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Articles Posted in DWI and DUI

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drink-driving-808790_960_720-300x200The installation of engine interlock devices on vehicles in Maryland has increased exponentially over the last decade, and they have been lauded as a highly effective means to reduce impaired driving.  Currently though, there have been no realistic attempts by the state to make these devices mandatory in all vehicles.  In fact, it would likely impossible for any state to require the use of these devices in vehicles.  There are myriad reasons why a state such as Maryland would find it impractical or even unconstitutional to implement mandatory interlock or related programs.  First, the state does not have the budget or the manpower to develop an enforceable program where drivers would be required to submit to an alcohol test before putting a vehicle in drive.  Aftermarket alcohol testing devices are not especially reliable, and there would have to be someone on the government side to enforce the installation and maintenance of these devices.  Requiring drivers to install and maintain these alcohol testing devices would create a major public outcry regarding the expense and the civil liberties implications.  On top of all of these issues, instituting a statewide testing program would have an undue burden on interstate commerce, and likely lead to the years of legal challenges.

As a result of these implementation issues, the only realistic way to mandate devices that monitor a driver for intoxication is to require the auto manufacturers to install them in the factory.  This may seem like a pipe dream, but decades ago it would have been hard to imagine that all cars new would have seatbelt monitoring systems and airbags.  The NHTSA is the administrative agency that sets the safety requirements for vehicles being sold in the United States, and they take recommendations from the NTSB.  The NTSB has made lobbying for alcohol devices a priority since 2012, and has continued to recommend new cars be manufactured with them.  Passive alcohol testing devices monitor drivers for signs of impairment such as swerving, drifting and even facial expressions and movements.  They are called passive devices because the driver does not actually do anything to activate the device such as blowing into a tube on an interlock device.  Passive devices are always functioning while the car is in operation, and have been researched by multiple auto manufacturers since 2008.  The technology currently exists to detect signs of impairment in drivers, but they are not be perfect and could likely be disabled by a mechanic if the owner was so inclined.  The mandate would only apply to newly manufactured vehicles based on the aforementioned difficulty and expense in installing after-market devices; it could pass muster in a civil liberties argument because the burden will be placed on auto manufacturers and not individual citizens.  The government would not be forcing individuals to be tested for impairment while driving, but rather saying if anyone wants to buy a new car, they will have to deal with the devices.

Nearly 43,000 people were killed on roads in the United States last year, and this alarming number continues to rise.  Roughly one quarter of these deaths are alcohol related, and the government believes each and every one of these are preventable.  As the technology continues to improve, the pressure will mount on the NHTSA to act.  Therefore, it is highly likely that within the next five years all new cars sold in the United States will have some sort of passive intoxication monitoring system.  The Blog will continue to follow this story and may post a follow up article in the future.  If you have a question about a DUI case, an MVA license suspension or the interlock device program feel free to call Maryland DUI lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin is an experienced criminal defense lawyer who specializes in traffic violations such as leaving the scene of an accident, fleeing or eluding, driving on suspended license and all drunk driving related matters.  He can also fight to have your bench warrant or arrest warrant recalled if you have missed court or violated your probation.  Call Benjamin anytime at 410-207-2598.

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793842_school_bus-300x224Maryland State Police troopers recently charged a Carroll County public school bus driver with DUI after her bus crashed into multiple telephone poles on Route 32.  Troopers responded to Bartholow Road in Eldersburg and observed such severe damage to the telephone poles that the road was forced to be shut down for roughly 9 hours.  According to reports the school bus drove off the roadway around 2 p.m., and police responded shortly thereafter.  Troopers allegedly observed signs of impairment on the driver that were consistent with recent consumption of alcohol or drugs, and later arrested her on charges of DUI and DWI.  Additional charges may be forthcoming pending the results of a blood analysis that was likely required by the officers.  There is no indication that the driver, a 54-year-old woman from Westminster, was injured, but it appears she was treated by medical personnel.  Reports stated the bus driver was in fact on her way to pick up children at one of the nearby schools, but law enforcement has not confirmed this as fact.  The two closest schools in the area are Eldersburg Elementary and Liberty High School.  At the time of this post the bus driver’s charges had not been released publicly, but she will likely face a host of traffic violations in addition to DUI and DWI, such as reckless driving and negligent driving.  If the results of the blood test reveal an alcohol concentration of .08 or higher the driver will be cited for DUI per se, which carries a 1-year maximum jail sentence and a $1,000 fine.

