If you drink and drive in Maryland, you’re subject to charges of a DWI and DUI. DWI, or driving while impaired, is defined by having a blood alcohol content of .07 percent. If your BAC is .08 percent or more, you will be charged with a DUI or driving under the influence.
Obviously, if your BAC is .08 percent, it’s also .07 percent, and you can be charged with both. However, you can only be convictedof either a DWI or DUI. Of the two, a DUI is more serious and carries harsher penalties.
Typically, a DWI charge will be merged with a DUI charge if a BAC of .08 percent or more is present when your breath or blood is tested.
Depending upon your prior arrest and drunk driving record, you face stiff fines, automatic license suspension, highly damaging points against your driver’s license, the expense of installing a breath test alcohol machine in your vehicle, and possible jail time.
Penalties may also be increased by higher BAC levels, having a minor in the car at the time, prior driving-under-the-influence convictions, and if an accident or injury is involved.
Hiring a professional Maryland DUI lawyer in Howard county, Prince George’s county, Montgomery county, or Anne Arundel county is your best defense against a DUI charge.
Maryland and the Implied Consent Law
Maryland is an implied consent state. This means that when you applied for a Maryland driver’s license, you automatically consented to a test of your breath, blood, or urine upon request from any peace officer.
Refusal to comply with this law during a traffic stop for suspected driving under the influence carries heavy penalties from the Maryland Department of Transportation and Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), including mandatory driver’s license suspension and loss of driving privileges.
The officer will likely arrest you for your refusal and will confiscate your license on the spot. They will issue you an interim paper license valid for 60 days. The same is true of any BAC result of .07 percent or higher.
Once stopped for suspicion of DWI or DUI in Maryland, your options are limited. Even so, many attorneys will advise that a motorist refuse the breath test and road sobriety tests because these will be strong pieces of evidence against you.
In Maryland, it only makes sense to consent to a breath test if you are confident you will pass it. This means you’ve had no alcohol for at least the past 12 hours.
If You’re Stopped for Suspicion of DUI or DWI
Your behavior after being stopped for possible DUI charges is critical. The officer is there to get information against you and arrest you if probable cause exists.
It’s very easy to inadvertently say something incriminating without even realizing it. Never admit to anything.
Be polite but firm and say as little as possible.
Anything you say and do can and will be used against you later.
You’re within your legal rights to hand over your license and other documents related to your vehicle and to say nothing. Simply tell the officer you want to consult with your attorney.
In most cases, avoid conversing with a law enforcement officer. You may accidentally reveal incriminating information that can be used against you during your case. The less you say, the better.
Maryland DUI Lawyers and Consent Laws
Although implied consent laws in Maryland require you to submit to a field breath test or face suspension of driving privileges (whether your BAC is above legal limits or not), this does not apply to field sobriety tests, such as walking a straight line, touching your finger to your nose, or the horizontal gaze nystagmus test.
Nystagmus is an abnormal jerking movement of the eyeballs sometimes caused by alcohol consumption. However, this DUI conviction test is only about 77 percent accurate. A perfectly sober person could still fail it because the officer didn’t conduct the test properly or because any nystagmus present has another cause not related to alcohol.
It’s not an absolute indicator of alcohol intoxication by any means.
You should calmly and respectfully refuse to take any field sobriety test.
If the officer determines that probable cause exists and there’s enough proof that you’ve been driving while impaired, they will arrest you, and you may face jail time. If you’ve also revealed incriminating information or failed road sobriety tests, you’ve worsened your DUI case.
Help your Maryland attorney and yourself by limiting evidence against you for your DUI case as much as possible.
Maryland DUI Attorneys and Defense Strategies
If you submitted to a blood test to determine your BAC after being arrested for driving while impaired, you have a small window of time to work with your attorney in your criminal defense.
It will take at least a month for the official blood test results to be analyzed and returned to the attorney prosecuting DUI cases against you for the circuit court.
Blood tests pursuant to an arrest for DUI and DWI must be performed in a Maryland hospital by a licensed nurse or physician familiar with the legal process.
Be sure to ask for a sample to be set aside for future testing. This is your right. Your Maryland DUI lawyer can file a motion with the court to have this sample tested by an independent laboratory. It may be possible to dispute the police lab’s results.
How Much Does It Cost for a Maryland DUI Attorney?
An arrest for DUI or DWI will also cost you money in legal representation. A Maryland DUI lawyer’s fees are related to several factors:
- Experience: The more experience a criminal defense attorney has and, more importantly, their prior success rate with defending DUI and DWI cases in Maryland, the higher the hourly rate will be. However, this DUI and DWI experience is worth paying for because less experienced counsel, while considerably less expensive, may not have the ability to get you the best possible outcome when compared to a more seasoned Maryland DUI lawyer.
- Complexity of your driving-while-impaired case: Some DUI cases are more complicated than others. For example, if you had a minor with you at the time of the arrest, this will increase the time your DUI lawyer must spend on your case to defend you effectively and prevent criminal penalties. This is also true if you’re under 21.
- BAC levels: A BAC level higher than .08 carries additional criminal penalties and may complicate your subsequent DUI defense strategy.
