DUI in Maryland

What is a DUI in Maryland?

Driving under the influence or DUI in Maryland is defined as the crime of operating a vehicle after consuming drugs, alcohol, or substances capable of impairing a person's senses, causing them to drive unsafely. Although the Maryland Transportation Code lists various impaired driving offenses, DUIs rank as the most severe drinking and driving offenses. Hence, they are included in the Maryland criminal record of convicted offenders.

The Maryland court system and the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) enforce harsh punishments such as high fines, incarceration, and the loss of driving privileges to deter drinking and driving behaviors. Because a DUI conviction casts doubt on a person's character, it has long-term consequences on an offender in terms of work capability, financial resources, social ties, and so on.

What is the Difference Between a DUI and a DWI in Maryland?

There are several types of intoxicated driving charges in Maryland, but they are divided into two major categories: DUIs (driving under the influence) and DWIs (driving while impaired). While the terms are commonly used interchangeably to refer to the same misconduct—a drunk or drugged driving offense, the two have varying penalties in Maryland. Driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs, or other impairing substances is known as a DUI. On the other hand, a DWI refers to driving while impaired when one's normal coordination is hampered in any manner.

Apart from the general definitions of DUIs and DWIs, the state also differentiates between the two terms by an offender's blood alcohol concentration (BAC). Therefore, an individual can be accused of a DUI if found driving or attempting to drive while alcohol-impaired and with a BAC of at least .08 percent. Meanwhile, a driver may be charged with a DWI if their blood alcohol content is between .07 and .08 percent.

Maryland DUI Laws

The Maryland Transportation Code maintains that drinking and driving are illegal in Maryland, as it is in every other state in the US. The Code contains the state's DUI and DWI regulations and punishments. It itemizes the blood alcohol (BAC) restrictions, administrative license suspensions, Ignition Interlock Device (IID) requirements, and other provisions regarding drunk driving charges in Maryland.

Types of drunk driving offenses in Maryland

According to the state's Transportation Code, four types of impaired driving offenses can be prosecuted in the state:

  • Driving while under the influence of alcohol
  • Driving while impaired by alcohol
  • Driving while impaired by drugs, or drugs and alcohol
  • Driving while impaired by dangerous controlled substances

In most cases, these violations are grouped into two categories: DUIs and DWIs.

BAC restrictions

If anyone drives with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08 or more in Maryland, they can incur DUI charges. The state considers an individual to be "under the influence of alcohol per se" with a BAC of .08 or more. This implies that other evidence of intoxication, such as the smell of alcohol on the offender's breath or their failure to pass field sobriety tests, will not be required.

On the other hand, DWI charges apply if one's BAC limit is between .07 and .08 percent. For a DWI, despite the individual's BAC being below the state's legal limit, there must be additional signs of drunkenness or intoxication, including impaired reflexes, the smell of alcohol, or failed sobriety tests. However, if a motorist's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.05 or below, the assumption is that the individual is not alcohol-impaired.

It is crucial to note that while driving or attempting to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol is unlawful, driving under the influence with a minor in the vehicle is even more so.

Underage Drinking (Drivers Under 21)

Maryland has a "zero tolerance" policy for drunk driving behaviors for underage drivers. The maximum BAC permitted for such drivers is below .02 percent. Anything above that is illegal. Even if an underage driver drinks in moderation, the individual can be charged with a DUI if pulled over by the police.

Commercial Drivers

Commercial drivers are held to a higher standard in Maryland when it concerns drinking and driving. As such, a commercial driver found with a BAC of .04 percent or above violates the state's DUI/DWI laws.

Maryland's Implied Consent law

The state's implied consent law maintains that a driver accused of a DUI/DWI in Maryland is susceptible to a fine and an automatic license suspension if they refuse to take a chemical test to ascertain their level of intoxication. A 120-day punishment is imposed for the first refusal, and a one-year suspension is imposed for the second or subsequent refusal.

