Baldwin & Briscoe P.C.
301-862-4400
22335 Exploration Drive Ste. 2030
Lexington Park, MD 20653
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DUI/DWI – Going to Court

 

  In 2013, more than 23,000 people were arrested in Maryland on suspicion of driving under the influence of alcohol.  In 2014, Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps was arrested for DUI.  As an attorney who has represented clients charged with DUI and DWI offenses in Maryland for many years, we see people come in from all walks of life.  Getting pulled over and arrested for drunk driving can be a scary situation.  As experienced advocates, we are here to assist you in protecting your rights, making sure that you are treated fairly and mitigating the damage that a DUI or DWI charge will have in your life.  Even if you have committed the offense, there is much that an experienced attorney can do to help you.  The scope of this article will cover what to expect when you go to court.  For more information about what happens before court, read our other articles: Handling a DUI/DWI Stop and Will I lose my Driver's License?

 

  What is the difference between a DUI and a DWI?  While the terms “driving under the influence” and “driving while impaired” may be used interchangeably by the public, they are separate and distinct terms when it comes to the law.  The difference between a DUI and DWI has to do with the amount of alcohol that is in a person’s bloodstream.  This is referred to as the persons blood-alcohol content (BAC).  Both crimes are misdemeanors in Maryland.  Of the two offense, the DUI is more serious.  For a first time offender, a DUI carries a maximum penalty of a $1,000 fine and one year in jail.  A DWI on the other hand is punishable by a $500 fine and two months in jail.  A DUI conviction will result in 12 points assessed against the defendant’s Maryland driver’s license.  A DWI will result in 8 points being assessed.

 

  Driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) is the more serious crime.  It requires that the alcohol the person has consumed has substantially impaired the person’s normal coordination.  A BAC of .08 (g alc/100 ml blood or g/alc 210 ml breath) or higher creates a permissive inference that the driver was under the influence of alcohol at the time of driving.  While the BAC is the most common way that the state will secure a conviction, evidence other than a blood alcohol or breath alcohol test may be used to support a conviction. 

 

  In the absence of a test for BAC, the state must prove that the defendant consumed alcohol prior to driving.  Evidence of alcohol consumption may include the odor of an alcoholic beverage on the defendant’s breath, the appearance of four out of six clues or greater on the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, or an admission by the defendant that he was drinking.

 

  Driving while impaired by alcohol (DWI) is a lesser-included offense to DUI.  Proof of DWI requires that the state prove only that alcohol has impaired the person’s normal coordination to some extent. 

 

  Depending on whether the defendant submitted to a blood-alcohol test, the state may or may not have the results of a test for intoxication to present as evidence.  If the defendant has submitted to a test, the results of that test may be used as evidence in the case.  There is a presumption for a test result of less than .05 that the person is not under the influence and not impaired. 

 

  If the test results exceed .05 but are less than .07, there is no presumption, however the evidence of the alcohol content may be considered by the judge or jury, along with other evidence in the case, to determine whether the person was driving while impaired or driving under the influence.

 

  A result between .07 and .08 creates a prima facie case that the person was driving while under the influence.  A result of .08 or more creates a permissive influence that the driver was operating the vehicle under the influence per se.  The defendant is free to argue that the test results are unreliable or that the test results do not reflect the amount of alcohol in the blood at the time of driving. 

 

  If the defendant has drugs or medication in their system, there is also a possibility of conviction for driving while under the influence of drugs or drugs and alcohol.  This offense, which does not necessarily require the state to prove the presence of alcohol, although that may be a contributing factor, carries a maximum penalty of two months in jail and a $500 fine, as well as eight points on the driver’s license.  A separate crime exists where a person is driving while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance.  This would be a substance that is banned or available only by prescription.  This offense carries a penalty of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine and the possibility of twelve points.

 

  Was the Defendant driving?

 

  While in most arrests, the question of whether the defendant was driving is a non-issue, it does crop up from time to time.  Under the Maryland code, driving is defined as follows:

 

“Drive” means to drive, operate, move, or be in actual physical control of a vehicle, including the exercise of control over the steering of a vehicle being towed by a motor vehicle.

