Impaired driving laws are constantly evolving in almost every state, and Maryland is no exception. It seems that each year the legislature makes a firm commitment to steadily increase the potential punishments for drunk driving. While many of these initiatives do not end up becoming law, they do garner a degree of attention from the media. This in turn gets the message out to the public and provides a layer of deterrence, which is one of the main goals of lawmakers and anti DUI lobbyists. In order to keep up, we feel it is important to provide our readers with an overview of the state drunk driving laws every couple of years.
The potential punishments for a first offense DUI and DWI have changed little in recent time. In Maryland a person who is arrested for impaired driving will almost always be charged with both DUI and DWI. While it is rarely brought up in court unless the case goes to jury trial, DWI is considered a lesser offense and as a result has a lower maximum penalty of 60 days in jail, a $500 fine and 8 points if there is a conviction. Defendants who are charged with drunk driving and are seeking a plea deal should always inquire about the possibility of pleading to DWI in exchange for a dismissal of the DUI counts. A defendant who submits to a breath test and is over the legal limit will likely not have this option, but it still does not hurt to try. The maximum penalty for DUI and DUI per se is 1 year in jail, a $1,000 fine and 12 points upon conviction. The per se count is charged as a result of a breath test that is over the legal limit of .08.
A defendant who is charged as a repeat offender faces far stricter penalties, as the maximum jail sentence for DUI with one prior conviction is 2 years, and for DWI is 1 year in jail. The fines and license suspension times also increase and there is also the possibility of mandatory jail time if the prior offense occurred within 5 years of the current offense. The punishments for a second offense have not changed in the past few years, but the legislature has addressed punishing those who have two or more prior convictions for DUI, DWI or other impaired driving offense in a different state. Anyone with two prior convictions faces up to 5 years in prison upon being charged with either DWI or DUI. Probation before judgment or PBJ does not count as a conviction under this provision. A defendant with 3 prior convictions for drunk or impaired driving faces up to 10 years in prison upon being charged with a 4th DUI or DWI. The 10-year maximum penalty also applies to anyone with a criminal conviction for homicide by vehicle or vessel while impaired or under the influence. A defendant who has been convicted of causing life-threatening injury by motor vehicle or vessel while impaired or under the influence also faces up to 10 years in prison if subsequently charged with DUI or DWI.