DUI Penalties in Maryland

Officers in Maryland devote a great deal of time and effort to reducing drunk driving acts in the state. The courts and MVA impose severe penalties on those arrested and convicted of DUI charges to lessen DUI-related crashes. A DUI can result in several penalties, including incarceration, driver's license suspension, ignition interlock device, attendance of an alcohol/drug treatment program, fines, and probation. Being an out-of-state driver does not exempt an individual from Maryland's DUI sanctions. Nor does it exclude them from further penalties in their home state.

Additionally, any driver convicted of a DUI or DWI will have demerit points added to their driving record by the Motor Vehicle Administration, in addition to the criminal punishments. These points are sufficient to result in the revocation of a driver's license for some time, and they remain on the driver's record for two years. A driver convicted of a DWI will receive 8 points, and their license will be suspended. In contrast, a driver convicted of a DUI will receive 12 points on their license, making them eligible for revocation.

Although the state views a DUI as a serious crime, factors surrounding a DUI charge determine the severity of a person's sentence. For example, a first-time DUI is not punished as severely as a subsequent conviction. Furthermore, the severity of one's punishment is also assessed by aggravating circumstances, such as a fatality or child passenger. When such factors exist, the penalties will carry more weight.

DUI Penalties for Commercial Drivers

Drivers with a commercial driver's license (CDL) in Maryland who are found guilty of driving while intoxicated risk harsh penalties, which can make it difficult for them to keep their jobs. The repercussions of a DUI conviction for commercial drivers are substantially different from those that regular drivers suffer when faced with a DUI.

In Maryland, first-time offenders with CDLs may face a one-year license suspension. Upon a second offense, an offender's driving rights will be suspended for life. If the driver was found transporting dangerous items, the driver's license would be disqualified for three years. There are no exemptions or remedies to these suspensions.

It is also worth noting that a commercial driver who is convicted of DUI will have their CDL suspended for one year, even if the arrest did not occur in their commercial vehicle.

What Happens When You Get a DWI in Maryland?

A driver convicted of a DWI in Maryland will face penalties fitting of their offense. A person can expect to spend up to 60 days in jail and pay a $500 fine for a first offense. For subsequent offenses, the person may receive a one-year prison sentence or a $500 fine.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration will assign points to the offender's driver's record under certain circumstances. For instance, a DWI conviction will result in an eight-point penalty, enough to suspend the driver's license.

In Maryland, a first DWI offense is punishable by:

  • Two months or less in jail
  • A fine of up to $500
  • Suspension of the offender's driver's license for six months
  • 8 points on the offender's driver's license

If convicted a second time, the offender will face the following penalties:

  • Up to a year in prison
  • A fine of up to $500
  • License suspension for up to nine months

Upon a third DWI, the penalties become more severe. A third conviction could result in:

  • Up to five in prison
  • A $5,000 fine
  • License suspension for up to 12 months

What Happens When You Get a DUI for the First Time in Maryland?

A DUI in Maryland can result in a variety of repercussions, based on the case. A first-time DUI conviction carries these penalties:

  • One year imprisonment
  • A fine of up to $1,000
  • 12 points on the offender's driver's license
  • Revocation of a driver's license for up to six months

Probation before judgment (PBJ) is available to first-time DUI or DWI offenders in Maryland. PBJ means that an offender will be placed on probation before a criminal judgment is entered against them. When a judge agrees to let a first-time offender take a PBJ, the offender will be placed on probation without pleading guilty to any offense. Once the probationary conditions have been met, such as alcohol treatment and community service, the individual will not have the incident documented on their public criminal record. Hence, only law enforcement officers will be able to see the PBJ if probation is completed, and the offender will have no DUI/DWI convictions.

What is the Penalty for a Second DUI in Maryland?

If convicted of a second DUI within two years, a person faces the following DUI penalties in Maryland:

  • Up to two years in prison (with a mandatory minimum of five days)
  • A fine of up to $2,000
  • License suspension for nine months to a year
  • 12 points on the offender's license

Similar to first-time offenders, second-time offenders may also be eligible for a PBJ, but only if the previous violation occurred more than ten years ago. Furthermore, if a driver has been convicted of a DUI before or if a child was in the vehicle, the punishment may be enhanced.

