While most people understand that drinking and driving can result in serious legal consequences, many people do not fully understand the scope of those consequences. The best drinking and driving advice any attorney could ever give someone is simply not to drive drunk in the first place. However, there are several things people should know should they count as one of the too many drivers charged each year with a drunk driving offense.
There are three charges typically associated with drinking and driving. These charges are Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol commonly referred to as “DUI”, Driving While Impaired by Alcohol “DWI”, and Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol, per se. “DUI per se”. (The per se part of DUI per se just means that the driver took a test for Blood Alcohol Concentration ‘BAC’ that resulted in 0.08 or more.) While similar, each results in different legal consequences, which will come from two places: the Courts and the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA).
The consequences that follow from a DUI/DWI arrest are largely based on BAC. The legal limit is widely advertised to be 0.08. This is not entirely true. If your BAC is 0.07 or higher, you will likely be charged with drunk driving, because there is a presumption that a person with a BAC of 0.07 or higher is driving while impaired by alcohol, “DWI”.
In Maryland Courts, the maximum possible penalty for a first offense of Driving Under the Influence (DUI or DUI per se) is 1 year of incarceration or $1,000 fine or both; 2 years and $2000 for a second such offense, and 3 years and $3000 for a third offense.
Although a lesser offense, a Driving While Impaired (DWI) is still serious. The charges for a first offense are a maximum 60 days incarceration and/or $500 fine, 8 points on the driving record and suspension of driving privileges. The second offense may result in a maximum of 1 year incarceration and/or $500 fine and revocation of driving privileges.
In addition to the penalties in the Courts, the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration attempts to suspend the license of every driver who has a BAC of 0.08 or more, or who refuses a test for BAC. If the result is between 0.08 and 0.149, the license will be suspended for 45 days; if the test result is 0.15 and above, the license will be suspended for 90 days; and if the licensee refuses the test, the license will be suspended for 120 days. It is important to speak with an attorney to determine whether you have any defenses to these suspensions being imposed and to determine whether you should challenge the action by the MVA. Furthermore, if you are convicted of a drunk driving offense, the MVA may suspend your license a second time, or revoke it entirely.
A common misconception about drunk driving cases is that refusing the breath test equates to a not guilty verdict. Even if you refuse a breath test, you may be charged and convicted of DWI or DUI because of your performance on standardized field sobriety tests. The decision about whether to refuse a breath test is not to be made lightly. It is true that if you refuse a breath test, there will be no evidence of your exact BAC; however, refusal could and often does result in a longer suspension of your driver’s license along with enhanced criminal penalties. Plus, if you are a CDL driver, you could lose your job.
Height, weight, age, and gender determine how fast a body metabolizes alcohol. Regular drinkers report that their body has developed an alcohol tolerance. However, a body’s ability to adapt to effects of alcohol is deceptive because tolerance has no bearing whatsoever on the BAC. Regular drinkers may not feel under the influence, but their blood alcohol level may well exceed legal limits.
Although it may not prevent an arrest, drivers do have the right to consult with an attorney when asked to submit to a breathalyzer. Under Maryland DUI laws, a breathalyzer must be administered within two hours of apprehension. Officers will respect the driver’s request to consult with an attorney as long as it does not delay the testing process.
For more information regarding Maryland DUI or Maryland DWI laws, please contact the experienced DUI and DWI lawyers at the Bodie.