 

  The question of whether the defendant was driving usually comes up when an officer finds the driver asleep in the vehicle or passed out.  Maryland has adopted what some courts refer to as the “shelter doctrine.”  This allows an intoxicated individual to use the vehicle as shelter or “sleep it off”, but prohibits operation of the vehicle in an impaired or intoxicated state.  Whether the person operated the vehicle is usually proven through circumstantial evidence.  The factors used to determine whether the defendant was in actual control of the vehicle include: (1) whether or not the vehicle’s engine was running, or the ignition on; (2) where and in what position the person is found in the vehicle; (3) whether the person is awake or asleep; (4) where the vehicle’s ignition key is located; (5) whether the vehicle’s headlights are on; and (6) whether the vehicle is located in the roadway or is legally parked.

 

  Evaluating your case.  When you meet with us, we will thoroughly evaluate your case.  We conduct appropriate discovery under the Maryland Rules and, together with the information provided by you, work diligently to obtain the best result for you.  We evaluate each case to determine whether the state can prove each and every element of the charges.  We will then discuss the case with you and explain the evidence and answer your questions.  We can usually give you a good idea of what to expect when you go to court based on our experience.

 

  Mitigating the Damage.  In the event that the evidence provided by the state is sufficient to support a conviction, the defendant will usually choose to enter a plea.  We work hard to negotiate the best possible plea for you given the evidence in your case.  In many cases we are able to get the most serious charges dismissed.  When a defendant enters a plea on a less serious offense, it limits the ability of the court to impose a sentence.  For example, if a client is charged with a DUI, but we negotiate a plea to a DWI, that reduces the potential exposure from $1,000 fine/1 year jail and 12 points to $500 fine/2 months jail and 8 points.  In many circumstances we are able to reduce or eliminate active jail time entirely.  Most individuals facing a first-time DUI offense will not face active jail time.

 

   An important component of a DUI/DWI case is going to be the lasting impact in terms of both the criminal record and the driving record.  Where an individual is arrested for a DUI or DWI for the first time, our goal is to secure a probation before judgment.  Where a defendant receives a probation before judgment from the court, no conviction is entered which means that the defendant avoids getting a criminal record and also avoids the offense from appearing on their driving record.  Since the offense does not appear on the record, there are no points imposed.

 

  There are many factors that the court will take into consideration when deciding on a request for probation before judgment.  These include the defendant’s prior record, the nature of the offense and the steps that the defendant has taken to show remorse and responsibility for his or her behavior.  We encourage our clients to immediately obtain an alcohol assessment from a local provider as well as enroll in any classes or treatment program that is recommended.  Taking these steps prior to going to court puts our clients in the best position to obtain a probation before judgment from the court.  When the court grants a probation before judgment, it is generally conditioned upon the completion of any recommended classes or treatment.

 

  The attorneys at Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. have years of experience handling DUI and DWI cases.  We can evaluate your case and go over your options with no cost or obligation.  We offer a free consultation for DUI matters.  The information contained on this page is provided as general information and does not constitute legal advice.  The experienced attorneys at Baldwin & Briscoe, P.C. can assist you if you are facing a suspension of your driver’s license, a DUI, a DWI, or other criminal charges.  Call today to schedule your free, no-obligation, in-office-consultation for any driver’s license suspension hearing or driving-related criminal charges. 

 

 

 

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C. also offers these services:

Bankruptcy and ForeclosureBusiness LawCivil LitigationCriminal DefenseEmployment, Disability, and Consumer RightsFamily LawGovernment Contracts LawIntellectual Property, Personal InjuryReal Estate, Social Security Disability & Workers’ Compensation and Wills, Trusts, & Estates

 

 

  

Contact Us

The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Steinmetz, P.C.

22335 Exploration Drive

Suite 2030

Lexington Park, MD 20653

301-862-4400 Phone

301-862-3009 Fax

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Our Attorneys

Samuel C.P. Baldwin, Jr., Esq.

Janice Briscoe, Esq.

Richard J. Steinmetz Jr., Esq.

David J. Hebb, Esq.

Sandra Kaufman Jonasen, Esq.


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With an office conveniently located in Lexington Park, The Law Offices of Baldwin, Briscoe & Stienmetz, P.C. serves clients in the counties and cities of Lexington Park, Leonardtown, Hollywood, Mechanicsville, Loveville, Helen, Breton Bay, Chaptico, Charlotte Hall, Golden Beach, Avenue, La Plata, Waldorf, Newburg, Port Tobacco, Port Charles, Solomons Island, Prince Frederick, Chesapeake Shores, Hughesville, Benedict, Nanjemoy, Lusby, Port Republic, St. Mary's County, Charles County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, Southern Maryland.


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