Appealing a DUI Conviction in Maryland

The general answer to whether you can appeal a misdemeanor DUI conviction in Maryland is yes, but the circumstances are very specific.

Appealing From District Court

If you are found guilty of DUI in district court, you have an automatic and absolute right to de novo appeal at the circuit court. That means that you can automatically file an appeal in the circuit court and you are not bound and limited to the record that was made in district court. They will hear the case from scratch, brand new as if it appeared in the circuit court for the first time. If you have a plea in district court, you have an absolute right to a de novo appeal in circuit court. If you enter a guilty plea in district court and don’t like the outcome, you can automatically file an appeal in the circuit court.

Appealing From Circuit Court

If you a guilty plea in the circuit court, however, you have a much more narrow and limited right to appeal in Maryland. From that court, appeals go up to the court of special appeals. You have to ask for leave to appeal and you only have four grounds to do that when appealing a plea from the circuit court.

Lack of Jurisdiction

The first ground is that the court didn’t have jurisdiction. That could mean that the offense didn’t occur where the state thinks it did, that you are under 18 and should be charged in the juvenile court, or you are over 18 and it is being incorrectly charged in the juvenile court.

Plea Was Not Knowing and Voluntary

The next ground for appeal for a circuit court plea would be that the plea wasn’t knowing and voluntary, meaning that you didn’t understand what was going on and nobody explained to you what the guilty plea actually meant. That is almost never heard because as part of taking a plea, most judges are required to advise you or require your attorney to advise you as to what is happening.

Illegal Sentence

The third ground for appeal is illegal sentence. If the court could only sentence you to 60 days in jail but they gave you 61, that would be grounds for appeal. That is also very rare.

Ineffective Assistance of Counsel

The last one would be ineffective assistance of counsel, which means that your attorney didn’t do something that they were legally obligated to do. Perhaps they didn’t file motions, didn’t reply to discovery, or didn’t prepare defense.

Those are the only ways that you would be able to appeal from the circuit court when entering a guilty plea. It is very hard to do that. In district court cases, the appeals are automatic and they enable the case to start from scratch to the circuit court.