While there were no children on the bus at the time of the accident, this case will not sit well with the State if indeed there is sufficient evidence of impairment.  The bus driver does not appear to have a criminal record, but does have two prior convictions for driving on a suspended license.  One conviction was from Baltimore County in 2014, and the other from Carroll County in 2012.  If in fact the bus driver was heading to pick up children from school there is certainly going to be a great deal of public attention surrounding the case.  The Blog will certainly follow its progress, and may post a follow-up article in the future.  Obviously, the situation could have been drastically worse if children were in the bus, so the accident may have actually been a blessing.

If there had been children in the bus, the driver could have faced a host of other charges, including criminal charges, regardless of whether an accident occurred.  For starters she would have faced charges for driving while impaired (or under the influence) by alcohol or drugs while transporting a minor.  The maximum penalty for DUI while transporting a minor is up to 2 years in jail for a first offense, which is double the normal maximum penalty.  Repeat offenders face up to 3 years for a second offense and up to 4 years in prison for a third or subsequent offense.  Under Maryland law the maximum penalty for DWI while transporting a minor is up to 6 months in jail, which is three times the normal maximum penalty of 60 days.  The maximum penalties are much harsher, and the judges and the State will also take these cases far more seriously.  For this reason, it is important to retain an experienced Maryland DUI lawyer for your charge right away.  There are a host of things that a defendant can do prior to court to improve the outcome of the case, and it should start right away.  Benjamin specializes in DUI while transporting a minor, federal DUI, repeat offender cases, out-of-state defendants and minors charged with DUI, and has successfully defended numerous clients charged with these offenses.  Call Benjamin anytime for a free consultation at 410-207-2598 and learn what defenses may be available in your case.
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hammer-802296__480-300x225Can the State go to trial without the defendant being present in court?  Last month a Washington County man was convicted of possession with intent to distribute cocaine, and driving under the influence after a traffic stop in the early morning hours of April 8, 2021.  Normally this type of case would not be especially newsworthy for the Blog but for one glaring detail; the defendant was tried and convicted by a jury despite not being present in court.  In legal terms the defendant was tried in absentia, simply meaning he was absent from court but the judge decided to move forward with the case anyway.  The stop and the trial occurred in Cumberland County, Pennsylvania, which is just north of the man’s hometown of Hagerstown on Interstate 81.  According to a press release by the District Attorney’s Office the man was traveling southbound toward Maryland on I81 and nearly collided with a tractor trailer.  After making contact with the Hagerstown man, Troopers noticed marijuana in plain view in the vehicle and observed signs of impairment.  The defendant then allegedly admitted to drinking alcohol and smoking marijuana before driving.  Upon being arrested for DUI Troopers recovered a plastic bag with a white powdery substance that the defendant was trying to conceal in the front bumper of the vehicle.  Chemical analysis revealed that the substance was in fact cocaine, weighing nearly 75 grams.  The amount of cocaine apparently was enough for the jury to conclude that it was not for personal use, but rather that he possessed the drug with intent to distribute.  Sentencing is set for October 4 of this year, and it remains to be seen whether the defendant will show.

Although the defendant was arrested and prosecuted in Pennsylvania, the law regarding trials being held in absentia appear to be similar to the Maryland law.  We do not usually post about cases in other states, but the defendant does hail from Hagerstown and the trial brings up an interesting and rare issue.  Pursuant to Maryland Rule 4-231 a defendant in a criminal proceeding is entitled to be physically present in person at every stage of the case and trial.  The most common exceptions are during arguments over the law, or a when nolle prosequi or STET is entered.  The courts have been conducting remote hearings for more than two years, but at most hearings the judge reminds the defendant that he or she has a right to be physically present.  This is especially true for evidentiary hearings and plea hearings.  There is one more exception to this rule, and it is triggered when the defendant waives his or her appearance by being voluntarily absent from court after the proceeding has commenced or when the defendant engages in conduct that justifies exclusion from the court.  A defendant may also personally or through counsel waive the right to be present.  We have seen cases where defendants have been disruptive in court and then removed from the courtroom in the middle of a trial.  One particular case occurred in Florida, and the trial continued without the defendant even after the jury witnessed the outburst.  This is obviously a rare situation that all parties attempt to avoid, but it does happen.