What Happens After a Third DUI in Maryland?

A third DUI conviction within two years carries harsher penalties. This offense is punishable by:

  • Up to five years in prison
  • A $5,000 fine
  • 12-month driver's license suspension.

After the mandatory suspension period, participation in an ignition interlock program is compulsory. The offender may also be required to attend an alcohol abuse assessment and treatment program.

How Long Does a DUI Stay on Your Record in Maryland?

In Maryland, a DUI conviction stays on an offender's criminal record indefinitely. While the state legislature allows the removal or expungement of some convictions, DUIs are not eligible offenses.

However, when individuals receive a conviction, they are assigned demerit points on their driver's license by the MVA. Unlike the DUI convictions, these points do not remain on an offender's driving record forever. Instead, the points will remain on the offender's driving record for three to five years, depending on the offense or until the MVA clears them.

DUI Expungement in Maryland

The process of erasing arrest or conviction records is known as an expungement. In Maryland, although the outcome of a criminal case usually decides whether or not specific records can be erased, DUI/DWI convictions cannot be expunged from a person's criminal record. Also, a DUI or DWI conviction that resulted in a Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) cannot be completely erased in Maryland. (However, it might only be accessible to law enforcement.)

Although a first DUI will be recorded, earlier offenses will not be used against the offender for sentencing purposes. A prior DUI conviction in Maryland can only be used to raise the punishment for a later crime if it occurs within five years of the first.

How Likely is Jail Time After a First DUI in Maryland?

A first DUI in Maryland will likely result in jail time. In the state, first DUIs carry a jail penalty of up to a year in prison. If a child was in the car at the time, a first DUI could result in a doubled sentence: two years in prison.

However, a first-time offender may qualify for Probation Before Judgment (PBJ). When a judge approves a PBJ, the defendant may avoid going to jail.

What is the Average Cost of DUI in Maryland?

Depending on the severity of the charges, drunk driving charges could end up costing a Maryland driver between $5,000 and $20,000. The typical costs associated with this charge include:

  • Towing costs: The overall cost of towing a vehicle after a DUI arrest depends on where the defendant was detained and if the arresting officer will allow the individual to leave their car in a nearby parking lot to be picked up later. If this is not the case, the defendant should expect to pay several hundred dollars to have their vehicle removed from an impound yard.
  • Court costs and fines: Court expenses and fines differ depending on the defendant's location within the state and whether or not the person is a first-time offender. In Maryland, for example, the maximum financial punishment for driving while impaired (DWI) is a $500 fine and $1,000 for driving under the influence (DUI). As a result, court expenses and fines could total several hundred dollars.
  • Bail: A defendant's ability to post bail is determined by their criminal record and the circumstances surrounding their arrest. As a result, bail amounts can be set as high as several thousand dollars.
  • Ignition interlock system: When an offender meets certain criteria, such as being a repeat offender or having a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC), they may be required to install an ignition interlock system in their vehicle before receiving a restricted license. Installing the system costs roughly $150, with monthly service fees of up to $50.
  • Hearing with the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA): DUI defendants have the right to appeal their license suspension by requesting an administrative hearing. The Office of Administrative Hearings charges individuals who choose to contest their license suspension a sum of $125.
  • Vehicle insurance: A significant increase in auto insurance rates that will most likely apply to a DUI or DWI offender. These premiums will not just rise and then fall back to their previous levels. Instead, they might stay high for years after the offense, costing a person tens of thousands of dollars.
  • Legal fees: Given the seriousness of DUI and DWI charges in Maryland, hiring an experienced Maryland DUI lawyer is non-negotiable. A good lawyer can guard a defendant's best interests and navigate the complexities of the state's criminal justice system. The cost for legal services varies by case but typically totals a few thousand dollars.

