DUI/DWI

Driving Under the Influence (DUI) and Driving While Impaired (DWI)

criminal-defenseA large part of Ms. Kirby’s practice involves drug and alcohol related driving infractions, more commonly known as DUI and DWI (Driving Under the Influence and Driving While Impaired, respectively). While most people know that it is illegal to drive while under the influence or impaired by alcohol or drugs, Maryland law enforcement officers make daily arrests for these offenses. Getting charged with a DUI or DWI in Maryland will likely be a stressful and frightening ordeal. Colleen Kirby will help put your mind at ease by launching an aggressive defense and fighting to avoid a conviction and maintain your driving privileges.

While on patrol, police are constantly looking for any evidence of impaired driving. At night, officers as looking to make DUI/DWI arrests, and often conduct traffic stops for reasons such as speeding, swerving, or even as simple as having a headlight or taillight out. They will likely approach your vehicle with a variety of questions. The questions may include, “Where are you coming from” and “Have you had anything to drink tonight?” Many people are unaware that you are not obligated to answer these questions. Most Maryland criminal defense attorneys would recommend you be cooperative as possible without making statements that could later be used against you. For example, it is important that you provide your driver’s license and registration, but you need not admit to consuming any alcohol.

From your driving observations to your appearance, speech patterns, and even your scent, police are looking at every factor when gathering evidence for a DUI/DWI case. Many people do not realize that you have the right to hand over your license and registration, explain you are calling your attorney, roll up your window, and discuss what you should or should not do before deciding to step out of the car. The sooner you tell the police that you wish to speak with an attorney, the better you can protect your rights and prevent the police from gathering any further evidence. The field sobriety tests are very difficult to perform, regardless of whether you have been drinking, and they are designed to prove impairment. Admitting to drinking alcohol and taking the field sobriety tests only provide the police with evidence of your impairment when your case goes to court.

Convictions of either a DUI or DWI will have serious consequences and impacts on your ability to drive. The potential consequences for merely being arrested and charged are difficult to understand because they consist of possible sanctions by both the Maryland court system and the Motor Vehicle Administration. These are two independent bodies and the penalties are independent of one another. In some cases, the consequences from the MVA can be more devastating that the court. There is only a 10 day window from the time of your arrest to request a hearing to mitigate or eliminate these penalties. Therefore, it is important to contact a Maryland DUI attorney immediately to protect your right to drive. Call Colleen Kirby today to talk about the case pending against you and what she can do to help you obtain the best possible outcome.

Court Sanctions

If you have been found guilty of driving under the influence or another drinking related traffic violation, each subsequent violation carries an enhanced penalty. You could also be given an increased sentence if you are found to have refused the breath test at the police station.

A first conviction of driving under the influence carries a maximum sentence of one year of incarceration, and or fines up to $1,000. Driving while impaired carries lesser possible penalties. The maximum penalty for a first time DWI in the state of Maryland is two months in jail and/or up to $500 in fines. If you are subsequently arrested for a second DUI/DWI, the maximum penalties are doubled. Further, a conviction for DUI results in the imposition of 12 points on your driving record and therefore the revocation of driving privileges. A DWI conviction carries 8 points, which will suspend your driving privileges.

In the last ten years, Maryland courts have cracked down on driving and driving. It is extremely common for individuals facing second and third offenses to be sentenced to serve time in jail. Depending on the circumstances of the case, some judges also send defendants to jail for their first offense. Under legislation called “Noah’s Law” passed in 2016, even first-time offenders convicted of DUI are required to participate in the Ignition Interlock Program for a period of six months.

Many people believe the courts have the authority to take away your driver’s license. For the most part, that is incorrect. The only way the courts can impact your driving privileges is when there is a conviction (versus a probation before judgment). When the conviction is reported to the MVA, the points are assessed on your driving record. Depending on the number of points, the MVA can suspended or even revoke your privilege to drive. If you receive a probation before judgment in the court system, the MVA will not assess any points.

It is important to contact a Maryland DUI lawyer immediately after your arrest. Colleen Kirby is skilled at raising defenses during trial such as contesting the initial traffic stop, arguing improper administration of the field sobriety tests, and lack of probable cause to make an arrest. She has been successful in suppressing breath test results at trial based on improper procedure followed by officers prior to requesting the sample and improper administration of the test itself. Colleen Kirby is highly experienced in defending these cases and will examine all the factual and legal issues involved in your case at a free consultation.

MOTOR VEHICLE ADMINISTRATION (MVA) SANCTIONS

In Maryland, an arrest for DUI/DWI can instantly affect the status of your driver’s license. If you refuse or fail a breathalyzer test, the result is an automatic suspension of your driver’s license on the 46th day after you were arrested. The police will confiscate your license and issue a temporary paper license that is good for 45 days. The length of the suspension depends on whether you agreed to take the breath test at the police station and the result of that test.

You may request an MVA hearing to dispute the proposed suspension of your license or attempt to obtain a work/school restricted license. To guarantee your license will not be suspended pending this hearing, you must have the hearing request postmarked within ten days of your arrest. If you request a hearing after the ten-day period, but within thirty days, this may result in license suspension pending your MVA hearing.

If you refuse or fail the breathalyzer test at the police station, but do not request an MVA hearing timely, your driving privileges will be suspended on the 46th day after the arrest. If you take and fail the test, the suspension period is 180 days. If you refuse to submit to the breath test, the MVA will suspend your license for 270 days. These suspension periods increase for the 2nd and 3rd offense.

Requesting an MVA hearing timely with the Office of Administrative Hearings is the best way to avoid these lengthy suspensions of your driver’s license. You may also avoid the suspension by opting into the Ignition Interlock Program. Although the length of the suspension is only 180 or 270 days, the Ignition Interlock Program requires participation for one year.

One benefit to taking the breath test at the police station is the ability to obtain a restricted license that allows you to continue to drive to and from work, school, medical appointments, or alcohol treatment instead of having your license suspended for 180 days. This alternative option is ONLY available if you agreed to take the breath test AND the result was below a .15. To take advantage of this option, you must timely request an MVA hearing and present the required evidence to the judge that demonstrates a need for the restricted license.

If your hearing request is received timely, the Office of Administrative Hearings will mail an extension letter that allows you to retain your driving privileges until the hearing date. Therefore, the letter verifies that your temporary license does NOT expire on the 46th day. You must have both your temporary license and extension letter with you while driving.

There are many factual and legal issues that can be presented at the hearing to fight the proposed suspension by the MVA. These issues include whether there was enough evidence to ask you to take a test, whether the arresting officer followed the proper procedure subsequent to your arrest, and whether the test was performed properly and by certified personnel.

Colleen Kirby has been extremely successful fighting the MVA at these hearings and allowing her clients to maintain their full driving privileges. She is well-versed on the statutes that govern procedures to be followed by police officers, state codes that create the regulations pertaining to breathalyzer tests, and Maryland case law from the appellate courts that have ruled on issues pertaining to suspension of driving privileges in DUI/DWI cases.