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Collateral Consequences of a DUI or DWI Conviction

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has the responsibility of setting the country’s safety policies for vehicles operating on the nation’s highways. The NHTSA has stated its goal is to achieve “zero deaths” as it relates to alcohol-impaired traffic incidents, which were the cause of about 31 percent of the nation’s traffic deaths in 2012. In an effort to reduce the number of drunk driving accidents and fatalities, the agency continually evaluates the legal limits for blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels.

This ongoing assessment has, in large part, led to the creation of two crimes for driving while drinking alcohol in the United States. For example in Maryland, a person can be arrested and charged based on probable cause that they were driving while impaired (DWI) or for driving under the influence (DUI).

Both DWI and DUI are serious charges. If you have been arrested and charged with one of these violations, you should immediately consult with a Maryland DUI attorney to diminish the collateral damages associated with a conviction.

DWI Versus DUI in MD

Drunken driving is one of the most common criminal offenses filed in Maryland. Although the U.S. government cannot directly require states to pass laws, it can exert pressure through the awarding, or withholding, of federal funds. Congress provides financial incentives to many states to ensure that they meet accepted legal standards. Consequently, the Maryland General Assembly has, over time, changed codes, titles, and definitions that pertain to alcohol-related offenses in order to qualify for federal programs and funds.

In Maryland, the requirement for a DWI charge is a blood alcohol content (BAC) level of at least .06 percent. According to scientific research cited by the NHTSA, most drivers’ coordination becomes impaired to “some extent” as the result of even minor consumption of alcoholic beverages.

For prosecutors to levy a DUI charge, the driver’s BAC must measure .08 percent or greater. Exhaustive research has shown that the vast majority of drivers’ judgment and abilities have been “substantially impaired” when their BAC levels reach .08 percent.

Penalty Differences between DWI and DUI

Penalties for DWI are less severe than the repercussions for DUI. According to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA):

An initial DWI conviction can result in:

  • License suspension of up to 60 days
  • Fines up to $500
  • Up to 60 days incarceration
  • Up to 12 points against your license

A first DUI conviction can result in

  • One year in jail
  • Fine of $1,000
  • Driver’s license revocation for up to six months
  • MVA may assess 12 points against your driving record

Refusing to take a Breathalyzer or blood test, which determines your BAC level, means an automatic suspension of your driver’s license for 270 days for the first refusal and a one-year suspension for a second refusal. In some cases, a defendant can petition the MVA to receive a restricted driver’s license which enables them to travel with an ignition interlock device.

Besides risking expensive fines and jail time, those found guilty of a DWI or DUI can expect to suffer other costs associated with a conviction. These consequences can include probation, court-ordered alcohol education and treatment sessions.

Driver’s License Penalties for Commercial Drivers

For anyone depending on a commercial driver’s license (CDL) to make a living, getting charged with an alcohol related violation increases the stakes because it has a direct effect on your ability to sustain employment. Registering a BAC of .04 percent or higher while operating a commercial vehicle can lead to the revocation of your CDL for one year. Your license can also be disqualified before conviction if you receive a citation citing a high BAC reading. Because the MVA has adopted a zero-tolerance policy regarding commercial drivers and DUI you must respond to any notice of CDL disqualification within 15 days and:

  • Request a hearing before the Maryland Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH);
  • Waive your right to a hearing and surrender your CDL; or
  • Waive your right to a hearing and certify that you are no longer in possession of your CDL.

As society works to eliminate or mitigate many of the dangers that exist on our roads, drunk driving laws will continue to evolve and the penalties are likely to become increasingly harsh. If you or a loved one has been charged with DWI or DUI, you will require the services of a skilled and dedicated Maryland DUI lawyer, someone who will work to protect your rights and reputation.