As prosecutors and defense attorneys, Barry Helfand and David Martella have handled thousands of DUI cases. Anyone who has been charged with a DUI in Maryland should be aware that punishment can often come from two separate branches of our government. First, the judicial system seeks to impose criminal convictions, probationary sentences, and possibly time in jail. Second, the Motor Vehicle Administration may seek to suspend or revoke a defendant’s driver’s license for a variety of issues related to a single DUI event. In many cases, the punitive actions of the MVA against a client’s driver’s license can be more onerous and last longer than the punishment imposed by the courts.
If you have been arrested for a DUI, you should consult with counsel as soon as possible. Important decisions may have to be made within ten days of the arrest to avoid certain mandatory suspensions from going into effect. It is also important that you begin taking certain actions that will improve the outcome in court and at the MVA. The worst course of action is to do nothing and simply wait for your hearing dates.The Judicial System and DUI
When you go to court, you will see that prosecutors in just about every DUI case make one of two offers to a defendant: (1) plead guilty to DUI or DWI, or (2) have a trial. Therefore, we begin every case looking for any possible ways to win. We look at all important aspects of the case to find possible defenses and develop issues that might give us leverage in negotiating a favorable resolution for you: law enforcement errors made during the traffic stop; infringement of your constitutional rights; medical conditions that could have affected your test results; errors in the field sobriety tests; the advice given to you regarding your rights and ability to take a breath or blood test; and issues regarding the operation of the breath test or blood testing equipment.
In many cases, the client has taken a breath or blood test that indicates he or she is above the legal limit. There was a time in Maryland when someone could be above the legal limit, but still defend the case on the grounds that he or she still exhibited adequate coordination to safely operate a motor vehicle. Maryland now has a per se DUI law that legally deems anyone above a 0.08 BAC to be “under the influence” of alcohol. Therefore, it is important to examine the case for any possibility to keep the test results out of evidence by arguing that (1) the officer did not have sufficient reason to require the test in the first place, or (2) proper procedures were not followed in the maintenance of the test equipment or conduct of the test.The MVA and DUI
The court system usually concludes a DUI case with one single court date where all issues are resolved and a penalty, if any, is issued. The penalties from the MVA, however, can come in waves. It is important to understand that the MVA can suspend a person’s driver license for several different issues that arise from a single DUI arrest – and those suspensions are not all handed out at once. License suspensions resulting from a DUI may include:
- Recording a blood or breath test above a 0.08.
- Refusing to take a blood or breath test.
- Driving with alcohol in your system while under the age of 21.
- Driving with alcohol in your system while having an alcohol license restriction.
- Getting a conviction for driving under the influence or driving while impaired.
- Getting the points associated with a conviction for driving under the influence or driving while impaired.
- Getting a conviction or probation before judgment while holding a provisional license.
- Getting a conviction or probation before judgment while holding a CDL license.
- Refusing a breath test or failing a breath test while driving a commercial vehicle.
It is important to consult with us soon after your arrest to decide if you will either (1) challenge the MVA suspension; (2) accept a suspension of your license; (3) seek a restricted license as an alternative to a suspension; or (4) install the interlock device in your vehicle as an alternative to a suspension.
The decisions you make after your arrest regarding the MVA penalties may be vitally important to minimizing the penalties the MVA may seek later on. Also, deciding what not to do with the MVA is as important as deciding when to go fight the MVA. There are times when the penalties imposed after a hearing to challenge an MVA suspension can be much worse than options available to the client without having hearing. This is another reason why you should seek experienced counsel who deals with these issues on a regular basis.
If you or someone you care about has been arrested for DUI, it is important to not wait any longer to seek experienced legal advice. We can be reached at 301-251-9001, or fill out our online consultation request form.