the restriction and detailing where you can obtain a new, restricted driver’s license at any MVA branch office. The restriction is clearly marked on the front of the driver’s license.
The enactment of Noah’s Law in October 2016 means drivers are required to participate in Maryland’s ignition interlock program for the following convictions:
Noah’s law was named after Montgomery County Police Officer Noah Leotta who was fatally struck and killed in 2015 by a drunk driver while serving on a DUI task force in Rockville.
Instead of requesting a hearing on the suspension or revocation of your license you can elect to take part in the ignition interlock program. An ignition interlock election form is located on the back of the driver’s Order of Suspension.
A participant is typically deemed to have successfully completed the interlock program once the MVA receives certification from the service provider showing there were no violations in the final three months of the participation period.
Drivers are required to report every 30 days to the interlock service provider to have their device calibrated and the data downloaded. Failure to report to the service provider can lead to the offender’s removal from the program and suspension or revocation of his or her driver’s license.
Every transaction from the device is logged including the date, time and details of any violation. This information is then reported to the MVA. Any indication the driver attempted to start the vehicle with a BAC greater than 0.025, an attempt to bypass the system or another indication of non-compliance is a violation of the program.
Participants who violate any part of the program face removal from the ignition interlock program. The MVA will impose the full period of suspension. Violations include:
The extension of Maryland’s ignition interlock program has allowed motorists who in the past would not be able to drive after a DUI to get back on the roads. However, the program can be very complicated and confusing and it’s easy to violate it. Our experienced Maryland DUI attorneys can help you with all your ignition interlock issues and fight the suspension of your license. Call us at (410) 288-2900.