What You Need to Know About DWI & DUI Cases in Maryland
The Complete Legal Guide

Do you know exactly what to do now? If you are facing a DWI or DUI case in Maryland, you need to take action to keep your drivers’ license, stay out of jail, and keep your job. And you face some very tight legal deadlines. You must act quickly.

 

We are Maryland DWI & DUI lawyers, and we wrote this guide so you can quickly & easily discover the answers to your legal questions. Know your options and be informed before you make big decisions about your DUI or DWI case.

 

You can learn a lot in just 15′ by reading this guide now.

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This guide covers the most common questions you will have if faced with a DWI or DUI case in Maryland. The answers to some of the questions are a bit more complex. So we tried to give a “short answer” to each question before the longer (and more complete) answer. If the topic is really involved, we link to a separate blog post on our website that explains the issue in greater detail. 

You can get the basic information from the short answer, but we do recommend you read the long answer too so you know the details. This stuff isn’t always easy to explain in a few sentences. 

Our Best Advice: This guide contains general information about Maryland DUI & DWI law as a helpful resource for the public. Simply reading this guide does not create an attorney-client relationship with our law firm. 

Reading this guide is no substitute for hiring an attorney. If you have any serious legal issue, you should get personal advice from an attorney who understands the unique facts of your situation. 

We hope you will choose us to handle your Maryland DWI or DUI case. If not, at least talk to another attorney who knows what they are doing. That is the best advice we can ever give you.

Yes. Anyone charged in Maryland with Driving Under the Influence of alcohol (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) will be required to appear in court, in person. Driving under the influence of alcohol and driving while impaired are misdemeanor crimes. But don’t let that fool you. Misdemeanors can still be very serious. If you are charged with a DUI or DWI, you should retain the services of an attorney.

If you are convicted of either Driving Under the Influence of alcohol (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), you will have face the possibility of incarceration and suspension of your license.

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is the more serious of the two offenses. For this offense, the state is required to prove that a person’s ability to drive has been substantially impaired by alcohol. By contrast Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) is a lesser offense, but the state has a lower burden and is required to prove a lesser degree of impairment.

Whether you are subject to a DUI or DWI can be dependent on a number of factors. One of these factors is the amount of alcohol in your system. Everyone is familiar with blood alcohol content (BAC) But very few people know the different BAC levels, and what those levels mean for their case. It’s not just about whether you are over or under .08! These are what the different BAC levels mean for your case in Maryland:

  • Over 0.08%: If the court or jury determines that your blood alcohol content exceeded .08%, there is a per se presumption that you were driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI).
  • 0.07% to 0.08%: If the court or jury determines that your blood alcohol content falls within this range, this is considered prima facie evidence of driving while intoxicated (DWI).
  • 0.05% to 0.07%: If the court or jury determines that your blood alcohol content falls within this range, there are no mandatory legal presumptions. However, it is relevant evidence. The court or jury may consider this blood alcohol content level in determining whether or not you were intoxicated, and can still find that you were driving under the influence of alcohol.
  • Under 0.05%:  If the court or jury determines that your blood alcohol content level was under .05%, there is a presumption that you were not intoxicated or under the influence. The State can only secure a conviction if it presents evidence which overcomes this presumption, and the court or jury finds beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence or while intoxicated.
  • Over 0.02%: If the court or jury determines that your blood alcohol content exceeds .02%, this is prima facie evidence of driving in violation of an alcohol restriction.

 

The possible penalties for alcohol related offenses range from a $500 fine and two (2) months in jail for Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), to as much as $1,000 in fines and one (1) year in jail for Driving Under the Influence (DUI). These penalties can be increased for subsequent offenders.

If you are charged with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or another alcohol related traffic offense in Maryland, you should contact an attorney who is familiar with handling a DUI or DWI case.

You should also choose an attorney who is familiar with the state’s attorney’s office and the Judge’s in the jurisdiction which you have been charged. They will know what that person is likely to do in your case. If you are charged with a DUI or DWI, you should retain the services of an attorney.

There are three basic ways in which most DUI, DWI, and other serious traffic offenses in Maryland are resolved:

Trial

When you are charged with any serious traffic offense in Maryland, including a DUI or DWI, you have the right to a trial in front of a Judge or Jury. The state bears the burden of proof on each element of the offense for which you have been charged. In most traffic violations, there are several things that the state has to prove in order to secure a conviction. If they cannot prove them, they may fail to get a conviction and could even decide not to prosecute the case.

