MARYLAND DUI LAW

The State of Maryland:

. pays judges, prosecutors and police to enforce Maryland’s DUI laws.
. imposes a permanent record even for first offenders in DUI cases.
. suspends driver’s licenses at hearings without requiring a single witness to attend.
. imprisons people on the misguided notion the jail cures addictions.


The law of DUI and DWI cases is unique in the American criminal justice system. A fundamental principle of criminal justice is that prison is a valid punishment only for people who intended to commit the criminal act. By definition, a drunk driver is not thinking clearly. Yet judges have the power to send people to jail even when they were too drunk to understand their actions.

FIND THE BEST DUI DEFENSE LAWYER

The only way to defeat a DUI charge is to win at trial. Confronting this myriad of government operations without a knowledgeable and skilled attorney is a risk that outweighs the benefit of saving on lawyer’s fees.

Read about Constitutional Issues in DUI cases.

A Maryland DUI defense lawyer has the experience, talent and commitment to defend the accused. In addition, the lawyer should provide the client with the attention and the life experience to provide strong counsel. Attorneys should always provide their client with dedicated effort and sound judgment.

In thirty-five years of defending people charged with DUI, I can attest to the value of a Maryland DUI defense lawyer with the diligence to review all of the information, the experience to recognize a useful defense and the integrity to challenge the prosecution.

THE REALITY


(1) Maryland DUI law does not prohibit driving after the consumption of any alcohol; however, the presence of alcohol does provide a valid basis for most police interaction.

(2) Maryland DUI law does not excuse drivers who believed that they were sufficiently sober to driver.

(3) Maryland DUI law does not excuse people who rarely drink. The prosecution need prove only that the defendant was “driving” while “impaired” by alcohol or drugs.

The best Maryland DUI defense lawyer knows the law and how best to present the facts. Whether the prosecution can establish the elements does not determine whether the accused actually can benefit from mental health counseling. A person’s health, though related to a DUI case, is a matter for health care professionals. This fact is a primary reason why I find incoherent the crimes and punishments applied to DUI cases.

THE DUI STATUTE

In the Maryland Code, Section 21-902 defines the offenses commonly known as “drunk driving”.

Subsection (a)(1)(i) prohibits driving while under the influence of alcohol and (a)(1)(ii) prohibits driving under the influence of alcohol that records 0.08 or above on a breath test. First offenders face a maximum of one year in jail and a $ 1,000 fine.

Subsection (b) prohibits driving while impaired by alcohol. The definition of impairment includes both test scores and observation. For a first offense, the maximum penalty is no more than 2 months in jail and a fine of $500.

Subsection(c) prohibits driving “while so far impaired by any drug, any combination of drugs, or a combination of one or more drugs and alcohol that the person cannot drive a vehicle safely”. For a first offense, the maximum penalty is no more than 2 months in jail and a fine of $500.

Subsection (d) imposes a maximum punishment of one year in jail and a $ 1,000 if they are convicted on driving while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance.

THE COURT PROCEEDING

Unlike routine traffic offenses, violations of Transportation Article, Section 21-902 include the potential for imprisonment. On the printout or ticket are the words “Must Appear”.

In addition you might receive a notice of your trial date. Otherwise, the District Court will mail you a Notice of Trial Date.

Furthermore, since you must appear in court for any and all offenses under this statute, you need not pay the accompanying citations. All of the charges will proceed in court together.

JURY TRIAL RIGHT

If you receive a charge for violating TR§21-902 (a) or (d), you have the right to a trial by jury. Only the Circuit Court has jury trials. As a result, upon receiving a demand for a jury trial, the District Court loses authority over the case and must transfer the case to the Circuit Court. In the Circuit Court, you then have the option of a jury trial or a trial with only a judge deciding the case.

To request a jury trial, you can file a written Demand for Jury Trial at least 15 days before the scheduled trial in the District Court. Following this process avoids the requirement to appear in the District Court. If you do not file the Demand timely, then you can announce your Demand in the District Court on the trial date.

Thirty-five years of experience as a Maryland DUI defense lawyer inform my recommendation to my clients about how best to proceed.

