Maryland DUI Legal Overview
Maryland DUI laws under Section 21-902 codify four separate crimes related to drunk or impaired driving:
- Driving Under the Influence (DUI) of Alcohol. Section 21-902(a).
- Driving While Impaired (DWI) by Alcohol. Section 21-902(b).
- Driving While Impaired by Drugs or a Combination of Drugs and Alcohol. Section 21-902(c).
- Driving While Impaired by a Controlled Dangerous Substance. Section 21-902(d).
However, as a Maryland DUI lawyer can explain, the typical DUI procedures are designed for the first two, DUI and DWI, where a driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) can be verified with a Breathalyzer.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol (Section 21-902(a))
It is unlawful to drive under the influence of alcohol in the state of Maryland. Moreover, Maryland statutes make it a per se DUI offense for a driver to have a BAC at or above 0.08 percent, see Section 21-902(a)(2). This means that, legally speaking, any time a driver’s BAC is 0.08 or more, that person may be found guilty of a DUI charge with no further evidence of impairment is required.
A BAC threshold is not, however, the only means by which the police can prove a DUI offense. Although field sobriety tests are often poor indicators of sobriety (they may be a better test of balance and following directions), law enforcement can use the results of these tests as evidence that a driver was under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs. This will be easier to prove in cases where the driver’s BAC is close to 0.08.
A driver’s BAC establishes certain presumptions concerning the driver’s sobriety. Section 10-307. Specifically:
- Below 0.05 BAC: The presumption is that the driver is not impaired by or under the influence of alcohol. In this case, the government will need to provide substantial, separate evidence of impairment (see discussion of drugs and controlled substances below).
- 0.05 – 0.06 BAC: No presumption regarding whether the driver is impaired by or under the influence of alcohol. Essentially, the BAC alone does not prove a DUI or DWI in this case. Yet the government can combine the BAC results with additional evidence, like the results of a field sobriety test and drivers’ confessions.
- 0.07 BAC: The presumption is that the driver is impaired by alcohol (see discussion of DWI charges below).
- 0.08 BAC or Higher: This constitutes a per se DUI violation.
The penalties accompanying a DUI conviction are twofold: administrative and criminal. Here is more detail on administrative penalties and Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) hearings. The penalties for the criminal offense of a DUI turn on whether the driver has prior convictions for any drunk-driving offense (including DWIs), and the length of time between any past conviction(s) and the present one.
First-time DUI offenders face penalties of up to one year in jail, a fine of up to $1,000, or both. If there was a minor in the vehicle, the maximum penalty for the DUI is two years in jail and/or a fine of up to $2,000.
Drivers with a prior DUI or DWI conviction will face up to two years in prison, a fine of up to $2,000, or both. The presence of a minor in the vehicle enhances the maximum penalties to three years in prison and/or a fine of up to $3,000.
A driver who has two or more prior DUI/DWI convictions will face up to three years in prison, a fine of up to $3,000, or both. And, again, the presence of a minor in the vehicle will enhance the maximum penalties, this time to four years in prison and a fine of $4,000.
In an instance where a driver is receiving his second DUI conviction within a five-year period, the driver will be penalized with a mandatory minimum of five days in jail. Furthermore, the individual will receive a mandated alcohol abuse assessment and must participate in an alcohol abuse program.
If a driver is receiving his or her third DUI conviction within a five-year period, the mandatory minimum jail sentence is 10 days.
Driving While Impaired By Alcohol (Section 21-902(b))
It is unlawful to drive while impaired (DWI) by alcohol, and it is a further violation to do so with a minor in the vehicle. Section 21-902(b). As we noted above, a BAC between 0.07 and 0.08 establishes a presumption that the driver is impaired by alcohol. Law enforcement can still prove impairment alternatively or through the supplemental use of other evidence, including field sobriety tests.
For a first-time offender, the penalties for a DWI are up to 60 days in jail and/or a fine of $500 or less. Section 27-101. With a minor in the vehicle, these penalties increase to up to six months in jail, a fine of $1,000, or both.
With a prior DUI/DWI offense, a DWI conviction is accompanied by penalties of up to one year in jail, a $500 fine, or both. With a minor in the vehicle, the maximum fine increases to $2,000.
Driving While Impaired by Alcohol and Drugs (Section 21-902(c))
It is also unlawful to drive while impaired by alcohol, drugs, or a combination thereof. Section 21-902(c). This applies, for example, when driving after having a drink of alcohol and taking any medicine that can make one drowsy. This is particularly true for medication that interacts with alcohol. This category allows law enforcement to make a case for impairment even when the driver refuses a BAC test or blows a very low BAC. This does not, however, include Controlled Dangerous Substances.
This charge is subject to the same DWI penalties listed above.
Driving While Impaired by Controlled Dangerous Substance (Section 21-902(d))
“Controlled dangerous substances” are defined as any Schedule I through Schedule V controlled substance. Section 5-101(f). Learn more about controlled substances definitions here.
It is a criminal violation for an individual to drive while impaired by any controlled dangerous substance. The one exception is when a person is entitled to use the controlled substance (i.e., they have a legitimate prescription). Section 21-902(d). Like the other offenses, the presence of a minor in the vehicle leads to enhanced penalties.
Driving while impaired by controlled dangerous substances is punishable by (Section 27-101):
|DWI (Controlled Dangerous Substances)||1st Conviction||2nd Conviction||3rd or Subsequent Conviction|
|No Minor in Vehicle||Up to 12 months in jail,Up to $1,000 fine,Or both.||Up to 24 months in jail,Up to $2,000 fine,Or both.||Up to 36 months in jail,Up to $3,000 fine,Or both.|
|Minor in Vehicle||Up to 24 months in jail,Up to $2,000 fine,or both.||Up to 36 months in jail,Up to $3,000 fine,or both.||Up to 48 months in jail,Up to $4,000 fine,or both.|
|Within 5-year Period||N/A||Five-day mandatory minimum jail time.Mandatory comprehensive drug assessment program.Possible drug abuse program.||Ten-day mandatory minimum jail time.Mandatory comprehensive drug assessment program.Possible drug abuse program.|
MVA penalties are part of separate administrative proceedings. Learn more about the MVA hearings and requirements and how a lawyer can help.
Under Age Drivers
A driver under 21 who has a BAC of 0.02 or higher is deemed to be driving while impaired and, as such, faces up to two months in jail, a fine of $500, or both.
Maryland DUI/DWI Lawyer
As you can see, the penalties for DUI and DWI charges can be serious. Although it is rare to receive the full maximum sentence, a lawyer can help you mitigate the negative impact of these charges to the furthest extent possible. Please, if you or a loved one has been charged with a DUI or DWI, call today for a free consultation and case analysis. Bring any and all questions and rest assured that you have retained as seasoned and aggressive DUI attorney who has successfully litigated numerous DUI-related charges throughout Maryland’s court system.