Even if the state can prove the elements, you still may have a valid legal defense to the charges. An attorney can tell you if your defense is a good one. You will get a chance to present that defense and let the Judge or Jury determine the facts of your particular case. The Judge or Jury will then render a verdict for or against you. If you hire us to represent you for your Maryland DWI or DUI case we will evaluate the unique facts of your case, conduct pretrial discovery and fight for you in court. Sometimes you have to fight for your rights. Where there is a likelihood of securing an acquittal, we will discuss the trial option with you and challenge the State to prove their case.

Plea Agreement

This is the most common way most serious traffic offenses in Maryland, including DUI and DWI, are resolved. When the state and the defendant enter into a plea agreement, the state generally dismisses some or all of the most serious offenses with which the defendant has been charged.

In exchange, the defendant makes an admission of guilt to a less serious charge. The state offers the plea because it eliminates the need to have a trial, and the plea benefits the defendant because it reduces the degree of punishment to which the defendant is exposed. Often, the possibility of jail can be eliminated through a plea agreement, depending on the severity of the charge and the defendant’s previous record.

The objective of a plea agreement is sometimes to obtain a probation before judgment. A probation before judgment occurs when the court puts the defendant on probation without the necessity of a trial or a finding of guilt. Under Maryland law, you may only receive one probation before judgment in any given ten-year period for an alcohol-related driving offense.

If you receive a probation before judgment in Maryland, you have not been convicted of any crime. You can honestly state on a job application that you have no criminal record or prior convictions. In addition, no points will be imposed against your license.

A probation before judgment is generally a very favorable outcome for any Maryland criminal case. Often the judge will condition a probation before judgment on performing community service or paying a monetary fine. But this is almost always a good bargain if you escape jail and/or a permanent criminal record related to a DUI or DWI.

Stet Docket

This is another common way in which traffic offenses can be resolved. A case may be placed on the Stet Docket with the consent of the defendant. The Stet Docket is simply a fancy name for making the case inactive. A Stet Docket is essentially an indefinite postponement. You do not have a conviction on your record and can get the charges expunged after one to three years.  The State can bring the charges back if you violate the terms of the plea agreement, however after one year the State must show good cause to do so.

If you are charged with a DUI or DWI, you should retain the services of an attorney.

 

If you are stopped for a Driving While Impaired (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) offense, you will likely be asked to submit to a Preliminary Breath Test (PBT). This is the preliminary test that the officer gives you on the road, and is different from the intoximeter test. You are not obligated to take the PBT and it is not admissible in evidence in any court action. If you refuse to take the test, however, your Maryland driver’s license will be revoked 120 days for a first offense, and for one year for a subsequent offense.

The preliminary breath test (PBT) is what is happening when you blow into the hand held device the officer holds. This is what they mean when they say you “blow” a certain level of blood alcohol. This is not completely correct. The real evidence of your blood alcohol level  comes in the form of a blood test that will be administered at the police station.

The results of the PBT are used as a guide for the police officer in deciding whether an arrest should be made, and if so, should it be DWI or DUI. The results of the PBT are inadmissible and cannot be used by the State at trial. The taking of or refusal to submit to a PBT is not admissible in evidence in any court action.

If you are arrested or ticketed for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) your license will be confiscated by the police officer. You will then be given a temporary license. You cannot drive on your temporary license after it has expired. Doing so will subject you to the jail-able offense of driving on a suspended license. If you have requested a hearing, however, you may get an extension of your temporary license from the Maryland MVA.

Yes! It is easy to lose your driver’s license after a DUI or DWI charge unless you take quick action? The deadlines are tight and you must act immediately. 

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration has the right to suspend your Maryland driver’s license if you are accused of Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI). Many people do not know this is not part of the court process. Instead, it is decided in a separate administrative hearing before the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).

So, when charged in Maryland with Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI), you have to go through two separate proceedings to keep your license and stay out of jail.

The rules of the administrative hearing are different than those of the court. The length of your suspension depends on several factors. Some of these factors are whether you refused a blood alcohol content test, the blood alcohol content level if you submitted to testing and whether you have had prior offenses. Suspensions are separate and apart from any suspension or revocation that may result from the conviction in court of a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) criminal charge. Keep in mind these are two totally separate proceedings.

In Southern Maryland you can’t do anything without driving! How would you make it if you couldn’t legally drive to work, or pick up the kids, or even go to the grocery store? We will explain what you need to do, but then call a lawyer. This is NOT a do it yourself job. Get an attorney to represent you or you could lose your license to drive.

You must request a hearing before the Motor Vehicle Administration or you will face the automatic loss of your Maryland drivers’ license. You have thirty (30) days to request a hearing, and must do so in writing.

