Maryland’s DWI/DUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DWI/DUI in Maryland.

Like all states, Maryland prohibits the operation of a motor vehicle while intoxicated. But unlike many other states, Maryland has several types of intoxicated driving offenses that carry different penalties.

Each of these violations has different definitions and requirements for a conviction. This article explains how the various offenses are defined as well as what can happen when a driver is convicted of one of these offenses.

Maryland's DWI/DUI Laws

To convict a driver of DUI in court, prosecutors must prove the driver was driving or attempting to drive a vehicle:

Alternatively, a driver can be guilty of DWI if the prosecutor shows that the person was driving while "impaired" (generally, considered a less serious offense than a DUI).

What It Means to be "Driving or Attempting to Drive" in Maryland

Most cases involve a person actively driving down the road, clearly satisfying the driving requirement for a conviction. But a person can also be convicted of DUI or DWI for simply attempting to drive.

Attempting to drive a vehicle has been explained by the courts as having "actual physical control" of the motor vehicle. Unlike driving, actual physical control doesn't require movement of the vehicle.

Proof of Intoxication for a DUI Offense Based on Alcohol or Illegal Drugs

Under Maryland law, a driver is considered to be under the influence of illegal drugs or alcohol when his or her ability to operate a vehicle is impaired to a substantial extent.

A driver can also be guilty of DUI if his or her BAC was at least .08%. Generally called a "per se DUI," a DUI based on an unlawful BAC does not require the prosecutor to prove that the driver was unsafe to drive.

Proof of Impairment for an alcohol DWI Offense

A DWI conviction only requires proof that the driver's normal coordination was impaired to some extent by alcohol. This is a lower evidentiary standard than what is required to prove a driver was "under the influence."

Proof of Impairment for a DUI Based on Legal Drugs or a Combination of Alcohol and Legal Drugs

Maryland has a third type of intoxicated driving offense that prohibits driving or attempting to drive a vehicle "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."

This offense is formally a type of DUI, but the penalties are the same as those for a DWI. This type of DUI can be based on the use of any intoxicating substance including inhalants and other over-the-counter substances. Even a driver who holds a valid prescription can be guilty of DUI if that prescription caused the driver to be "under the influence," as defined above.

Penalties for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DUI in Maryland

A DUI conviction is generally a misdemeanor. The penalties for a DUI conviction are statutorily based on the number of prior convictions the driver has in the last five years as well as certain aggravating factors.

Jail and Fines for Maryland DUI Convictions

The chart below outlines the range of jail time and fines for a first, second, and third DUI conviction based on alcohol or illegal drug use in Maryland.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

Up to 1 year

5 days to 2 years

10 days to 5 years

Fines

Up to $1,000

Up to $2,000

Up to $5,000

Substance Abuse Evaluations for Repeat Maryland DUI Offenders

For repeat DUI violations, the driver must complete a comprehensive alcohol and drug abuse assessment and any treatment program ordered by the court.

Enhanced DUI Penalties for Having Minor Passengers

If the driver was transporting a minor passenger under the age of 18, the court is authorized to add up to $1,000 and up to one year in jail to the existing penalties.

Maryland DUI Probation

In lieu of the full jail sentence, courts will often place offenders in a court supervision program called "probation." Probation generally requires the offender to complete some form of treatment, obtain gainful employment, and not violate any laws. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in additional jail time.

Generally, offenders must serve the minimum required jail penalty before being placed on probation.

Penalties for a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd DWI in Maryland

DWIs are also misdemeanors. The penalties for a DWI conviction or DUI involving a legal drug or a combination of alcohol and legal generally depend on the number of prior DWI convictions the driver has. However, for these types of offenses, all prior convictions (including all DWI and DUI convictions) within the driver's lifetime are counted.

Jail and Fines for Maryland DWI Convictions

The chart below outlines the range of jail time and fines for a first, second, and third DWI conviction (or DUI involving legal drugs or a combination of legal drugs and alcohol) in Maryland.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

3rd Offense

Jail

Up to 2 months

Up to 1 year

Up to 5 years

Fines

Up to $500

Up to $500

Up to $5,000

Probation for DWI Convictions

As with a DUI, a DWI conviction will likely result in a period of probation instead of the full jail sentence. While the requirements and supervision may be less stringent than a standard DUI, probation for a DWI still requires the completion of an approved treatment or substance abuse education program.

