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Articles Posted in DWI and DUI

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dramshopphoto.jpgThe state’s highest court recently ruled on a lawsuit involving dram shop laws, an issue that has been hotly debated for the last few decades. In essence, dram shop laws refer to the liability of bars and restaurants for the actions of their patrons. A state with dram shop laws provides a third party with a legal right to sue a bar or restaurant, which has continued to serve a patron that is visibly drunk, if the patron causes some sort of injury to the third party. Dram shop is simply a traditional term for any establishment that sells alcohol. These laws typically apply to DUI accidents involving serious injury or death. Currently there are 43 states with some sort of dram shop statute, but both the Maryland Legislature and the Courts have not been inclined to follow the majority on this issue, with neighboring Virginia and Delaware sharing the same view. Numerous bills have been proposed over the years, but none has ended up on the governor’s desk for a signature, and the state’s highest court has never upheld a civil action against a bar or tavern for an act of a patron that occurred outside the establishment.
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dui.jpgThe Maryland State Police officially launched its DUI prevention taskforce at a press conference in Jessup last week. The taskforce is nicknamed SPIDRE for State Police Impaired Driving Effort, and consists of seven specially trained troopers. These troopers will move throughout the state with the goal of impacting every legal jurisdiction. For now though, the taskforce will concentrate its efforts in areas that law enforcement officials have identified as DUI hotspots. These areas, which are documented to have the most alcohol related crashes and citations, include Prince George’s County, Baltimore County, Howard County, Ocean City, and Hagerstown. The taskforce first deployed in PG County back in May and conducted over 1,300 traffic stops. The trooper team made 254 DUI arrests and 53 criminal arrests, and issued over 3,500 traffic citations and repair orders. Clearly the task force is not shy when it comes it issuing tickets, as they averaged almost 3 per traffic stop.

The taskforce will require funding of about $1.5 million, which the Motor Vehicle Administration’s Maryland Highway Safety Office is shelling out in response to the large number of alcohol related crashes on state roads. Last year there were 158 people killing in these crashes and over 3,000 injured. Although theses numbers do not indicate an increase over the yearly average, this is still an extremely high number for a state with such a small total population. Nearly one third of all motor vehicle accidents are in some way caused or related to alcohol and drug consumption. Whether the SPIDRE task force ends up being successful depends on exactly how you define success. DUI suppression initiatives such as task forces, specially trained teams, and checkpoints will always result in more arrests. The state spends millions and the resources and manpower do end up putting people behind bars. But the ultimate goal of these programs should never be about arrests, but rather about prevention and mitigation. The real question should be whether SPIDRE actually makes our roads safer.
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alcohol-beer.jpgMaryland law enforcement has officially implemented a boater safety plan in response to the rising number of serious injuries and fatalities on the hundreds of state waterways. The plan, entitled Operation Dry Water, is actually a national initiative, which was created to raise awareness and enforcement of incidents of boating under the influence or BUI. According to the National Association of State Boating Law Administrators, nearly 17 percent of all boating fatalities are caused by alcohol use. Lawmakers and law enforcement agencies decided to adopt the national initiative after a recent three year spike in waterway deaths. In 2011 there were 24 Maryland waterway fatalities and last year there were 11, which is double the 10 year state average.
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465392_breathalyzer.jpgOver 30 years ago the National Transportation Safety Board advised all states to alter their drunk driving laws by lowering the legal blood alcohol limit from .10 to .08. But the NTSB and congress did not have the direct power to compel states to follow this recommendation through federal legislation. As a result, many states were slow to act on the recommendation and some simply ignored it for years. A few states, including our very own Maryland, likely would still have not ratified the .08 limit had it not been for the federal government employing an all too common backhanded tactic to force the hand of the state governments. States depend on the federal government for a variety of funding grants, but perhaps no single grant is larger than the money states are given to build and maintain highways. The federal money obviously comes at a cost, and congress has the authority to take it away as easily as it gives it. In the 90’s congress began to threaten to discontinue federal highway funding, which amounts to tens of millions, to any state that decided to exercise their constitutional autonomy by not following the NTSB’s recommendation. Federalism is great, but money talks, and by 2004 the DUI laws of all fifty states had incorporated a .08 BAC limit. Maryland held out until 2001.
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1276305_beer.jpgIt is no longer surprising to see an American politician wind up in the news with some sort of personal legal issue. It’s is an unfortunate sign of the times, but our country’s so called leaders seem to only make the news when they are in trouble. Most politicians outside of the heavy hitters remain relatively anonymous until the day their mug shot is plastered on our television or computer screens. Everyone knows Obama and O’Malley, but how many citizens actually know who their state and local representatives are? In the last few months, two Maryland politicians have become better known thanks to run ins with the law. Both of these incidents involve alcohol, as both were charged and subsequently convicted of DUI.