ELEMENTS OF MARYLAND DUI LAW

Although the general public may think of the offense as “drunk driving”, the law covers more than this phrase indicates. A judge or jury can find a person guilty without proof of driving or without the common meaning of “drunk.

“DRIVING” A MOTOR VEHICLE

The statute prohibits driving and attempting to drive. However, “driving” can include

Sleeping in your car with the engine running;
Driving in a parking lot; and
Moving your car in your driveway.

In certain situations, a person is not guilty under the statute when sleeping in a parked car, even with the engine running. The question is whether the defendant was using the vehicle as a shelter. Maryland courts have ruled that the judge or jury should consider whether:

the vehicle’s engine was running or the ignition was on;
the parking brake was engaged;
the defendant was seated in the driver’s seat;
police found the defendant awake or asleep;
the ignition key was in the ignition;
the headlights were on.

UNDER THE INFLUENCE

The prosecution can present three kinds of evidence to prove the case against the defendant:

Observations – Any witness to the defendant’s operation of the vehicle or of the defendant’s movement, speech, or smell can present testimonial evidence at trial.

Quasi-expert – Law enforcement officials have developed three “Standard Field Sobriety Tests”. These tests purportedly demonstrate the degree to which drugs or alcohol affect a person. Maryland courts allow a qualified police officer to testify as to the tests and the defendant’s performance.

Scientific testing – Maryland law imposes standards on the testing equipment and the person conducting the blood or breath test. If qualified, the expert can identify, at trial, the results of the test.

STANDARD FIELD SOBRIETY TESTS

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The NHTSA has developed a set of tests that, it claims, can determine the extent to which a person is affected by the consumption of alcohol. As a result, Maryland police officers routinely use three of the NHTSA’s “Standard Field Sobriety Tests”.

In police reports identifying an officer’s basis for charging DUI or DWI, the officers often use abbreviations in referring to these tests. Thus, a report might identify the “Standard Field Sobriety as SFST or SFTSs. The three tests are

(1) horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN);
(2) walk and turn (WAT); and
(3) one leg stand (OLS).

The tests presumes that intoxicants inhibit both mental calculation and physical coordination.

HORIZONTAL GAZE NYSTAGMUS

Horizontal gaze nystagmus refers to the jerking movement of the eye as it follows an object across a horizontal plane. According to the NHTSA, this uncontrollable jerking movement is the result of alcohol consumption.

The NHSTA requires the police officer to hold a pen, or similar object, about fifteen inches from the driver. The officer must hold the pen at eye level for the driver. The officer must make certain that no other lights interfere with the driver’s vision.

As the officer gradually moves the pen horizontally, the officer looks for the driver’s eyeballs to jerk (“nystagmus”) . Nystagmus is present if the jerking occurs before the pen is at a 45 degree angle relative to the driver’s eyeball.

OBSERVATIONS

Maryland law does not require that a medical professional testify about the HGN. The law requires only that the police officer have some level of expertise to explain the test. Since the officer has no training in ophthalmology or neurology, the courts have limited the testimony to the conclusion that the presence of nystagmus is an indicator of alcohol consumption among other possible causes.

BREATH AND BLOOD TESTING

As a driver on Maryland’s roads, you have agreed to submit to a test. The only requirement is that a police officer have a reasonable belief that you were driving while impaired by alcohol or drugs.

A fatigued driver, who consumed one drink, may appear to be impaired by alcohol but “pass” the test.

You also have the right, in Maryland, to refuse a test. You also have the right to call an attorney for advice about the test. The problem is that, unless the lawyer was with you all day, the advice is only a guess.

TEST RESULTS

Maryland law and regulations govern the admissibility of a breath test result. The operator must have received the certification to present the test, prove the certification of the equipment, and perform the process according to the regulations. Blood tests must follow medical and legal rules.

If a police officer suspects impairment by drugs, a Drug Recognition Expert must prove the bases for requesting the blood test.

Maryland Code, Courts § 10-307, defines the legal effect of the results of a breath test. A result of .07 is “prima facie evidence” of a DWI. A result of .08 or more is “prima facie evidence” of a DUI. Defeating “prima facie evidence” requires a successful attack on the testing process. .

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