It was a gorgeous day at Camden Yards and the Orioles beat the Yankees 11 to 3. To celebrate you and your buddies decide to grab a beer at Pickles Pub. One beer turns into several and next thing you know your phone is blowing up. It's 7:30 pm and your wife wants to know why you aren't home for dinner. You've got to go. Maybe you'll sober up on the walk to the parking lot. You get to the car, get in and start driving. Your phone rings again. You look down to answer and you swerve. Next thing you know, there are flashing lights behind you and you are being pulled over.
You have been charged with Driving Under the Influence ("DUI"). What do you do now? The following information will help you with your Baltimore DUI. See FindLaw's DUI section for more articles and resources.
Maryland law provides that a person may not "drive" or "attempt to drive" while under the influence of or while impaired by alcohol or drugs. There are separate charges for DUIs ("Driving Under the Influence") and DWI ("Driving While Impaired") in Maryland. Basically, the difference between the two charges is the Blood Alcohol Concentration (or BAC). You are presumed to be "under the influence" at 0.08% or higher and you are presumed to be "impaired" at 0.07%. The penalties for each charge are slightly different as well.
The Traffic Stop and Preliminary Breath Test
Most likely you will be interacting with the Baltimore Police, or the Maryland State Police. If you are pulled over for suspicion of driving while impaired or under the influence, before arrest or issuance of a citation, the officer may request that you take a preliminary breath test on the side of the road. This is a test used as a guide for the officer to determine whether or not to make an arrest. You are not required to take this test and it is not admissible against you. Regardless of whether you take this test, the officer can still arrest you if he or she has probable cause.
Back At The Station
Once you are detained, and back at the police station, the officer will likely request that you take a separate breath or blood test. By driving in Maryland you are deemed to have consented to this test. You cannot be forced to take it, but if you refuse, there are consequences.
In most cases, assuming you refuse the test or record a blood alcohol content at 0.08% or higher, the officer will confiscate your driver's license, give you an order of suspension, and provide a temporary license good for 45 days. You then have 10 days to request an administrative hearing on the suspension.
The Administrative Hearing
If you timely request a hearing it will be set within 45 days (before your temporary license expires). An administrative law judge ("ALJ") will preside over the hearing and the issues surrounding your case are essentially restricted to whether the officer had reasonable grounds to believe you were under the influence, whether he requested a test after fully advising you of the administrative penalties, whether you refused or tested over the legal limit, and whether there was evidence of use of alcohol or drugs.
If the suspension is upheld, it will be imposed for between 45 days and 1 year, depending on the circumstances. You have the right to appeal the decision.
What About a Restrictive License?
Under certain circumstances you may be eligible for a restrictive license if the Motor Vehicle Administration finds that:
- You are required to drive a car for work;
- Your license is required to attend an alcohol treatment or prevention program;
- You have no alternative means of transportation to or from work and without the license your ability to earn a living would be severely impaired;
- Your license is required to get health care treatment (for you or immediate family) and you and immediate family have no alternative transportation; or
- Your license is required to attend school
The criminal penalties for your DUI/DWI vary depending on the circumstances, but generally for a first offense, a DWI carries with it fines of up to $500 and imprisonment of up to 2 months or both, whereas a DUI carries with it fines up to $1000, and imprisonment up to a year or both. In addition, if you are convicted of a DUI or DWI, "points" will be added to your driving record, which can lead to your license being suspended or revoked.
Getting An Attorney
If you have been charged with DUI or DWI it is recommended that you hire a defense attorney to help you in the criminal and administrative proceedings.
You can refer to FindLaw's DUI Court Procedure section for more information on DUI proceedings, including hearings, trials and appeals. You may also check out the Using a DUI Lawyer section for further advice as to how to find an attorney even if you can't afford to hire one.