DUI-DWI First Offenses
If you have been arrested for a first alcohol-related DUI offense in Maryland, you are probably wondering why you received multiple citations for what appears to be the same offense: Driving While Impaired by Alcohol; Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol; and Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol Per Se. Driving While Impaired by Alcohol requires proof that your coordination was impaired to any extent by alcohol. Penalties can include up to 60 days in jail and up to $500 in fines with 8 points going on to your driving record (that can lead to a suspension of your driving privileges). Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol requires proof that your coordination was substantially impaired by alcohol and carries penalties that include up to one year in jail, up to $1,000 in fines, and 12 points on your record (that can lead to a revocation of your driving privileges). Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol Per Se means that, even if you had perfect coordination while driving your vehicle, there is evidence (usually a breath test) that you had a blood alcohol level of 0.08 or more. The potential penalties are the same as Driving Under the Influence.
After you are arrested for a first DUI in Maryland, there are typically two entities that will seek to impose punishment against you. First, is the Motor Vehicle Administration that will seek to suspend your driving privileges for failing a breath test or refusing to take a test. Second, is the prosecutor's office, that will be asking the Court to enter a conviction on your record with punishments that can include incarceration, probation, treatment and other onerous conditions of probation.
Often, the most painful aspects of a first-offense DUI are not the things a judge ordered in court, but rather, how the outcomes with the MVA and Court affect the rest of your life, your career, and your family. Not everyone gets the same outcome in Court and a good outcome for one person may be a disastrous outcome for you. Achieving a good outcome begins with making good decisions soon after your arrest, and hopefully within ten days following your arrest. We strongly encourage you to come speak to us if you have been charged with a DUI, and especially if any of the following conditions apply to you:
- You drive to and from work.
- Your employer has insurance to cover you while you are driving for work purposes.
- You drive an employer provided vehicle.
- You have a commercial driver's license.
- You drive your children to school, sporting events, and other scheduled activities.
- You are under 21 and want or need to keep driving a vehicle in the next 12 months.
- You were arrested in Maryland but will be working or going to school in another state in the next 12 months.
- You need to drive yourself or a family member to medical appointments in the next 12 months.
- You fly to other locations and will need to rent a car at your destination.
- You have security clearances.
- You are not a United States citizen.
There have been two significant developments regarding DUI cases in Maryland: “Noah’s law” and body cameras.
“Noah’s Law” went into effect in October 2016 and significantly increases the MVA penalties that follow a DUI arrest. For example, the license suspension term for refusing a breath test on a first arrest increased from 120 days to nine months. The suspension for failing a breath test on a first offense went up from 45 days to 6 months. The law also created new rules regarding who is eligible for a work-restricted license, as well as the conditions for avoiding the suspensions by installing the interlock device in your car. Each of these options can have serious consequences for your ability to drive, your job, and your lifestyle. It is impossible for any website or attorney to tell you the best options for you without speaking with you and finding out about your specific circumstances. Additionally, you may not have to accept any suspension or other penalty. There may be facts about your case that may give you a good defense to any license suspension. In that case, we can request a hearing and challenge the proposed suspensions before an administrative judge. Additionally, because the law is still relatively new, many people who work at the MVA do not understand how it operates and sometimes seek to impose penalties that are not authorized by the law.
It is also important that you understand that “Noah’s Law” also made significant changes regarding the MVA penalties that arise following the outcome of your case in court. Therefore, decisions you make before going to court can greatly impact the consequences of what happens with the MVA after court. Therefore, we encourage you to speak to one of our attorneys about your DUI arrest as soon as possible.
Body Cameras. Each year for police departments are requiring their officers to use body cameras to record their interactions during arrests, including DUI arrests. Rarely does just one officer handle a DUI arrest. Sometimes DUI arrests are handled or attended by close to 10 different officers. That means there are possibly 10 body cameras rolling recording different aspects of the investigation and arrest. These recordings often provide information beneficial defendant. For example, a recording may demonstrate that a driver’s coordination was better than what the officer described in his report. A recording may capture bad advice being given to the driver about his or her rights. Or a camera might record that the driver’s was suffering from a health condition that raises doubts about the allegations that he or she was impaired by alcohol. If the recordings were made, we will get them and review them to determine how they can best be used to your advantage.What are Some of the Biggest Mistakes First Offense DUI Defendants Make?
- Thinking that all first time DUI offenders get the same result.
So many things affect the outcome of a DUI case. The facts about each case make a big difference and are often the determining factor between guilt and innocence. Even if the facts are sufficient to find you guilty, the State is still required to get the evidence into Court and prove you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. And if they don’t do that, you are entitled to walk out of court with a “not guilty” finding. Some aggravating factors substantially increase the seriousness of the penalties the driver is facing: a collision; injuries to other persons; a child in the defendant’s car; resisting arrest; belligerent behavior; incriminating items found in the vehicle. The Court system is also still staffed by human beings, all with unique experiences and personalities. What you say and how you present yourself matters. Who the judge is and who the prosecutor is can also change the outcome of your case. And what you do to prepare for court makes a big difference as well.
- Not doing the things that are necessary to prepare for Court.
DUI cases are not like speeding tickets. We do not advise going to court expecting to simply say: “I am sorry and it will never happen again.” Clients who follow our advice, do their homework, and show up prepared for court typically get better outcomes than the unrepresented defendant or defendant who hires an inexperienced attorney. For example, being prepared may mean the difference between getting prosecuted and convincing a prosecutor to not go forward with the case. Being prepared can mean the difference between getting unsupervised probation and supervised probation – which can mean the difference between paying no probation fees and paying close to $1500 in probation fees over the course of a 12 month term of probation.
- Not doing the things that are necessary to protect yourself after Court.
People come to us all the time wanting to change what happened in court when they represented themselves, or were represented by an attorney service, or an inexperienced attorney. Many times, their options are limited because they didn’t know, or their attorney didn’t know, or their attorney did not care enough to file important paperwork in a timely manner after the court date. Even in those situations, there may be options to fix what was done or not done. You may also receive important notices from Court or the MVA following your court date that require good decisions and quick action. Feel free to contact us if you are in that kind of situation and want the advice of an experienced attorney who has prosecuted and defended thousands of DUI cases.
An arrest and/or finding of guilt for a DUI or DWI can have exceptionally serious consequences for individuals holding a commercial driver's license. If you have a CDL and need it for your employment we recommend you consult with us as soon as possible after your arrest. The decisions you make in the first few days after your arrest regarding your driving privileges may result in the loss of your CDL. If you opt for a temporary work-restricted license or interlock restricted license, your CDL may be suspended.