DUI vs. DWI in Maryland

In the State of Maryland, if you are stopped for an alcohol-related driving offense, it is quite common to be charged with more than one citation.  This does not mean that you are alleged to have committed more than one offense or that you can be convicted of more than one driving offense.  Rather, this practice relates to the fact that the offenses related to Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (DUI) or Driving While Impaired by Alcohol (DWI) are all contained within the same Maryland statute and must be charged separately.

 

The State of Maryland has three main alcohol-related offenses that are contained in the Maryland Code, Transportation Article, § 21-902:  Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol Per Se, and Driving While Impaired by Alcohol.  The first two statutes are both referred to as Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol.  The third statute is referred to as the Driving While Impaired statute.

 

A DUI is the alcohol-related driving offense that is punished most harshly in Maryland.  This crime is separated into two very similar crimes:  Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol and Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol Per Se.  The maximum penalty for a first conviction of DUI is one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. For a second offense, the maximum penalty is up to two years in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.  For a third offense, the maximum penalty can be up to three years in jail and/or a $3,000 fine.

 

A DWI carries a less severe penalty than the DUI.  The maximum penalty for a first conviction of DWI is 60 days in jail and/or a $500 fine.  A second or subsequent offense carries a maximum possible penalty of $ 500 and/or 1 year in jail.  Please remember that the maximum penalties referenced for both the DUI and DWI are simply the maximum possible penalty that can be imposed for a conviction for such an offense.  A judge is not required to impose executed jail time for an offense, unless the prosecution seeks such additional time under the applicable statute.

 

Motor Vehicle Administration IssuesFor most people, the most important consequences of their DUI/DUI charge is how it will affect their ability to drive.  The Maryland Motor Vehicles Administration (MVA) is the only agency in Maryland with the power to suspend or revoke your driving privileges.  If you have been arrested for a DUI or DWI, you have been or likely will be charged with a violation of the Maryland Code, Transportation Article § 16-205.1.  By driving or attempting to drive on Maryland’s public roads, you have impliedly consented to take a chemical test (e.g., breathalyzer) to detect your alcohol or drug levels, should you be detained on suspicion of DUI or DWI.

 

If you are a licensed driver in Maryland with a non-commercial license to drive, the police probably took your license after you were arrested on suspicion of DUI or DWI.  If you do nothing further and do not request a hearing before the MVA your license to drive in Maryland will be suspended automatically on the 46th day following your arrest.  If you agreed to take a chemical test and the test result was below .15 and you do not have any prior DUI or DWI convictions during the preceding five years, then you may be suspended for a period of up to forty five (45) days.  However, you are eligible to receive a modified license during your 45 day period of suspension.  Under this restricted license, you will be eligible to drive to and from work to commute, you will be eligible to drive for work if your job requires driving, and you will be eligible to drive to alcohol/drug treatment and education.

 

If you took a chemical test and the result was in excess of .15, then you may have your license suspended for a period of ninety (90) days for a first offense or one hundred eighty (180) for a second or subsequent offense.  In addition, you will not be eligible for a restricted license, except if you install an Ignition Interlock system on your vehicle.  You also have the option of waiving your right to an administrative hearing and electing to accept the Ignition Interlock or the straight 90 day suspension.

 

If you refuse to take a chemical test and this is your first refusal, the MVA may suspend your license for a period of one hundred twenty (120) days for a first offense and one (1) year for a second or subsequent offense.  If it is a subsequent refusal, the MVA will attempt to suspend your license for one year. In addition, you will not be eligible for a restricted license, except if you install an Ignition Interlock system on your vehicle.

 

In addition to the above-mentioned penalties, a DUI conviction will place 12 points on your record.  A conviction for a DWI will place 8 points on your driving record.  Any accumulation of 8 or more points in any two-year period can result in a suspension of up to 30 days for the first violation.  A second such accumulation can result in a suspension of up to 90 days.  An accumulation of twelve points in any two-year period can result in revocation in your driver’s license.  These suspensions/revocations are in addition to those the suspensions/revocations for points accumulation that can run concurrently or consecutively.

 

Commercial License Holders Only.  If you have a commercial driver’s license, the penalties are substantially increased if you were charged with a DWI/DUI while driving a commercial vehicle or not.  If you refuse to take a chemical test while driving a commercial motor vehicle, the MVA may disqualify the person from operating a commercial motor vehicle for a period of one (1) year for a first offense and for life for a second or subsequent offense.  For a first chemical test indicating a blood alcohol level of .04 or grater, or a refusal to submit to a chemical test, the MVA will attempt to suspend your license for one (1) year.  If you are convicted in court of either DWI or DUI while driving a commercial motor vehicle or not, you can loose your commercial license for an additional year.  The MVA is currently very strict about imposing all the above mentioned penalties.  They are reluctant to reduce or modify the duration of the suspensions involved.

Contact Maryland Criminal Lawyer Mike Rothman for legal help with DUI / DWI issues.