What is the difference between DUI and DWI in Maryland?
In the state of Maryland, Driving While Intoxicated by Alcohol (DWI) refers to a lesser crime than Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI). Someone is usually charged with DWI when their blood alcohol content (BAC) is below the legal limit, but they are showing signs of impaired driving. A person will likely be charged with DUI if their BAC is over the legal limit of .08 percent.
What is the legal limit in Maryland?
Since the legal drinking age is 21, any person under 21 with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02 percent or higher can be charged with DUI, pay a fine, have their license suspended or revoked and possibly do jail time. The legal limit for commercial drivers is .04 percent with many of the same penalties as those who are under 21. Someone with a BAC of between .04 percent and .08 percent, who is showing signs of impairment may be charged with Driving While Impaired (DWI). Often believed to be a lesser charge, conviction carries up to a $500 fine, up to two months in prison, eight points on your driving record, and up to 6 months of driver’s license suspension. A person found to have a blood alcohol content of .08 percent, or higher can be charged with Driving Under the Influence (DUI) which carries up to a $1,000 fine, up to 1 year in prison, 12 points on your driving record, and up to 1 year of a revoked license. Further, security clearances can be revoked, jobs that require driving or interacting with children can be lost, insurers refuse to insure you, and you carry the stigma of the charge on your criminal record.
Can I fight a DUI/DWI charge?
Drunk driving affects everyone from the accused to the people around them on the roads. It also carries the stigma of reckless behavior and public endangerment. In other words, no one likes it. Judges have little tolerance for DUI cases and juries are often upset by the very thought that someone would drink and then drive on the same roads as their loved ones. That is why fighting a DUI is extremely difficult for young, inexperienced attorneys. (For our purposes we will refer to DUI/DWI as simply DUI.) Fortunately, attorneys with experience defending against this type of case understand its technical intricacies and the weaknesses of law enforcement officers who pull people over.
While a person with BAC of .08 percent is presumed to be intoxicated, this does not necessarily mean that a person is guilty of DUI. Likewise, if a person is pulled over with a .04 percent BAC, that does not mean they were not intoxicated. Police officers are taught a script to use when asked about a DUI case. An experienced attorney will know that script, find weaknesses in the chain of events, see deviations from the norm when a person is pulled over, challenge presented evidence, and ultimately win the DUI case on behalf of the defendant. Without that knowledge or experience, it is nearly impossible to fight a DUI charge successfully.
What should I do if I am pulled over by a police officer?
If you are pulled over by a police officer who suspects that you are under the influence, remember you have the right to remain silent. You must legally provide the officer with your name and your identification information, but you do not need to answer their questions. In fact, with the popularity of body cameras, the importance of remaining silent cannot be overstated. Always assume that you will be arrested when a police officer pulls you over, and you remain silent, but talking to a police officer without an attorney present will ensure you are convicted.
Never submit to a field sobriety test. These tests are not scientifically verified, nor are they required by law. Police officers are trained to conduct field sobriety tests as a way of showing evidence of intoxication. In reality, many people will fail them while they are completely sober. If a police officer removes you from your vehicle, assume it is just a precursor to being arrested.
If you have had anything to drink that night, don’t take a breathalyzer. Maryland is an “implied consent” state, meaning that carrying a driver’s license means you automatically consent to a breathalyzer test. Refusing one will lead to the automatic suspension of your license. This can be contested in court within 30 days of the suspension. The inconvenience of it all is nothing compared to the consequences of failing a breathalyzer test. Remember, without a breathalyzer and a field sobriety test, there is little evidence that you were intoxicated or driving under the influence.
Can I be charged with DUI even if I do not have alcohol in my system?
IThe rise of prescription medication use and abuse and the decriminalization of marijuana in small quantities have lead to a rise in drug-related impaired driving cases. Police departments are giving “Drug Recognition Experts” the tools to determine the type of drugs you have in your system in the field. If you are pulled over for suspected impaired driving and pass a breathalyzer with a “.00 percent,” it is possible for a police officer to test you for marijuana or prescription opioids. The simple presence of these substances, even if you are not impaired, can result in a DUI or DWI charge. Not submitting to field sobriety, breathalyzer or field drug tests, accepting the license suspension, and fighting it in court is your best chance at beating such a charge.
Must-Appear Traffic Offenses vs. Payable Offenses
Traffic offenses in Maryland are divided into two broad categories: payable offenses and must-appear offenses. Payable offenses are those that can be paid prior to the court date so that a court appearance can be avoided. By doing so, you are pleading guilty to the offense and agreeing to pay the fines involved. These offenses don’t require that you appear in court, but you have the right to do so if you desire. You can request a waiver hearing and plead guilty. Another option is to plead not guilty and request a trial. Some examples of payable offenses include failure to stop, improper turning and speeding.
The other category of traffic offenses is must-appear. As its name suggests, you don’t have a choice in appearing in court to answer for the charges. These charges are more serious and can include offenses such as driving on a suspended license, fleeing and evading the police, leaving the scene of an accident and DUI. The charges often carry a penalty of incarceration if you are found guilty. Hiring an attorney experienced in traffic offenses in Baltimore, Maryland is vital to ensure that your case is handled expertly.