The lawyers for this defendant in this Pennsylvania case likely attempted to postpone the trial or even withdraw from the case, but the State and the judge seemed to agree that moving the case along was in the best interest of justice.  It is not clear whether the defendant was absent for the entire case or just for the trial, but the language of the Maryland rule does appear to create somewhat of a murky issue by stating “after the proceeding has commenced”.  An argument could be made that the proceeding means the actual jury trial, and therefore a defendant’s presence cannot be waived by failing to appear at trial.  The Blog will continue to follow this case to see whether the defendant shows, and whether the sentence takes into account the defendant’s failure to appear.  It would likely be advisable for the defendant to show up for sentencing, as unlike during trial, a judge does have the ability to factor in failing to appear at sentencing.

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liquor-264470_960_720-300x200Maryland State Police troopers were extremely busy over the July 4th holiday, and recently reported the arrest of nearly 100 drivers over the long weekend.  From Friday the 1st through Monday the 4th 95 drivers were arrested on suspicion of drunk or drugged driving and cited with numerous other traffic violations.  The State Police conducted DUI saturation patrols on Route 50 in Anne Arundel County and the lower Eastern Shore, and also worked patrols on I-695 in Baltimore County, I-70 in Howard County and I-495 in Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties.  Troopers and officers from various departments such as the MDTA Police issued 1,396 citations on interstates 695 and 70, and an additional 852 along Route 50 in Talbot, Queen Anne’s, Anne Arundel and Prince George’s Counties.  Ocean City Police officers and Deputy Sheriffs from Wicomico and Worcester Counties also likely arrested several impaired drivers over the weekend, and drunk driving arrests will continue to add up over the summer.

The sheer number of citations issued over the weekend seems extremely high, but keep in mind that each time a person is arrested for DUI in Maryland they almost always receive at least 3 citations.  Police typically charge DUI and DWI as well as DUI Per Se if the driver took a breath test and blew over .08.  In addition, there is often a traffic infraction that justifies the original stop, such as speeding, failing to stay right of the center and/or failure to obey a traffic control device.  A driver will typically be issued a traffic infraction along with the impaired driving tickets.  Also, it is almost common practice for the Maryland State Police to charge a person with reckless driving and negligent driving when they arrest a person for drunk driving.  If you are charged with DUI in Maryland, it is not beneficial to prepay the traffic citations associated with the case, as they will ultimately be set for trial along with the impaired driving citations.  Paying the citations will result in points being assessed by the MVA, and could also cost hundreds of dollars.  In most cases the non-jailable traffic citations end up being dismissed by the State’s Attorney’s Office pursuant to a plea on one of the more serious citations.  A driver cannot be sentenced on more than one impaired driving ticket, so do not be alarmed when you see two or more similar citations.

The Blog will continue to follow trends regarding DUI arrests in Maryland over the course of the summer, and may post a follow up article as the various police departments release information about stops and arrests.  If you have been charged with a traffic violation, contact Maryland DUI lawyer Benjamin Herbst anytime for a free consultation.  Benjamin has successfully represented hundreds of clients charged with impaired driving, and he has extensive experience representing out-of-state defendants and repeat offenders, as well as federal DUIs and individuals charged with DUI while transporting a minor.  Benjamin has won numerous jury trials and has argued for the dismissal of evidence based on illegal stops.  Anyone who is arrested for impaired driving may also face MVA license suspensions ranging from 6 months to a year, which are separate from what happens in the court case.  Benjamin can help on this end as well and has successfully handled numerous MVA hearings at the Office of Administrative Hearings or OAH in Hunt Valley.  Recently, Benjamin successfully argued that the State Police had not provided sufficient evidence that his client was in control of a motor vehicle when arrested for DUI, which led to the restoration of his client’s full driving privileges.  Contact Benjamin anytime to discuss which defenses may be available in your case at 410-207-2598.  The Herbst Firm represents clients in all Maryland jurisdictions including the federal courts in Greenbelt and Baltimore, and also accepts criminal defense and DUI cases in Florida.

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technology-2500010__480-300x200Memorial Day weekend marks the unofficial start to the summer season in Maryland’s only beach town, but these days tourists from the region begin traveling to Ocean City to attend events and enjoy the night life as soon as the weather turns warm.  With graduations completed and school about to let out, it’s safe to say that summer is now in full swing down at the ocean.  This being a criminal law Blog we’re not here to report on the calendar of events in OCMD, but rather the host of new arrests and police activity that comes with the dramatic uptick in visitors.  This week one notable arrest took place after a New York man was pulled over for multiple traffic infractions including aggressive driving, and traveling roughly twice the 35 miles per hour speed limit on the Philadelphia Ave. section of coastal highway.  This area is one of the busiest and most heavily trafficked areas of Ocean City, so needless to say officers rushed to pull the vehicle over as soon as possible.  It seems that the actual traffic stop was effectuated without much drama, but the defendant’s alleged actions that followed were anything but calm and collected.

