The state of Maryland differentiates between driving while intoxicated (DWI) and driving under the influence (DUI). A DUI charge is brought if a driver is found to have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of between .04 and .08. DWI is a more serious charge with harsher penalties that applies if a driver’s BAC is over .08. For commercial drivers, the threshold for DUI is lowered to a BAC of .04 and for drivers under 21, it is lowered to .02.
Driving under the influence of any amount of a controlled substance or illegal drug is also considered a DUI. Maryland has a Compassionate Use Act that can reduce penalties associated with documented medicinal use of marijuana, but marijuana is still not technically legal for medical patients. As such, the Compassionate Use Act does not extend to cover traffic laws and cannot be used as a defense to mitigate DWI/DUI penalties.
Maryland operates under an implied consent law which states that anyone signing a state driver’s license or learner’s permit implicitly agrees to be tested for drugs or alcohol after being pulled over by a police officer who has probable cause. Refusal of testing under these circumstances results in an automatic 120-day suspension of the driver’s license. Maryland police cannot arrest a driver solely for a refusal, but the refusal can be introduced as evidence against them later in court. A police officer is allowed to force a driver to take a test if they were involved in an accident that caused serious injury or death to another person, however.
Felony Maryland DUI Law
While Maryland has harsh penalties for repeat DUI/DWI offenders including years of jail time and large fines, it is also one of only seven states that do not ever escalate DWI/DUI to a felony after a certain number of incidents. DWI/DUI is always treated as a misdemeanor in Maryland.
The only exception to this is if the DWI/DUI caused the death of another person. If this is the case, the charge changes to “homicide by motor vehicle while impaired by alcohol” or “homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence” depending on the circumstances. Both are punishable by several years of jail time and a fine of up to $5,000.
Changes To Maryland DUI Law in 2009
The state of Maryland passed a number of changes to their DWI/DUI laws that went into effect in October of 2009. Two or more convictions of any impaired driving law now result in an automatic one-year suspension of a driver’s license. Drivers under 21 can now be arrested for consumption of alcohol (they could previously only be charged with possession). Furnishing of alcohol to minors was also criminalized. Penalties were increased for those violating the DWI/DUI laws while driving on a restricted license. DUI offenders are also now only entitled to one Probation Before Judgement plea every 10 years.
What Is The Legal Alcohol Limit In Maryland?
Like every state in the U.S., Maryland features a legal alcohol limit of .08 percent. People who are found to be in violation of this limit are typically charged with driving while under the influence of alcohol. Law enforcement officials usually file charges after establishing a person’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC).
Some drivers are subject to more severe BAC thresholds than the .08 percent legal limit. Motorists who are not of legal drinking age, for instance, may be arrested and charged with a BAC of .02 percent or greater, and commercial motorists are subject to a legal alcohol limit of .04 percent.
People convicted of alcohol-related driving offenses may face potentially severe forms of punishment, including:
- Fines that total thousands of dollars
- Jail time of up to three years
- Loss of driving privileges for more than a year
- Required participation in an alcohol education or substance abuse program
Generally, the severity of penalties increases with the number of offenses. Aggravating circumstances, such as driving while intoxicated with a young child in a vehicle, can also influence the severity of punishments ultimately determined by a court.
Ignition Interlock Requirements In Maryland
An additional DUI penalty is mandatory compliance with ignition interlock law. An ignition interlock device (IID) prevents a vehicle from starting if a person fails a breath test.
Ignition interlock laws vary by state. In Maryland:
- A judge determines whether an IID must be installed after a first offense.
- A conviction for a second offense requires having a device installed on a vehicle.
- Once an IID is installed on a vehicle, an individual must return every month to a provider so that a servicer can collect data.
These are some of the most critical provisions related to IIDs, though many additional regulations address installation and maintenance.
Maryland DUI Penalties
In addition to establishing a blood alcohol limit of .08 percent for driving under the influence (DUI), Maryland also establishes a baseline BAC of .07 percent for driving while impaired (DWI). A DUI implies driving or otherwise operating a vehicle when one’s normal coordination appears substantially impaired as determined by a police officer. A DWI is considered to be less severe than a DUI and DWI implies that the driver’s normal coordination appeared to be somewhat impaired. For minors under the age of 21 and commercial drivers, the penalties are even more severe. The BAC for minors is .02 percent and .04 percent for commercial drivers.
The Maryland Implied Consent law establishes that by virtue of applying for and obtaining a driver’s license, drivers suspected of being under the influence must consent to a chemical blood or urine test. If a driver refuses to consent to testing, his or her license may be suspended for no more than four months for a first refusal or one year for a second refusal. When a driver refuses, the burden falls upon the state to prove, through observational or testimonial evidence, that a driver’s normal coordination was substantially impaired as required for a DUI or somewhat impaired as required for a DWI.
First Offense Maryland DUI Penalties
A first-time offense for DUI carries a penalty of no more than one year in prison and a $1,000 fine or no more than two years and a $2,000 fine if a passenger was a minor child. In addition, one’s driver license may be suspended for six months. A first offense for DWI carries a prison sentence of up to two months and a $500 fine or up to six months and a $1,000 fine if a passenger was a minor child. In addition, the driver’s license is suspended for six months.
Second Offense Maryland DUI Penalties
A second offense for DUI carries a penalty of no more than two years, a $2,000 fine, and a one-year license suspension. In addition, a convicted driver may be required to have an ignition interlock device installed to ensure that he or she is able to pass a breathalyzer test before the car will start. A second offense for DWI carries a prison sentence of up to one year and a $1,000 fine.
The state of Maryland considers anyone who has been convicted of more than one offense of DUI within a five-year period, to be a repeat offender. A repeat offender will get a suspended license for one year followed by one year of restricted driving privileges. Under the one-year restriction, a convicted driver is required to maintain an ignition interlock device on all owned or co-owned vehicles. A convicted driver is required to pay the costs associated with installing and maintaining the device unless he or she is able to prove financial hardship.
For all subsequent offenses of DUI and DWI, the prison time increases by one year, the fine increases by $1,000 and the license suspension increases by one year. In addition, a judge may choose to have the convicted driver’s vehicle impounded for a time that is dependent upon the judge’s discretion.