What is a sentencing enhancement?

A little known fact regarding multiple DUI offenses is something called enhancements. Enhancements are engineered by the government to operate as a deterrent for multiple DUI offenders. The important thing to keep in mind regarding enhancements is that the government must timely file them before trial in order for them to be effective against a defendant in court.

The punishment for a first time DUI offense in Maryland is a maximum of one year in jail and $1000 fine, the maximum sentence for a first time driving while impaired charge is 60 days incarceration and a $500 fine. Defendants are happy to learn that it is a rare day that a judge will impose a maximum sentence for a first-time alcohol-related offense. One does not typically see a maximum sentence in either a second or third offense either. So that means if a defendant driver had a second alcohol related offense assuming they were not still on probation for their first offense, a judge is unlikely to impose a long period of incarceration. In fact if a defendant takes the appropriate steps prior to going to court it is often times possible to keep such a defendant out of jail altogether. This of course is judge dependent with different judges looking upon the situation differently.

In the case of a third alcohol related offense it is likely the defendant would end up in jail for some period of time but it is unlikely that the defendant would be sentenced to jail anywhere near the maximum time allotted for a first time alcohol offender. Having said that, the state’s attorneys office does have the ability to file on the defendant “enhanced penalties”which is basically a document informing the defendant that the maximum time periods for the alcohol-related offense that they committed can be doubled under the enhanced penalty. So in other words, for a second offense instead of being one year maximum, it could be a two-year maximum sentence and for a third offense instead of being one year it could be three years maximum incarceration. In my 20+ years while I have seen plenty of state’s attorney’s offices file for enhanced penalties I have never seen a judge incarcerate somebody according to the enhanced penalties. In fact, in absence of a very serious injury or loss of life, I don’t recall seeing a defendant even sentenced to one full year of incarceration. I think the reason for that is that most judges understand in the case of a second or third time offender it is a person who suffers from an alcohol disease and requires treatment options more than they require incarceration. That’s not to say that the person will not and should not be incarcerated but that incarceration would be part of any sentence which would include alcohol rehabilitation and a long term of probation which includes alcohol support programs.

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