Enhanced DWI Penalties for Having Minor Passengers

A DWI that involves a minor passenger will also result in increased penalties. A first-offense DWI with a minor passenger will result in up to one year in jail and up to $1,000 in fines. A second-offense DWI involving a minor passenger carries up to two years in jail and up to $2,000 in fines.

License-Related Penalties for Maryland Impaired Driving Offenses

Getting caught driving while impaired or under the influence will generally result in driver's license penalties. The penalties will depend on the driver's level of impairment, the number of prior offenses, and the driver's level of cooperation with the police officer's requests.

License-related penalties can result from a conviction or arrest.

Maryland's Implied Consent Law

Maryland's "implied consent" law generally requires all drivers who are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence to submit to breath, blood, or urine testing when requested to do so by an officer. While a driver can refuse to comply, doing so will lead to certain penalties.

Refusing a Chemical Test in Maryland

When a driver refuses to take a chemical test, the officer will seize the driver's license and submit a refusal report to the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA). The MVA reviews the report and the driver's record and issues a notice of suspension.

The suspension period will generally be 270 days from the date of the notice. If the driver has a prior violation, the driver's license will be suspended for two years.

The fact that a driver refused testing can be used in court to help prove a DUI charge.

Failing a Chemical Test in Maryland

If a driver submits to testing and produces a BAC that's at least .08%, the officer will seize the driver's license and submit a report to the MVA. The MVA will then issue a 180-day notice of suspension, regardless of how many prior offenses the driver has.

However, if the test result shows a BAC result of .15% or more, the driver's license will be suspended for an additional 180 days, and 270 days for any subsequent violation.

License Revocation for DUI/DWI Convictions in Maryland

All DUI and DWI convictions are reported to the MVA and will result in the assessment of demerit points to the driver's license.

DWI suspension. A DWI conviction is worth eight demerit points and will generally result in a six-month, nine-month, or 12-month license suspension for a first, second, and third offense, respectively.

DUI revocation. A DUI will result in the assessment of 12 demerit points and automatic license revocation. However, the driver can apply for reinstatement after six months for a first offense, 12 months for a second offense, and 18 months for a third offense.

Reducing a Suspension and Applying for Reinstatement Following Revocation

Suspended and revoked drivers can generally apply for a restricted license under the Maryland Ignition Interlock Program. The program requires the driver to install and maintain an ignition interlock device (IID) on all operated vehicles but grants restricted driving privileges during the suspension period.

The IID program can be mandatory if the DUI/DWI involved alcohol, involved a minor passenger under 16 years old, or if the driver has a prior DUI/DWI.

Drivers that successfully hold the IID for six months are eligible to apply for early reinstatement. This period is increased to one year for drivers who refused chemical testing or had a BAC of .15% or more.

Even after reinstatement, drivers with two DUI/DWI convictions within the last five years will receive a three-year license restriction that prohibits vehicle operation with any amount of consumed alcohol.

Maryland's Underage Drinking and Driving Laws

All drivers under the age of 21 are prohibited from driving with any amount of alcohol in their system. A violation will result in criminal penalties as well as license restrictions.

Criminal Penalties for Underage DWI/DUIs in Maryland

A driver convicted of violating the underage alcohol restriction faces up to two months in jail and a maximum $500 in fines.

Administrative Consequences of an Underage DWI/DUI in Maryland

A conviction will also result in a six-month license suspension for a first offense and complete revocation for any subsequent offense.

The driver must also install an ignition interlock device, which generally permits restricted operation during the suspension period. This device must be maintained for six months for a first offense, one year for a second offense, and three years for any subsequent offense. The driver may also be required to complete a driver improvement course.

Maryland's DUI/DWI Pretrial Programs

Drivers facing DUI or DWI charges may be eligible for one of the court's pretrial programs. Maryland's "Accelerated Rehabilitative Disposition" (ARD) requires a clean record (in the last ten years). Program participants must pay fines, complete a treatment program, accept a period of license suspension, and complete a period of community service. Successful completion of the ARD program can result in the complete dismissal of the charges.

Alternatively, a driver might be eligible for a "Probation Before Judgement" (PBJ) disposition. Participants in this program must complete the probation requirements prior to the court entering a judgment of conviction. Successful completion of the program will result in the charges being sealed from public record, but the conviction will still be considered a prior conviction if the driver is ever convicted of a DUI in the future.

Talk with a Maryland DWI/DUI Lawyer

Maryland's impaired driving laws are complicated and the penalties for a conviction can be grave. However, a qualified attorney can help you navigate the system and advise you regarding your options.

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