Every state has laws making it illegal to drink or drug and drive, but the charges have different names. Some states call the offense "driving while intoxicated" or DWI, while others call it "driving under the influence" or DUI. But Maryland has both names in its statutes, one offense called DUI and another termed DWI. Anyone who drives in the state of Maryland should get an overview of the two crimes and the differences between them.
DUIs in Maryland
Maryland takes drunk driving very seriously, and its statutes are among the strictest in the country. Like most states, Maryland makes it a crime to drive while under the influence of alcohol, drugs or a combination of the two. To convict a driver of this type of DUI offense, the prosecutor must present evidence of impairment and show that the impairment was due to the use of alcohol and/or drugs.
The state also has a "per se" DUI, making it an offense for an individual to drive while having a blood alcohol concentration of at least 0.08 percent. Per se means "in and of itself," since the prosecution need not produce any additional evidence of impairment if chemical testing establishes a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent or above. This is usually determined by a breath test, but can also be determined with a blood or urine test.
DWIs in Maryland
While DWI in most states means driving while intoxicated, in Maryland it means driving while impaired. This is a less severe offense than a DUI in Maryland, and a driver can be convicted of this offense if found to have a BAC of at least 0.07 percent, but less than 0.08 percent.
An individual who is picked up for a DWI charge in Maryland usually takes and passes a breathalyzer test, but produces test results just under the legal limit of 0.08 percent. In many states they might be let off the hook entirely, but in Maryland, these drivers can be charged with a DWI if they exhibit other indications of impairment. For example, a driver who has a 0.07 percent BAC and also performs poorly on the field sobriety test might be arrested for a DWI. Although this is also a criminal offense, the sanctions are significantly less severe than for a DUI.
Penalties for DUIs in Maryland
Anyone with a DUI conviction in Maryland can expect serious sanctions. These usually include jail time, sizable fines and loss of driving privileges. Generally, the amount of imprisonment, fines and license revocation depend on how many prior offenses the driver had. The look-back period in Maryland is five years, which means that in order to constitute a prior DUI conviction, the earlier offense must have occurred within the past five years. Additional penalties apply if the drunk or drugged driver had a passenger in the car under the age of 18. This adds a year in prison and $1,000 to the fine.
If this is a driver's first drunk driving conviction, the penalties are the least severe, but that doesn't mean they are inconsequential. First time DUI offenders can be sentenced to up to a year in jail and ordered to pay a fine of up to $1,000. The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration hits the driver with 12 penalty points that revoke the person's license for six months.
A second DUI charge within five years carries more jail time and a larger fine. Maryland makes it simple, giving a second DUI driver up to two years in jail and a $2,000 fine, then sanctioning third-time offenders to jail up to three years and a fine of $3,000. In either case, the driver's license is revoked for at least a year.
Penalties for DWI in Maryland
It's easy to see that a DWI is less serious than a DUI when the penalties are described for each offense. A first offense DWI carries a sanction of 60 days in jail (compared to a year for a DUI) and a fine of $500, which is half of the DUI fine. A subsequent offense might result in up to a year in jail and an additional fine of $500.
The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration also assigns points to the driver’s record for a DWI. A DWI conviction results in an eight-point penalty on the driver’s record, compared with a 12-point penalty for a DUI. This number of points results in a license suspension, rather than a license revocation.
If a first offender is carrying a minor as a passenger, the jail time is increased to six months, and the fine increased to $1,000. For a second DWI with a child in the car, the jail time rises to two years, and the fine goes up to $2,000.
Implied Consent Laws in Maryland
A driver who has been imbibing has good reason to decline chemical testing, considering how much harder it is for the state to get a conviction without a test result. Maryland, like many states, wants to be sure that drivers think twice before refusing to take a chemical test, so to that end, they have enacted an implied consent law. This law provides that driving in Maryland is a privilege, not a right. And that anyone taking advantage of the privilege is deemed to have consented to submit to a breath or blood test if stopped for a DUI or DWI.
If the driver either refuses a test or fails the test, the police officer can seize the driver’s license, issue a temporary license, and submit the report to the Motor Vehicle Administration. A driver who refuses to take the test will have their license suspended for 270 days. If the driver has a prior violation, the suspension will be for two years.
A driver has the right to file a written request for a hearing within 10 days of the suspension notice. This is heard by an administrative law judge. If the driver prevails, they get their license back; if they lose, the suspension continues. This administrative license is completely separate from the criminal case, and the suspension for refusal to take the test will apply even if the driver is found innocent of the driving charge.
Maryland's IID Program
Maryland’s ignition interlock program might allow a driver to operate a vehicle during their suspension. An ignition interlock device (IID) is a breathalyzer-type device that is affixed to the car. It prevents the engine from starting unless and until the driver blows into the IID and proves that there is no alcohol on their breath.
A driver must have an IID installed on every vehicle they own or regularly drive, and the device must be installed by a state certified firm. The driver must pay for the installation, as well as a monthly fee.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.