The first conviction occurred a few weeks ago, when Baltimore County councilman, Todd Huff pled guilty to drunk driving. The councilman was stopped by police on York Road in Towson while driving his county issued vehicle. It was later determined that he had a blood alcohol level of .20, which is more than twice the legal limit. Because of Huff’s political position, the Baltimore County State’s Attorney’s office declined to prosecute the case, and Harford County prosecutors stepped in to finish the job. The prosecutor recommended a jail sentence, but the circuit court judge did not feel mandatory jail was warranted. Instead, the judge sentenced Huff to two years of supervised probation and a one-year suspended jail sentence. If the councilman were to violate his probation he could be sentenced to the suspended jail time after a VOP hearing. The sentence appears to be on par with other Baltimore drunk driving cases with similar facts. Had the councilman been arrested in the prosecutor’s Harford County he undoubtedly would have been worse off.
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Although not an official public holiday in America as it is in Ireland, each year on St. Patrick’s Day millions of Americans flock to the bars and pubs to join in the festivities. It is one of our country’s favorite holidays, where it’s not just acceptable, but encouraged to dress up in green and drink beer of the same color. Everyone is Irish on March 17th. But St. Patrick’s Day is also a busy day for law enforcement, and even busier when the holiday happens to fall on a weekend as it has for the past two years. This year, dozens of Maryland law enforcement agencies are ramping up their DUI patrols to combat the yearly spike in alcohol related car accidents on this festive day. Starting at 9 p.m. tonight, and lasting through Monday morning, the state police as well as local cops will be out in full force to zero in on anyone who attempts to get behind the wheel after one too many Guinness pints. The patrols will focus on areas that have a past history of larger volumes of injury accidents and other incidents involving alcohol. DUI patrols will not exclusively patrol these areas though, and are sure to be out in greater numbers on all heavily traveled roads.
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76714_behind_bars.jpgBack in June the Blog posted an article about a man who was arrested for his 8th DUI, and now a sentence has finally been handed down in this unprecedented case. The defendant had three open Wicomico County drunk driving cases this year alone. Two of those cases were disposed of by way of guilty pleas back in October of this year. The man received a two-year jail sentence for the first case on the 19th of October, and he received three years for a separate case just one week later. Last week in Salisbury, a Circuit Court judge handed down the final sentence of an additional three years, bringing the total amount of jail time to eight years, one for each conviction. The most recent case was certainly the most egregious of the three, as the intoxicated man apparently slammed straight into a stopped car at a red light intersection. To make matters worse, the defendant was also driving without his required engine interlock device, which does not allow the car to be started without an alcohol free breath sample

The jail sentences were ordered to be served consecutively, meaning that the man will have to finish serving time on each individual case before he can receive credit for time served in the others. The judge could have imposed the three-year sentence to run concurrently, but then the defendant would not have to serve any additional time. After completing the eight years, which includes four with the Department of Corrections, the man will have one year of probation with an extra year hanging over his head in case of a violation.
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1172422_police_on_the_scene.jpgPolice departments around the country are planning to ramp up their DUI detection and suppression efforts for the big game this weekend. Cops will deploy more road patrol officers than normal, and set up numerous checkpoints around the country this coming Sunday. These patrols and checkpoints will focus on popular nightlife areas and suburban neighborhoods where millions will be hosting or attending parties. Baltimore will likely see a large police presence in the downtown area, as thousands of Ravens fans will be out watching and celebrating the hometown team. The best piece of advice for any party goer who plans on drinking is to walk, take public transportation, or cab it. But, as most Marylanders are aware the state’s public transportation system and taxi cab network is hardly to most accessible, so driving is usually the only option. Get a designated driver, and try to find one that’ll be able to resist the temptation to drink when the Ravens are playing well, playing poorly, or doing both from one play to the next.