- Whether you accept a plea bargain or go to trial: Especially for a first offense and even for subsequent ones, the prosecuting attorney for DUI trials on behalf of the local court system will often offer a plea bargain. This means the DWI carries a lighter sentence in exchange for a guilty plea. This saves tremendous amounts of time and effort for the prosecuting attorney and is exceedingly common in criminal cases.
Some plea bargains may involve probation and allow for a dismissal of your charges after you successfully complete this court program. However, if you’re not willing to plead guilty or if your attorney advises you not to because they think you can win the case, the cost will be higher. Preparing for a trial for any case, criminal or civil, requires many hours of intensive attorney focus, attention, research, and preparation.
- If you hold a CDL or commercial license: This will complicate your case because your defense for DUI penalties will be more complex. You will be considered driving under the influence of alcohol at just .04 percent BAC.
- Location: The distance your attorney must travel to meet with you and appear in court will also figure into the cost. You cannot choose the court where your case will be assigned. This is pursuant to local court laws and mainly determined by the location of your arrest, which may or may not be near your home.
- Prior DUI or DWI convictions or a criminal record: A prior record of drunk driving on your driving record will always complicate your case. It will take your Maryland attorney more time to prepare your drunk driving defense and fight for the best possible outcome for you when compared to a first DUI or DWI arrest.
Many DUI attorneys, if not most, offer a free consultation. Don’t be afraid to ask about their prior cases and the outcomes from them because this is a reliable indicator of their skill and knowledge about DUI defense.
When choosing a Maryland DUI attorney, also ask about their technical knowledge of alcohol breath test machines and interpretation of police lab BAC results and procedures.
Defense Strategies for a DUI
Your Maryland DUI lawyer can fight your case and influence its outcome in many ways:
- Challenge the field sobriety tests, such as the “walk a straight line” and “stand on one foot” tests. The horizontal gaze nystagmus tests can be especially questioned. You’re not required to comply with any field tests (only the breath test if you want to avoid automatic license suspension).
- Other reasons not related to intoxication explain why you failed a sobriety road test. You could easily fail both above-mentioned road sobriety tests for any number of medical reasons, such as arthritis in your knees or an inner-ear disorder.
- Challenge the arrest procedure and even the stop itself. Police must have some form of probable cause, such as erratic driving in the case of a driving-under-the-influence stop. Did the officer have probable cause? Your criminal defense lawyer may be able to establish that the drunk driving arrest was not warranted.
- Did the officer follow correct DUI arrest procedures? If your rights were not read to you at the correct time, then your DUI arrest and the resulting case against you may not be valid.
- Challenge the breath test if you took one. Skilled DUI lawyers can question the breath test machine’s accuracy, especially since it’s widely accepted that these machines are not as accurate as a BAC blood test. Was the machine properly maintained? Was it correctly calibrated? Did the police officer issue the right instructions before you blew into it? Did you acknowledge that you understood these instructions? These can all be used to get the breath test evidence excluded.
If you’re a first-time offender with a clean driving record, an experienced Maryland DUI lawyer may be able to get your DUI charge reduced to a DWI charge, which carries far less severe penalties.
Even if the prosecution has a strong case against you, your DUI lawyer can still ask the court for a PBJ or probation before judgment if you haven’t had a DWI offense within the past 10 years.
This court program strikes your DUI conviction in exchange for your agreement to complete the court’s alcohol diversion program, which is a form of probation. No points will be assigned against your license during the probationary period as long as you have no program violations.
The Maryland Intoxalock
If you’re found guilty, you will be required to install this device on your car as part of your DUI court case. This device is often paired with a camera taking your image as you blow into the device. It’s intended to prevent a car from starting if the driver’s breath indicates an alcohol level above the legal limit.
However, if you’re under a court-supervised alcohol program, you’re not supposed to drink at all, so keep this in mind because any alcohol consumption automatically violates your probation terms.
This device may also conduct “rolling tests” where you must stop to blow into the machine after you’ve started your trip.
Cheating the System: A Word About Urban Legends
Balloons, pennies, mints, and peanut butter are all ways people have promoted to beat the Intoxalock or a breath test machine. These are all myths and won’t work to fool the machine.
A balloon filled with clean breath from someone sober won’t work because the balloon can’t imitate the force of a live exhalation and won’t contain enough air.
A penny’s copper and zinc content is supposed to fool the machine by confusing it into reporting a clean test. This is false. A breath test measures alcohol in the air from deep in your lungs, not in your mouth, and copper or zinc wouldn’t affect the alcohol in your breath, anyway.
Another urban myth says that eating peanut butter right before a breath test will deceive the machine. This is not true and won’t help during a DUI arrest.
All of the above silly, frivolous suggestions come from people with a poor understanding of the science behind an alcohol breath test machine.
To set the record straight, these machines measure alcohol content in your breath from deep in your lungs. This alcohol is coming from your BAC. The machine calculates your BAC from the alcohol content in your breath.
Know Your Legal Rights
It’s your legal right to defend yourself against any criminal charge, regardless of whether you’re in Prince George’s county, Howard county, Montgomery county, Harford county, or Baltimore county. Be sure to hire the most knowledgeable and proficient Maryland DUI lawyer you can find.
Before you hesitate to pay an experienced DUI lawyer what it’s worth to defend you, remember that this arrest will follow you in some form for the rest of your life and may impact your driving record. You will want to reduce its damage and impact on your future as much as possible.