MVA Administrative Penalties for Maryland DUI

Following a DUI arrest in Maryland, there are two proceedings you will face: a criminal hearing typically in District Court and an administrative hearing regarding your driver's license. The criminal hearing takes place at court, where a judge will decide whether you are guilty of driving under the influence or drunk driving. While DUI/DWI is a misdemeanor in Maryland, it carries a maximum penalty over 90 days in jail and thus a DUI defendant does have the right to a jury trial. Conversely, the MVA administrative hearing is where your ability to drive is affected and is the reason you should contact a lawyer right away. After you are cited for driving under the influence, you will be given a temporary Maryland driver's license and your license will be confiscated. This temporary license is set to expire in 45 days, and you have 10 days to request an administrative hearing where you can fight to keep your license. If you fail to timely request an MVA hearing your license will be suspended.

About the Maryland DUI Administrative Penalties

The decision that will be made at an administrative hearing is whether your driver's license will be suspended as a consequence of driving under the influence or blowing a BAC of .08 or more. Because driving is important for maintaining employment and meeting our daily needs, administrative penalties can be especially burdensome for DUI defendants; however the administration is aware of the challenges that face first time drunk drivers and thus modifications are routinely made for work purposes and other limited reasons.

The Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) is the authority that sends your case to OHA (Office of Hearings and Appeals). The OHA is an independent body of administrative Judges that hears and rules on these cases. If the OHA concludes that you are indeed guilty of driving under the influence (technically violating Transportation Article 16-205.1), your driving privileges will subject to suspension for a set period of time. For a first offense with a BAC lower then .15, you can expect a 45-day suspension of your license, which is modifiable for work purposes. A second offense carries a suspension of 90 days and may not be modifiable for work.

If you refused to submit to a chemical test or your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was above 0.15, it especially important to consult with a Maryland DUI lawyer as timely as possible. If you tested above 0.15 at the time of your arrest, your license may be suspended for 90 days on a first offense and 180 days for a second offense. You may also be required to install an interlock system in your car. Refusing to submit to an alcohol breath test may result in a 120-day suspension for a first time offense and 1 year for a second offense. An interlock device on your car however may be offered in order to preserve your ability to drive.

What is an Interlock

Maryland legislators understand the dilemma between the safety of the community at large versus the DUI defendant's need to drive to and from work. In many cases, if a driver's license is stripped from the accused, he could lose his job and create a very serious family hardship. Some legislators, judges or other states, may take the position that is too bad for the drunk driver, that he should have considered that prior to driving his car drunk or over the DUI legal limit. However, a more progressive and enlightened view is not to take the license of a first time offender or even a second offender under certain circumstances. Since the goal for DUI Defendants needs to be a balance between the safety of the motoring public on Maryland's streets versus the accused's need to provide for his family, Maryland has increasing relied on the Interlock device to meet both goals.

The Interlock is a small device, perhaps a little larger then a stapler, which is wired into the cars ignition system by the interlock installer (there are many locations throughout Maryland). When the driver attempts to start his car, the device requires a breath sample. The driver must blow into the device, thereby providing a breath sample, which is immediately analyzed by the device and recorded. If the breath sample is void of any alcohol, the device, which acts as a kill switch, will allow the car to start. If the device identifies alcohol in the breath sample, typically anything over .02, then the car will not start and the failed blow attempt will be recorded in the Interlocks data back. The information is subsequently downloaded on a monthly basis by the installer and reported to the MVA. The interlock will also require breath samples from the driver while he is driving the car.

If the driver has failed breath attempts, this is unfortunate. Typically, for each failed attempt, the MVA will tack on one month to the 12 month interlock period of time. However, generally only 3 failed attempts are allowed; if a driver has 4 bad blows over their entire 12 month period, that driver is normally kicked out of the interlock program and must begin a hard suspension as if he was never in the program at all (even if they came close to serving their entire period of time on the interlock). If the driver feels that the failed breath attempt was in error because he did not consume any alcohol that day or the previous day, he can take that up with the installer and or the MVA. If no satisfaction is realized, a hearing on the matter can be requested to fight the matter.