Police departments tend to send out press releases about increased DUI patrols because their publicly stated goal is to prevent drunk driving. But for the road patrol officers out on the street who aren’t able to watch the game, their goal is to make arrests. Many false or illegal DUI arrests occur on holidays or during large events when cops are on high alert. You can be sure that police will be quick to arrest after a traffic stop or at a checkpoint throughout the day and night on Sunday at the first hint of alcohol. Simply having a few drinks and then driving is not illegal. For police to make and arrest, a driver must either have a blood alcohol level of at least .08 or display to the stopping officer that they are intoxicated or under the influence to the extent that their faculties are impaired. It is not illegal to smell like beer and get behind the wheel, so it is important to know your rights if you happen to be pulled over.
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714570_light_5.jpgThe Thanksgiving holiday week is one of America’s favorite times of the year. During the day we eat our turkey, play and watch football, and take advantage of all the Black Friday shopping sales. But the Thanksgiving week and weekend is also known as a popular nightlife time. In fact, the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is the single most popular bar night of the year, and the Friday and Saturday after are not far behind. And whenever there is a party, you can be sure that police are not far behind to come crash it. The Maryland State Police recently made an attempt to crash the holiday week party by ramping up patrols across the state’s highways. Police were specifically targeting the roads in and out of popular nightlife spots and conducted almost 9,000 traffic stops over the holiday weekend. Out of the 9,000 traffic stops, nearly 100 resulted in an arrest for DUI. Close to 60 people were arrested or cited with drug offenses by state troopers, and over 100 were arrested for other crimes. Police also reported that 3 guns were confiscated during the traffic stops.

The Maryland State Police ramped up their holiday patrols in all 22 barracks across the state, with orders to look for aggressive drivers, speeders, drivers not wearing their seatbelts, and impaired drivers. The state police did not conduct a DUI checkpoint over the weekend, but instead relied on a more aggressive patrol initiative. https://www.criminaldefenseattorneyblog.com has previously posted articles about the futility of DUI checkpoints in the state, and the recent holiday patrol proves this point. Over 1 percent of the drivers that were stopped by police patrols over the weekend were suspected of drunk driving. Past Maryland checkpoint have resulted in about one half of one percent of drivers being suspected of drunk driving. This is not to say that the ramped up road patrols are without flaws, but rather to say they are at least more effective than checkpoints.
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1397111_need_for_speed.jpgA Delaware resident was recently arrested on Maryland’s Eastern Shore after he allegedly led police on a multi county high speed chase. State Police troopers along with the Kent County Sheriffs Department collaborated in apprehending the suspect, who was charged with multiple traffic infractions and crimes. Some of the more serious crimes included fleeing and eluding, DUI, and negligent driving. The chase originated near Chestertown, which is the county seat, and largest city in Kent County. At about 2 in the afternoon, law enforcement received a call about a suspected drunk driver. Sheriffs responded to the area of the call, and one officer observed a Dodge Charger that matched the description in the call speeding along Route 213. The Officer initiated a traffic stop and made contact with the driver of the Charger. The contact with the Officer did not last long, as the driver took off at a high rate of speed.

The stopping officer immediately called for backup and gave chase after the suspect. In a desperate attempt to avoid law enforcement, the suspect turned onto U.S. 301 and allegedly accelerated to speeds near 150 miles per hour. Despite the exceptionally high rate of speed, law enforcement officers did not abandon their pursuit and a cross county chase continued into Queen Anne’s County. The suspect apparently lost the cops at one point, but later came to a stop near route 300 where he was arrested. At the time of the initial report, it does not appear that anyone was injured in the chase or that there was any sort of car accident. The suspect allegedly decided on his own volition to give up trying to flee from police.
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