Although you have thirty (30) days, if you do not make your request within ten (10) days, your driver’s license may be suspended prior to your hearing. Therefore, you want to make certain that your hearing request is made within ten (10) days from the date of your arrest. This is a very tight time deadline and you should act immediately or you may lose your license.

Your request must be made, in writing, through the headquarters of the MVA in Hunt Valley, Maryland. You must also enclose a filing fee. There is a form that the officer will give you at the time of your arrest which will enable you to get a hearing. It is on the reverse side of the Officer’s Certification and Order of Suspension. 

You do not need to wait until you meet with an attorney to request the hearing. You can do it yourself and should do so if there is any chance you will miss that 10-day deadline. It is better to hire an attorney immediately and have the attorney do it. But if you cannot, then do it yourself.

As of this writing, the address to which the form is mailed is:

Office of Administrative Hearings
Motor Vehicle Administration
11101 Gilroy Road
Hunt Valley, Maryland 21031-1301

Check the Maryland MVA website to be sure that is still the right address. You must send a check along with your request. There is a $150 administrative fee which must be paid to the MVA at the time of your request. Make your check payable to Maryland State Treasurer. If you fail to include the fee, your hearing request will be denied.

If a hearing is requested within 10 days, and your Maryland driver’s license was surrendered, a hearing will be scheduled within 30 days of the receipt of your request and your license will not be suspended before you appear for this scheduled hearing. If a hearing is requested after 10 days, your temporary license will be suspended on the 46th day from the order of suspension regardless of when your hearing is scheduled. If you wish to be represented by an attorney, you should contact one immediately. But you can still request your hearing yourself. Do not delay your hearing request.

If you request a hearing before the MVA, your case will be heard by an Administrative Law Judge (ALJ). The ALJ is an employee of the State of Maryland, but is not employed by the MVA. The ALJ acts as a neutral fact finder in your Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) or Driving Under the Influence (DUI) charge administrative hearing.

The MVA holds hearings at various locations throughout the state. Where your hearing will be held depends on where you live. For the vast majority of our clients, hearings are at the Waldorf MVA full service branch. If you are subject to a hearing, you will receive a notice from the MVA with the date, time and location of your hearing.

Waldorf-Full Service
St. Charles Business Park
11 Industrial Park Drive
Waldorf, MD 20602

The MVA hearing is similar to going to court. Instead of making a decision on fines and jail time, however, the ALJ will be deciding whether you to get to keep your driving privileges, and under what conditions you will be permitted to drive.

We cannot advise anyone to try and handle their own MVA hearing after a DUI or DWI charge in Maryland. We are not just saying that to get more business. There are serious consequences to mishandling this hearing, and the outcome is totally based on the unique facts and circumstances of your particular case. Depending on the facts and circumstances of your individual case, the MVA hearing can result in the loss of your driving privileges, a work-restricted license, or participation in the ignition interlock program.

In Maryland, all serious traffic offenses are assessed points by the MVA. A Driving Under the Influence (DUI) conviction will result in 12 points being assessed against your Maryland drivers’ license. A Driving While Impaired (DWI) conviction carries 8 points. Other violations carry varying amounts of points.

Our attorneys can assist you in taking steps that help mitigate the damage to your Maryland driving record and help you to maintain your license. All moving violations carry points. The number of points will depend on the severity of the violation.

You might be able to avoid points if you’ve been charged with a moving violation by obtaining a probation before judgment in court. We will try to do that for you in your case, but whether or not that is possible is going to depend on the facts of your case, the Judge, and the prosecutor. 

At your MVA hearing, the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may grant you a restricted license. The restricted license is just what it sounds like. It allows you to drive, but with certain restrictions. For example, the judge may allow you to drive only to and from work or only to and from an alcohol treatment program.

If you are charged with a DUI or DWI, you should retain the services of an attorney.

If you participate in the Maryland ignition interlock program, you will have a special device installed in your vehicle that you must blow into in prior to starting the vehicle. If your breath alcohol level exceeds the accepted level set on the device, your vehicle will not start. 

Participants in the Ignition Interlock Program are responsible for all costs associated with program participation, including installation and monthly maintenance costs and the cost of obtaining a restricted driver’s license.

