Like many other states, Maryland DUI law mandates stiff penalties for driving drunk. Steep fines, jail time and prison terms of up to three years for repeat offenses are just some of the consequences that drivers face. In 2016, Maryland also toughened its license sanctions and expanded its use of the ignition interlock device. It requires passing a breathalyzer test in order to drive your car. Enhanced sentences and penalties are also likely under Maryland DUI law if you’re caught with children in your vehicle. We’ll discuss all this and more, below.
Maryland DUI Law
What Is The Blood Alcohol Concentration Limit?
Unlike other states, Maryland DUI law recognizes two major types of offenses. A blood alcohol level of .08 or higher results in a charge of Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Under state law, drivers with levels of .08 or higher are considered intoxicated “per se”. This means that a chemical breath test is seen as sufficient legal proof that you were driving drunk. Police officers need not present additional evidence, such as the smell of alcohol on your breath, to establish a DUI case in court.
A blood alcohol level of .07 or lower is classified as Driving While Impaired (DWI), which is a lesser offense. Maximum penalties for those crimes from two to 12 months in jail, and a $500 fine. For commercial drivers, the BAC is .04.
What Happens If I Get Pulled Over?
A police officer is authorized under Maryland DUI law to stop and question drivers whom he suspects of using alcohol or controlled substances. He may ask that you submit to a portable breath test, or field sobriety test, to assess your blood alcohol content and ability to do basic tasks, the Motor Vehicle Administration states.
However, before the officer administers the test, he must explain your legal rights, and have you sign a DR-15 form as a confirmation.
Can I Refuse the BAC Test?
Maryland DUI law prohibits refusing a breathalyzer test. The state assumes that you give consent when applying for a driver’s license. For that reason, this standard is commonly called the implied consent law.
What Happens If I Refuse It?
If you say no, Maryland DUI law mandates an immediate license suspension of 270 days on a first offense, the MVA’s overview states. Penalties for second and subsequent offenses cam mean a two-year suspension.
If you refuse, or test above the legal limit, the officer can confiscate your license; they’ll issue a 45-day temporary paper license. Regardless of the situation, your insurance company may cancel your policy.
Can I Plead “Wet Reckless”?
Unlike in other states, drivers facing a Maryland DUI law conviction have the option of pleading guilty to a lesser charge, like reckless driving. To enter a “wet and reckless” plea, defendants must not have caused any injuries or property damage in their accident, and have no prior convictions on their record.
What Are the Penalties I Should Expect?
Entering a “wet and reckles” plea means that you’re less likely to go to jail, lose your license, or pay the maximum fines Maryland DUI law mandates. Taking this option allows more control over the outcome, instead of rolling the dice in court with a potentially hostile or punitive judge.
The prosecutor doesn’t have to accept your plea. In practice, however, he may be willing to settling one more case on a potentially crowded court docket. He then use discretion to recommend that the judge impose alternative measures, like community service, lower fines, or probation. However, your insurance company may still treat the situation like a DUI case, which could result in higher premiums, or canceled coverage.
First Offense DUI
For a first offense, Maryland DUI law imposes up to a year in jail, a $1,000 maximum fine, and a six-month license revocation. The state will also assess 12 points on your license, and require that you enroll in an ignition interlock program for six months.
If you enroll voluntarily, you may keep driving, but only after the state installs the device in your car, and accept a special interlock-restricted license.
Second Offense DUI
Conviction of a second offense can mean up to two years in prison. This also includes a five-day mandatory minimum sentence, and a $2,000 fine. You’ll also lose your license for a year. Maryland DUI law also extends the interlock ignition program enrollment period to a year.
Third Offense DUI
If you’re caught behind the wheel again, expect a potential three-year maximum term in prison, and up to $3,000 fines, per Maryland DUI law. Your mandatory minimum jail time will also go up to 10 days.
Penalties rise to four years in prison, and up to $4,000 in fines, if an officer sees a child in the vehicle. You’ll be ordered to enroll in a substance abuse treatment and counseling program. The state will also revoke your license for 18 months.
Fourth Offense DUI
A fourth conviction in five years under Maryland DUI law carries the same penalties as a third offense. However, you’ll wait two years to get your license back, rather than the 18 months your previous conviction mandated. Also, the court may order that you spend a year or more in an interlock program.
As this rundown shows, Maryland DUI laws are not something to take lightly. Know your limit and stick to it, because your blood alcohol content will dictate what happens to you. Also, remember that the court fines and jail sentences represent just one part of the punishment. Losing the ability to drive often poses a bigger hammer, particularly if your income depends on it.
However, an experienced criminal defense attorney can mitigate some or most of these penalties. Just remember to call one before accepting a plea bargain, or entering a courtroom. If you know the consequences, you won’t be taken by surprise.