How Much is Bail for a DUI in Maryland?

In a Maryland DUI case, the court sets the bail amount at its discretion. Typically, a judge determines the bail amount by examining the defendant's criminal history, ties to the community, the charge, previous convictions, failure to appear in court, and other criteria.

For DUIs, bail can be paid in various ways, including cash, wire transfers from bank accounts, or bail bondsmen.

How to Get My License Back After a DUI in Maryland?

When a person's license is suspended in Maryland due to a DUI arrest, they have a limited time to request a hearing to oppose the suspension. Addressing the problem immediately, especially with the assistance of an attorney, increases the odds of a favorable outcome.

The Administrative Hearing for License Suspension

Any driver arrested for a DUI in Maryland has the right to request a hearing with the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to have their license suspension reviewed. They have thirty days to request a hearing with the MVA following a suspension notice. If the motorist wants to avoid having their driver's license suspended, they must request a hearing within ten days following a traffic stop. The suspension will commence on the 46th day if the driver does not request a hearing.

In reviewing an offender's request, the Motor Vehicle Administration will consider the following facts at the hearing:

  • If the police had reason to believe the driver was driving or attempting to drive while under the influence
  • If there was proof that the motorist was under the influence of drink or drugs
  • If the police officer ordered a test after informing the driver about the consequences of refusing or failing the test
  • If the motorist refused to take the test
  • If the motorist had an alcohol content of 0.08 or higher at the time of testing and drove or attempted to drive a motor vehicle
  • Whether the license holder drove or attempted to drive a motor vehicle while having an alcohol concentration of 0.15 or more
  • If the license holder was operating a commercial motor vehicle or had a commercial driver's license
  • If the individual was engaged in an accident that resulted in the death of another individual

The motorist's driver's license will be suspended if the MVA Administrative Law Judge finds that the motorist was lawfully stopped, informed, and failed to take the test. The license will be reinstated if this is not the case.

Apart from requesting an administrative hearing, an individual can recover their driver's license by requesting a restricted license to operate a vehicle during the license suspension period or by applying for license reinstatement when the suspension period is over.

  • Obtaining a restricted license

After a DUI conviction in Maryland, a person may regain their driver's license by agreeing to an ignition interlock. Afterward, the MVA will issue a restricted license to allow them to drive to and from work. However, to obtain a restricted license, the individual must establish a hardship or need. This is because the MVA can deny the request if the applicant can utilize public transportation or other means of transport.

Suppose a person's driver's license was revoked for a DUI. In that case, they may reinstate it after a specific period has passed. The minimum period that an individual must wait before requesting reinstatement of their Maryland driver's license is determined by the number of times their license has been revoked:

  • One revocation: 6-month waiting period
  • Two revocations: 12-month waiting period
  • Three revocations: 18-month waiting period
  • Four or more revocations: 24-month waiting period

The waiting time begins on the day they surrender their revoked driver's license or on the revocation date. The more DUI violations a person has, the less likely they are to regain their privileges before the license suspension period is over.

The Reinstatement Process

Individuals who meet the requirements for the reinstatement of their driver's license may contact the MVA's Driver Wellness and Safety Division (DW&S) by phone or visit the office to have their license reinstated. The department will ask for information such as the applicant's full name, address, date of birth, and driver's license number.

The MVA will review their driving record for insurance infractions, child support violations, and any other issues that could prevent the license from being reinstated. If there is an issue with the applicant's driving record, the department will write a letter explaining why they are not eligible for reinstatement. If there are no concerns, the department will provide an application form. On completing the driver's license reinstatement application, the individual must return it to the MVA's Driver Wellness and Safety Division, along with the appropriate application fee. The reinstatement fee varies depending on if the driver's license was revoked because of an alcohol-related offense or revoked for other reasons.

After the receipt of the application form and fee, a final decision on license restoration will be made, and the applicant will get a letter approving or rejecting reinstatement. If reinstatement is granted, the applicant must take the letter to any MVA branch office to apply for a new license. They may have to retake the law, vision, and driving skill examinations. If denied reinstatement, the applicant can appeal to the Office of Administrative Hearings.