Once you have the ignition interlock device installed and you obtain the restricted driver’s license, you will be expected to return every 30 days to the Interlock Service Provider who installed the device. The provider will collect information captured by the device and forward that information to the MVA. The provider will also make sure the device is operating correctly. Typically, the provider prepares a report for the MVA each month that includes information about:

  • You the driver, your vehicle and other program information
  • Any instances where you had a high blood alcohol concentration (BAC)
  • Any instances where you tried to start the vehicle without taking the test
  • Any instances where you failed the rolling retest or refused to take it
  • Any bypass of the device, which is if you tampered with or disconnected the device
  • The number of times your vehicle was started and stopped
  • The distance traveled by your vehicle

If you accrue 12 points on your license, Maryland will revoke your driver’s license for one year. It may be reinstated six months after the revocation takes place. A DUI conviction is a 12 point offense.

We will work hard to make sure you do not lose your driving privileges. Whether or not you can avoid that will depend on the particular facts of your case.

Yes! You do need an attorney. We are not going to mince words here. If you have been charged with a DUI or a DWI, you would be crazy not to get an attorney to represent you. There is too much at stake here. 

Free Consultation

All consultations for all Maryland criminal matters, including Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Intoxicated (DWI), are free of charge. You have nothing to lose by coming in and discussing your matter with one of our attorneys.

At the very least, you need to find out your rights, and how the particular facts of your individual case affect the possible outcomes. And it won’t cost you anything to do that.

Click here for a post with video about what to bring to your DUI or DWI consultation.

Experience

We are familiar with what local judges and prosecutors consider in resolving traffic offenses. We can use that experience to mitigate sentencing and other collateral consequences of a DUI or DWI.

Knowing your local judges and prosecutors is critical to your defense. Local judges and prosecutors know our reputation well, and this has allowed us to secure plea agreements that reduce the risk of jail and points against our client’s motor vehicle record. We have over 50 years of experience representing clients throughout Southern Maryland.

At our firm, you are part of the team. When you hire us to represent you in a Maryland DWI or DUI case, we meet with you and have a thorough discussion regarding the facts and circumstances of your particular case. We gather information to make a determination as to whether you have been properly charged with a crime and whether the evidence supports those charges. We conduct discovery to obtain information from the State’s Attorney to find out what evidence will be offered at trial. We make an assessment of your Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) case at trial.

But most importantly, we discuss with you whether a plea or trial is the appropriate decision FOR YOU. We understand that each client’s case and circumstances are unique. We will work to make sure we tailor our representation to what is important to you.

If you decide to accept a plea agreement, we negotiate directly with the Office of the State’s Attorney to seek a reduction in charges and to obtain the best possible deal for you. By engaging in negotiation with the State’s Attorney, we are almost always able to obtain a significant reduction in the severity of the charges which you are facing. We work diligently to obtain the best possible result for your case, whether that requires a plea agreement or a trial.

All consultations for all criminal matters are free of charge. You have nothing to lose by coming in and discussing your matter with one of our attorneys. At the very least, you need to find out your rights and options, and how the particular facts of your individual case affect the possible outcomes. 

If you have been charged with a DWI, DUI or other serious traffic offense in Maryland, you should speak to a lawyer as soon as possible. Your actions prior to court can have a big impact on what happens in court. Everyone’s case is unique. You need to hire a professional.

DUI and DWI laws and regulations are a maze. You really do need a guide to get through it. A simple written guide like this won’t cut it. If you are charged with a DUI or DWI, you should retain the services of an attorney.

Resources for Our Clients

If you want to check out other resources we have available for our DUI and DWI clients, feel free to click on any of the links below.

You do have rights when pulled over for a suspected DUI or DWI. You should be aware of your rights and be ready to exercise them. Click here to read our post about your rights when pulled over for a suspected DUI or DWI.

DUI and DWI checkpoints are also a popular way for the police to catch individuals suspected of a DUI or DWI. Did you know you have rights in that situation as well? Click here to read our post about your rights at a DUI or DWI checkpoint.

 

There are many issues related to DUI and DWI laws. Here are some of the ones we have written about:

You should be aware that Washington DC has very different DUI laws than Maryland. Most people in Southern Maryland do a lot of driving in DC so this is something that may interest you. Click here to see a video explaining those differences

You should be aware that drinking and boating is also a crime in Maryland. This is especially prevalent in the summer months on our busy waterways, and many people think they cannot get in trouble for it.

Explore Your Options Today

Contact us today for a consultation so you can explore your options and get good advice. We can do consultations in person or by phone. You can even send us an email (see the contact us page for instructions). We will make it convenient for you. You should always know what your options are before you make any major decisions about a legal issue. 

This is free legal advice from experienced local DUI & DWI attorneys. Discover what you need to know about DUI & DWI, and learn how to protect yourself today.