According to an Ocean City Police Department press release, officers detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage upon approaching the defendant, and shortly thereafter determined that he was driving on a suspended out-of-state driver’s license.  The defendant was then requested to complete standardized field sobriety exercises, and was arrested after becoming uncooperative during the tests.  He was initially arrested for DUI, fleeing and eluding and disorderly conduct, but it turns out these charges only represented a fraction of what was yet to come.  While the defendant was seated in the backseat of the patrol vehicle, he attempted to make a phone call from his smartwatch.  Making unauthorized phone calls while in custody is a huge no-no with police and correctional officers, but the defendant was not happy about giving up his watch to the police.  He allegedly became aggressive and kicked the arresting officer in the face chest and arms, and then kicked another officer who came over to offer assistance.  Ocean City EMS arrived on scene to treat the defendant and the officer, and the defendant was taken to Atlantic General Hospital in Berlin for treatment.  After receiving treatment for what the police deemed were minor injuries, he was taken to the police station and booked for a total of 5 criminal charges including two counts of assault on a law enforcement officer, disorderly conduct and obstructing and hindering.  He also received 16 traffic citations for charges including DUI and driving under the influence of drugs.  The defendant faces hefty fines and potential points for aggressive driving, reckless driving and negligent driving, and according to the charges the defendant’s license was already suspended in the state of Nevada.

The defendant was denied bail by the District Court Commissioner, but granted release on a $25,000 bail the following day when he went before a judge.  He posted bail and now will return to court in July for his trial date.  The Blog will continue to follow this case as it progresses through the court system, and we anticipate whichever judge hears this case will not be pleased with the defendant’s alleged conduct.  Aggressive driving combined with driving under the influence is a dangerous combination, especially in a crowded area such as lower Ocean City. The driving behavior combined with the alleged assault on police officers made a bad situation even worse, though the defendant may be able to challenge many of the charges in court.  He certainly is going to require a strong defense to avoid jail time and permanent convictions on his record.

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dui2-300x199In 2016 Maryland lawmakers passed Noah’s Law, which mandated the installation of engine interlock devices for anyone convicted of DUI.  The law also significantly increased administrative driver’s license suspensions for those who either refused to take a breathalyzer test or for those who tested over the legal limit of .08.  Interlock devices, commonly known as “blow and goes”, require a driver to produce a negative breath alcohol test prior to starting the car, and at random times during the car trip.  They have become more technologically advanced over the last several years, and most now include cameras to verify the person giving the breath sample is actually the driver.  The technology has its faults though, and we have seen numerous cases of the devices malfunctioning or causing damage to vehicles.  Despite some shortcomings, interlock devices have been hailed by lawmakers and lobbyists as highly effective at reducing the number of impaired drivers on the road.  There were apparently 3,700 failed interlock tests in 2021 that resulted in the vehicle being disabled, and those in support of the devices have been quick to conclude this number directly translated to 3,700 less drunk drivers on the road.  Regardless of the exact numbers, the devices for the most part do what they are intended to do, and as a result have become a massive business for manufacturers and installers.

While Noah’s law was considered groundbreaking at the time, and resulted in many states following suit with their own interlock requirements, there are what some consider shortcomings in the law.  Currently judges are only required to order a defendant to install interlock upon a conviction for DUI.  This means than defendants who receive probation before judgment or PBJ are not required by law to install interlock.  Over the years judges in Maryland have become stricter when it comes to granting PBJ in DUI cases, and it is no longer a forgone conclusion for first-timers.  On the other hand, first-time offenders who have done all the right things leading up to court (completing alcohol education etc.) and show remorse have a good chance of leaving court with a PBJ.  According to reports nearly half of the 14,000 Maryland drunk driving defendants received PBJ in 2021, and the percentage of first-time offenders receiving PBJ would likely be much higher than 50%.  In addition to the PBJ loophole, defendants convicted of DWI, which carries lower maximum jail time, fines and points, can currently avoid installing interlock in their cars.  Strengthening Noah’s law would likely result in all DUI and DWI defendants who enter guilty pleas being required to install interlock.