How Does a DUI Affect Your Life in Maryland?

DUI convictions obtained in Maryland have long-term social, financial, and professional consequences on offenders. One significant long-term implication is that the conviction appears on criminal background checks. As a result, a DUI conviction may render a person unemployed or cause them to be overlooked in a job application review process.

Another long-term effect is higher insurance premiums. Following a DUI charge, an insurance provider may cancel or raise an offender's insurance rates, as a DUI offender is often considered "high risk".

Aside from the above, there are other consequences that a convicted DUI offender may suffer, such as the stigma associated with a criminal conviction, financial costs arising from the criminal sentence, limited mobility owing to the loss of driving privileges, and so on.

Can You Get Fired for a DUI in Maryland?

Yes, depending on the internal policy of an offender's workplace, a Maryland DUI can affect a person's employment. A DUI could severely influence a person's job if their employer prohibits them from getting convicted of a criminal offense or if their job requires driving.

Additionally, some organizations require their employees to inform them of arrests or convictions immediately. These companies may consider that information when making decisions about a person's employment, especially because DUI convictions encourage employers to believe that a staff member may have a substance problem, thereby jeopardizing their ability to be trusted and productive.

How Do I Find DUI Checkpoints in Maryland?

Although several states in the United States illegalize sobriety checkpoints because they violate a person's Fourth Amendment rights, Maryland considers DUI/sobriety checkpoints to be constitutional and advantageous to reducing the number of DUI-related accidents and deaths.

DUI checkpoints serve the primary purpose of detaining impaired drivers and warning them that law enforcement officials are in the vicinity and on the watch for intoxicated driving. These checkpoints can be set up at any time, but they are typically placed in areas where alcohol-related arrests or accidents are common.

Regardless of the importance of DUI checkpoints, state law enforcement officials do not have the authority to set up DUI roadblocks randomly. Instead, they must follow strict rules outlined by the Supreme Court of the United States and Maryland statutes. Fulfilling these requirements ensures that all evidence obtained at the checkpoints will be admissible in court. These requirements include:

  • The checkpoint should be organized and neutral.
  • The public must be notified about the checkpoint in advance.
  • Ahead of time, road signage must alert drivers of the checkpoint.
  • To avoid passing through the checkpoint, drivers must be offered the choice to turn around.
  • Officers are not allowed to halt a car just because the driver turned around unless the motorist does something that warrants a valid traffic stop.

Because the law mandates that the DUI checkpoints be announced to the public in advance, participating law enforcement agencies release the information on their public websites. For example, the Maryland State Police have a news release section on their public website. The page provides all the details about upcoming DUI checkpoints, including the other agencies involved and the time and location of the checkpoint.

Which is Worse, DUI vs. DWI?

DWIs in Maryland are considered less serious charges than DUIs. DWI (driving while impaired) offenses occur when a driver's blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0.07 to 0.08 percent. While DWI suspects frequently pass their breath tests with results just below the legal limit, they exhibit other signs of intoxication, such as failing a field sobriety test or driving recklessly. This level of impairment is considered dangerous, which is why individuals found guilty in Maryland face criminal penalties as well as administrative license suspensions.

On the other hand, when a driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) reaches 0.08 percent or more, they will be charged with driving under the influence (DUI). Because the state's legal BAC limit is 0.08 percent, any BAC of 0.08 percent or above is a serious crime that can result in incarceration, massive fines, and a revoked driver's license.

While the state may prosecute an offender on DUI and DWI charges simultaneously, an individual can only be sentenced for one of these offenses at a time. Thus, if a person is convicted of a DUI charge, the other DWI charge will be merged with the DUI charge.

However, when convicted of a DWI, a DUI charge may not be included since the penalties of a DWI are less stringent than those of a DUI, and DUIs are the more extreme drunk or drugged driving offense.