Some drivers don’t think twice before having a drink and getting behind the wheel. But what many people don’t realize is that you do not have to be legally intoxicated to be cited for impaired driving in Maryland. The state has strict laws against drinking and driving, and penalties have increased significantly for these offenses over the past few years.
Maryland’s Ignition Interlock Program for Drunk Drivers
One of the most notable changes to Maryland's impaired driving laws is the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016, commonly known as Noah’s Law. Noah’s Law went into effect on October 1, 2016, and expands the use of ignition interlock devices.
The law will require mandatory participation in the Ignition Interlock System Program for drivers who:
- Are convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol, while impaired by alcohol, or while impaired by drugs (including first-time offenders)
- Have had their licenses suspended by the Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) for a drunk driving offense
- Are convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence of alcohol
Offenders must have breath-analyzing devices installed in their vehicles for one year or longer, depending on the length of time between offenses. In addition, drunk drivers whose blood alcohol concentration (BAC) registers between 0.08 and 0.14 percent may opt-in to the program for one year instead of losing their licenses.
Penalties & Fines for Impaired Driving in Maryland
State laws allow Maryland drivers to be charged with two different types of drunk driving offenses: driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired (DWI). The biggest difference between the two is the amount of alcohol detected in a person’s system.
Driving while impaired is the lesser of the two drunk driving offenses. To be charged with DWI, a driver’s BAC must be between 0.06 and 0.07 percent, and the state must prove that the person’s driving ability was impaired. Although it may be a lesser offense, there are still severe penalties for DWI in Maryland, including:
First time DWI
A fine of $500, 8 points on your license, license suspension up to 60 days, and up to 60 days imprisonment.
A fine of $500, 8 points on your license, license suspension up to 120 days, and imprisonment for up to one year.
The term of imprisonment, amount of fines, and length of license suspension will be higher depending on the circumstances, such as if you were driving with a minor or if you have committed previous offenses.
An adult driver whose BAC is 0.08 percent or higher will be charged with driving under the influence. Penalties are greater for this offense and often carry longer prison sentences if there was a serious threat to safety or loss of life. The following is a brief overview:
First time DUI
A fine of $1,000, 12 points on your license, loss of license for up to 180 days or 180 days of ignition interlock device use, and up to one year in jail.
A fine of $2,000, 12 points on your license, a mandatory minimum of five days in prison with a maximum sentence of two years. If the second DUI conviction is within five years of the first offense, drivers will suffer mandatory license suspension (followed by participation in the Ignition Interlock Program when the license is reinstated) and must participate in an approved alcohol abuse program.
Penalties for Commercial Drivers
There are additional drunk driving penalties for bus drivers, semi-truck drivers, and others who operate commercial vehicles. Not only can drivers be charged with DUI for operating a commercial motor vehicle (CMV) with a BAC of .04 percent or more, these drivers can also lose their commercial driving licenses if they are charged with DUI while driving a regular vehicle. Commercial drivers may suffer the following after they fail a breath or blood test administered by an officer:
- Immediate out of service placement for 24 hours
- Automatic 45-day suspension of your commercial driving license (CDL) for a first offense
- Automatic 90-day suspension of your CDL for a second offense
- Disqualification of CDL for a year or longer
Underage DUI or DWI
As any amount of alcohol consumption is illegal for drivers under the age of 21, minors can be charged with a DUI if they have a BAC of .02 percent or higher. These drivers may face penalties including:
Minors who have purchased, possessed, or consumed alcohol can pay fines up to $500 for a first offense and up to $1,000 for subsequent offenses.
Fake ID charges
Drivers under the age of 21 who are found with a fake ID may be fined up to $500, receive 12 points on their licenses (or have their driver’s licenses revoked), and spend up to two months in prison.
Mandatory ignition interlock
Any driver under 21 who violates the alcohol restriction law must automatically participate in the state Ignition Interlock Program or suffer suspension of his license.
Refusing a Breathalyzer Test in Maryland
Drivers can also face penalties if they refuse to submit to a blood, breath, or urine test to determine blood alcohol content (BAC). Refusal to be tested for drugs or alcohol can result in:
- Automatic license suspension of 270 days for the first offense (or participation in the Ignition Interlock program for one year instead).
- Automatic license suspension of one year for a second offense.
- Fines up to $500 and imprisonment for up to two months (if found guilty of DUI or DWI after refusing a breathalyzer test).
- Disqualification of commercial driving license for one to three years for first refusal, and loss of CDL for life after second refusal.
Have You Been Arrested For Drunk Driving In Virginia, Maryland or Washington D.C.?
If you've been arrested for DUI or DWI you need to speak with an experienced drunk driving defense attorney as soon as possible. Please contact us online or call our Vienna, Virgnia office directly at 703.991.7978 or our Rockville, Maryland office at 301.637.5392 to schedule your case consultation.
More Information for Drivers Arrested for DUI/DWI in Maryland, DC, or Northern VA