The interlock bills being debated in Annapolis deal with requirements imposed by a judge in court, but the court case is only half the equation in a drunk driving case.  A Maryland driver who is charged with DUI or DWI and refuses to take a breathalyzer test must currently must install interlock in order to avoid a mandatory license suspension of 270 days.  Defendants who take the test and blow over .15 must also install interlock or face a 6-month suspension.  These requirements are imposed administratively by the MVA, and can only be amended at a hearing in limited circumstances.  A Maryland driver who refuses the breath test or blows over .15 may be able to secure a work vehicle exception to the interlock requirement by requesting a hearing in front of an Administrative Law Judge or ALJ.  An ALJ can also grant a work-only restricted license in cases where the defendant blew under .15, but cannot grant a restricted license in a refusal case.  These time frames are for first time offenders, and repeat offenders could face as much as a two-year suspension in refusal cases.

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DUI4-300x300A former high-ranking officer with the Maryland Natural Resources Police has been found guilty of DUI and negligent driving after a plea agreement was reached in the District Court for Worcester County in Snow Hill.  The officer, who was second in command at the NRP, was granted probation before judgement for the DUI count, and received a conviction for the negligent driving count.  Pursuant to the plea agreement, the charges for leaving the scene of an accident with property damage and improper backing were dismissed by the State.  As part of the sentence the former decorated law enforcement officer will be required to complete 100 hours of community service and was placed on 2 years of unsupervised probation.  It appears as though the defendant already completed an alcohol education program, as that was not ordered during sentencing.

According to the facts presented at the plea agreement the former police officer was stopped at a red light near Ocean City when he proceeded to back into another vehicle.  In a regrettable decision, the defendant left the scene, and was later found parked in a lot near Route 113.  When troopers arrived, they detected an odor of an alcoholic beverage and began to administer standardized roadside sobriety exercises.  They soon after arrested the officer and issued him four citations.  By leaving the scene, the former officer was in violation of the Maryland Transportation Article section 20-103, which requires all persons involved in an accident to remain in the area of the accident until they have rendered reasonable aid and exchanged identifying information.  A violation of 20-103 is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail, but the State felt it was appropriate to dismiss this citation as part of the plea.  Instead, it appears they were insistent on prosecuting the negligent driving citation.  Negligent driving carries 1 point or 3 points if the act contributed to an accident, so the former officer will have at least 1 point assessed on his driving record.

Fortunately, the accident appeared to be minor and nobody was injured.  If there had been bodily injury the former officer could have been charged under 20-102, leaving the scene of an accident with bodily injury.  This offense is punishable by up to 1 year in jail unless the accident resulted in serious bodily injury or death.  Leaving the scene of an accident with serious bodily injury is a felony punishable by up to 5 years in prison, and if a death occurred the maximum penalty jumps to 10 years.  Under these enhanced penalties the state is required to prove the defendant knew or should have known the accident caused serious bodily injury or death.  Maryland is one of a few states that also criminalizes negligent driving without any proof of drug or alcohol impairment.  Almost all vehicle accidents that result in the death of an individual will be forwarded to the State’s Attorney’s Office for review.  If it appears that the at fault driver deviated from the normal standard of care that is expected when on the road, he or she could be charged with a misdemeanor offense of criminal negligence that carries up to 3 years in jail.  The penalty jumps to a 10-year felony  if there is evidence of gross negligence, which could mean racing or weaving in and out of traffic at a high rate of speed.  A defendant who is at fault for an accident involving death and leaves the scene could face punishment on both charges, as they are separate criminal acts.

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prison-300x201A Washington County man was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison followed by 5 years of probation after entering a plea to one count of manslaughter by vehicle in a grossly negligent manner.  The 30-year-old defendant was originally charged in the District Court with numerous traffic citations such as DUI, reckless driving and driving on a suspended/revoked license.  He was also charged with four criminal offenses included the criminal negligence and homicide by motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol.  All of the citations and criminal charges were transferred to the Circuit Court after the State’s Attorney’s Office filed a criminal information about two months after the incident.

