Trends in Baltimore DUI Prosecution

In Baltimore, if you have been charged with a DUI, it can have a variety of negative implications on your life. A Baltimore DUI lawyer can help you to better understand your case, how Baltimore courts operate, and what your chances are for success. Additionally, it is important to know that there are two types of driving under the influence charges in Baltimore:

  • the 21-902(a)(1) offense DUI—meaning that your ability to drive was significantly impaired by alcohol; in other words, you were drunk, and
  • the 21-902(a)(2) offense DUI per se—meaning that it’s about the result of the chemical analysis of your breath rather than your internal mental state.

You’re guilty of DUI per se in Baltimore City if you’re operating a motor vehicle and the result of a breath alcohol test is .08 or higher. In a DUI per se case, saying “I wasn’t drunk,” is not a good defense. That would be a defense to a standard DUI.

Standard Operating Procedures for DUI Cases

You will occasionally see officers charging a DUI per se by mistake in cases where an individual didn’t submit to the Breathalyzer. Those are immediately dismissed at the trial of the case. A Baltimore DUI attorney will dismiss that immediately because the state can’t prove DUI per se without the Breathalyzer results. However, officers can still charge a 21-902(a)(1) offense if an individual refuses to submit to a Breathalyzer.

Essentially, even if the state can’t prove you were drunk according to breath results, they may still go forward under the theory that you were in fact drunk at the time you were operating the vehicle.

DUI cases start out in the district court in Baltimore. There, your case is heard in front of a judge. At your discretion, you can have the case transferred to the circuit court for Baltimore City in downtown Baltimore where you can have the case heard either in front of a judge or in front of a jury. And how you want to handle that case is going to vary based on the facts of your case, who you draw as a judge, your record and what you’ve done subsequent to the arrest.

Baltimore Law Enforcement for DUIs

DUIs are an area of focus for local law enforcement. There are some officers, particularly those who work night shifts, whose law enforcement practice is significantly made up of dealing with DUI drivers. This happens because DUIs are pretty common compared to some of the other kinds of crime you’ll see in Baltimore. Baltimore has lots of bars where there’s no public transportation late at night and people will frequently have drinks and then try to drive home. Consequently, police are on the lookout for that, and there are lots of officers who make a career of doing DUI work.

Baltimore DUI Checkpoints

Baltimore City police take DUI very seriously. Additionally, the Maryland Transportation Authority works the bridges and tunnels in Baltimore, and they are also on the lookout for people driving under the influence.

Baltimore City is not the most frequently check-pointed city, but it does have its fair share of checkpoints. The MTA will also occasionally do checkpoints. So checkpoints do occur in Baltimore, although it’s not as common as in some of the surrounding jurisdictions.

Usually, the Baltimore City police will use last year’s DUI statistics to decide where they should put this year’s DUI checkpoints, so they’re going to position checkpoints on roads where there have been a large number of DUI stops. Generally, places where people are leaving popular areas to drink, like Fells Point, would be key places to put DUI checkpoints.

What Makes Baltimore DUI Charges Different

One element that makes Baltimore DUI cases unique is the individual personalities involved in prosecuting the cases. The prosecutor’s office, the bench and the juries in Baltimore all go into making practicing there a unique experience. The Baltimore State Prosecutor’s Office is significantly different than the Baltimore County Prosecutor’s Office or any of the neighboring jurisdictions, and the way that Baltimore handles jury trials is different than most of the other jurisdictions as well. The nature of the people involved by itself is a huge difference between Baltimore and some of the other places that you could get a DUI in Maryland.

Law Enforcement Nuances

DUI is a statewide law, so it’s going to be the same in Baltimore City, Baltimore County, and over the Bay Bridge. In terms of law enforcement practices, there are some minor differences between Baltimore City and Baltimore County, but nothing extremely significant.

In terms of field sobriety tests and preliminary breath tests, there are no differences at all between Baltimore and other parts of Maryland. Field sobriety tests are standardized, not just in Baltimore City, but throughout the state of Maryland and even nationally.

NHTSA, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, actually puts out guidelines as to how field sobriety tests need to be administered, and those are the same in Baltimore City, Baltimore County and throughout the state.