Administrative Penalties for Commercial Drivers

If you are a commercial vehicle operator, contacting a Maryland DUI lawyer is the first step to preserving your livelihood. A lawyer can explain the special standards that apply to commercial drivers (CDL holders). For example, individuals operating a commercial motor vehicle only have to meet the .04 BAC threshold before they are charged with driving over the limit. On a first offense, commercial drivers face a 1-year suspension of their commercial driver's license, and a 3-year suspension if they were transporting hazardous materials at the time of their offense. A second offense can lead to a permanent revocation of your commercial driver's license, so it is wise to seek an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as possible following a DUI or drunk driving arrest.

Administrative Penalties for Drivers Under 21

Maryland DUI administrative penalties are steeper for drivers who are under the legal drinking age. As a "zero tolerance" state, anyone under the age of 21 with a BAC of .02 and above will be cited for drunk driving as well as driving in violation of a license restriction. The license restriction of course is being under 21 and driving a motor vehicle with alcohol in your system, which is per se illegal. Underage defendants face a 6-month suspension of their license on the first offense. For a second offense, an underage driver's license will be revoked for either 1 year or until they reach the age of 21, whichever comes first. This penalty is in addition to the normal penalty for blowing a .08 or higher which all drivers are subject to. Thus, there are two different penalties that an underage driver is subject to.

Defending a DUI at the Administrative Hearing

Unlike the criminal proceedings, there is less room for a judge's discretion at an administrative hearing. An Administrative Law Judge has a lower burden of proof to meet and will only focus on these four criteria:

1) Did the arresting officer have a good faith basis to stop the car? At an administrative hearing, regular probable cause or reasonable articulable suspicion is not required like in a court of law. As long a Deputy DUI officer had a good faith basis to stop your car, the ALJ judge will find that to be adequate basis, even if the officer's good faith basis subsequently turns out to be erroneous.

2) Did the officer advise the DUI defendant of his rights pursuant to Maryland Transportation Article 16-205.1? This is not Miranda, this is a pesky little form known as DR-15. It is a form of rights that the officer is required to read to a driver in order to advise them of the rights they are giving up by blowing in the States fancy breath test device. Alternatively, the form may be given to the Defendant to read himself. The form is somewhat long and confusing, especially if you are drunk, but the officer is not required to answer any questions regarding the form's contents. In fact, the officer sometimes will try to sway the defendant's decision by indicating they will lock them up in jail if they don't blow or if there is no breath tech available, they will say, I can get you out of here much faster if you refuse to blow. Thus, people's decision can be swayed by what deputy DUI enforcer entices them with.

3) The tests reveal that your BAC level was over the legal limit. In order to be subject to Maryland Transportation Article 16-205.1 a DUI defendant must exhibit a blow of at least .08 or greater. There are differential levels of seriousness depending on your number above .08. If you blow under a .08, Deputy DUI enforcer will still charge you with DUI but there will not be any MVA administrative penalty.

4) Whether you refused to submit to a chemical test to confirm your BAC level. For some folks, blowing in the fancy magic breath box can be difficult; sometimes a number does not register because the defendant cannot muster enough air to blow in the machine. When this happens, the deputy DUI enforcer will put you down as a "refusal to blow" thus incurring more severe consequences to your license. This situation is most unfortunate and must be fought immediately. Driver's are strongly encouraged to tell the police about any health conditions they may have at the time they are requested to blow and fail to register a number as this will always become part of any defense at an MVA hearing and the ALJ will want to know what was said at the time of the blow.

While the State and the Appellate Courts have done and continue to do everything possible to limit the accused's legal rights at the MVA hearings, there is always the possibility of success during your administrative hearing in the form of a win or a modified license. An experienced Maryland DUI lawyer can preserve your driving privileges by carefully reviewing your case and finding appropriate defenses to your case. Further, a skilled attorney can help you modify your suspension so that you can obtain a restricted license for work. However, you are reminded that time is of the essence and you must act quickly as you only have 10 days to request an MVA hearing in writing or face the initial suspension period.

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