Under the Maryland Criminal Code, a charge of manslaughter by vehicle is defined as causing the death of another by driving or operating a vessel in a grossly negligent manner.  There is no requirement that the State prove the defendant was under the influence, though it almost always involves an element of drug or alcohol impairment.  The charge is a felony that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison upon conviction, but the max becomes 15 years if the defendant has a prior conviction for a drug or alcohol related driving offense.  This penalty is significantly higher than the 5-year max for a conviction of homicide by motor vehicle or vessel while under the influence and the 3-year maximum sentence for manslaughter by criminal negligence.  It is no surprise that the State was firm on extending a plea offer that involved the gross negligence penalty, especially considering the defendant had a least two prior drunk driving cases and was driving on a revoked license.  The first took place back in 2013 when the defendant received probation before judgment for DUI.  Just three years later the defendant was convicted of DUI and received a jail sentence.

While a 10-year prison sentence may seem harsh for a crime that only carries a maximum penalty of 15 years, the defendant essentially pled guilty to a third DUI, which resulted the death of a young man.  According to comments made by the State and the judge at sentencing the family of the victim was in agreement with the sentence, which means the defendant likely would have received more time had the case proceeded to trial and resulted in a conviction for the top count.  Assuming the defendant did not have any additional criminal convictions, his guidelines were probably in the range of 5-10 years of active incarceration.  This means he received the top of the guidelines, though in cases like this the guidelines are not as influential on the state’s recommendation and ultimately the judge’s decision.  DUI manslaughter cases, and cases involving gross negligence or criminal negligence are some of the toughest cases to defend, prosecute and judge due to their tragic nature, but it appears all sides came to an agreement in this case.

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drink-driving-808790__340-300x200Impaired 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.

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baltimore-1483757__480-300x200A Baltimore City Police officer was recently arrested and charged with drunk driving after he was found sleeping on the street outside of a convenience store.  According to the incident report the officer was found lying in a pool of his own vomit outside of his vehicle on Eastern Ave in Baltimore.  To make matters worse the defendant, who was off-duty at the time, told responding officers that his personal firearm was missing from the scene.  Police searched the vehicle and the area around the vehicle, but were unable to locate the missing handgun.  The officer now faces charges for driving while impaired and driving under the influence of alcohol, and has a trial date set in the North Avenue District Court in February.  It remains to be seen whether the officer will resolve his case at the District Court level, or request a jury trial that would transfer the case downtown to the Circuit Court for Baltimore City.  DUI carries a maximum penalty of 1 year in jail, which means the defendant has an absolute right to request a jury trial under Maryland law.  DWI carries a maximum penalty of 60 days incarceration, and thus is not an offense that affords a jury trial right.

Regardless of where the case is heard, the judge will not be pleased to find out that the officer had previously been charged with DUI back in 2018.  According to an incident report the officer, who was again off-duty, was pulled over after police responded to a call regarding individuals brandishing firearms at a club.  Police detected signs of impairment and the officer was administered a breathalyzer test at the station, which resulted in a reading of .10.  While this is clearly enough evidence to prosecute for DUI per se under Maryland law, the case ended up being dismissed by prosecutors in court.  The officer was also never identified as one of the individuals who allegedly brandished a gun, but two of his off-duty colleagues were identified and disciplined as a result of their involvement.  The officer, who currently lives in Howard County, avoided any major disciplinary consequences back in 2018, but he may not be so lucky in the present case.  If he enters a plea or is found guilty at trial the fact that he was so intoxicated that his handgun was lost or taken without his knowledge will certainly be a factor that the judge will consider at sentencing.  It is likely that a sentencing judge would consider this behavior even more reckless than a typical DUI, as it resulted in another illegal firearm being circulated on the streets of Baltimore.

The 28-year old city police officer has been placed on paid leave during the course of an internal investigation that will not be made public.  The results of the case will be public though, and it will be interesting to see how the state and the judge handle the case.  The public will certainly be watching, and so will the Blog.  We will post a follow-up article when the case is resolved, and comment on the outcome.  Benjamin Herbst is a Maryland criminal defense lawyer who specializes in DUI defense and other traffic charges such as leaving the scene of an accident, fleeing and eluding police, driving on a suspended license, reckless driving, driving without a license and federal traffic citations received on Maryland parkways or on federal property.  Benjamin also handles all criminal charges including wear, transport or carry of a handgun, and illegal possession of a firearm.  He is available 7-days a week for a free consultation and is licensed in Florida for those who have criminal or traffic cases in Miami-Dade, Broward or Palm Beach County.  Call Benjamin today at 410-207-2598 or 954-543-0305 to discuss your case and which defenses may be available to you.

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