Welcome to Legal Help
Home Maryland DUI Laws

Free Help – Ask Your DUI Questions

legal dui questions

Choose a State

Maryland DUI Laws

Maryland’s laws recognize two types of drunk driving offenses. The first and more serious crime is driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI). A DUI is a misdemeanor and carries a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. A DUI conviction may result in 12 points being put on a person’s driver’s license.  A person may also have his or her driver’s license revoked or lose the privilege to drive.

Under Maryland law, a person may be convicted of a DUI in one of two ways: (1) attempting to drive or driving any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol (§ 21-902 (a)(1)) or (2) attempting to drive or driving any vehicle while the person is under the influence of alcohol per se (§ 21-902 (a)(2)). These differences are discussed below. Notably, a person charged with driving under the influence of alcohol cannot also be charged with driving under the influence of alcohol per se and vice versa. A DUI conviction under either of these laws carries the same penalty.

The second, less serious crime is driving while impaired by alcohol (DWI). A DWI is also a misdemeanor. The maximum penalty for a DWI is two months in jail and/or a $500 fine. Up to 8 points may be put on a person’s driver’s license for a DWI. Also, a person could face having his or her driver’s license or driving privileges suspended.

A DUI conviction requires that the state prove that a person has consumed alcohol to the point that his or her normal coordination or driving ability has significantly been impaired.  This is also known as being under the influence of alcohol. Tests generally used to prove that a driver is “under the influence” of alcohol and thus guilty of a DUI include a blood or breath alcohol test. The blood test involves drawing one specimen (2 viles total) of blood, which will then be tested for alcohol content. The breath test involves blowing into a machine which then calculates the amount of alcohol in n a person’s system.

A blood or breath test with a reading of 0.08 or higher indicates that the driver was “under the influence” at the time of driving. This alone is generally enough evidence for a DUI conviction under Transportation Article § 21-902(a)(1).

If a blood or breath test is not used, other proof is required for a DUI conviction. This proof or evidence must show that the driver drank alcohol before or while driving. Sources of such evidence include: a statement by a driver admitting she drank alcohol; an open alcohol container; a witness who smelled alcohol on the driver’s breath; or a driver failing the horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN). The HGN is a test where a person is asked to shift her eye gaze from one side to the other while the police officer shines a light in her eyes. The rationale is that the gaze of a person who is impaired by alcohol or drugs will be jerky instead of smooth

Proving one was “driving under the influence of alcohol per se” and thus guilty of a DUI under 21-902(a)(2) is more straightforward. The person must have been driving and must have performed a breath or blood alcohol test which gave a reading of 0.08 or above. No additional evidence is needed.

A DWI conviction means that the state must prove that a driver was “impaired by alcohol” to the point that consuming alcohol has affected the driver’s normal coordination. “Impaired by alcohol” is considered to be a state less than intoxication (which is required for a DUI.)

To prove that a person was “driving while impaired by alcohol” and thus guilty of a DWI, a blood or breath alcohol test is generally used. A test reading of 0.07 is by itself enough to prove that a person was “driving while impaired by alcohol.” (§ 21-902(b)(1)).

A test reading of 0.05 but less than 0.07 does not indicate that the person was driving while impaired by alcohol or driving under the influence. A reading of 0.05 maintains that the driver was not driving under the influence or impaired by alcohol.

Besides DUI and DWI laws, Maryland also recognizes two additional driving offenses: (1) driving while impaired by drugs or a combination of drugs and alcohol and (2) driving while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance. (§ 21-902 (c)(1) and (d)(1)). These offenses are misdemeanors.

The maximum penalty for driving while under the influence of drugs or drugs and alcohol is two months in jail and/or a $500 fine. Up to 8 points may be added to a person’s driver’s license. Additionally, a person’s driver’s license or driving privileges may be suspended.

The maximum penalty for driving while under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance is one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Twelve points may be placed on a person’s driver’s license. Additionally, his driver’s license or driving privilege may be revoked.

To be convicted of driving while impaired by drugs or drugs and alcohol, the impairment must be to the point that the person “cannot drive a vehicle safely.” (§ 21-902(c)(1)). Similar to the standard used in a DUI case (where the state must prove the driver was “under the influence of alcohol”) there must be evidence that the driver was impaired by a drug, a combination of drugs, or a combination of drugs and alcohol.  A “drug” includes over the counter drugs as well as prescription drugs.

The type of evidence used includes: a statement from the defendant, evidence of recent use, an arresting officer’s observations, testimony of a drug recognition expert, and/or a blood test proving the presence of the drug in the driver’s blood. Also, a blood alcohol or breath alcohol test may be used to show either the lack of alcohol or the presence of any trace of alcohol in the driver’s system.

A driver may not defend herself against this charge by arguing that she was entitled to use the drug or combination of drugs and/or alcohol under Maryland law; unless she was unaware that the drug or combination of drugs and/or alcohol would make her incapable of safely driving a vehicle.

A “controlled dangerous substance” under Maryland law includes a substance listed in the federal or in the state schedule of a controlled dangerous substances (See Crim. Law Article § 5-101). A person is charged with driving while impaired by a controlled dangerous substance typically when the driver seems to be impaired, but has a low or non-existent breath alcohol test reading. In this situation, the arresting officer will often call a DRE to examine the driver. If there are “reasonable grounds” to believe the driver is impaired (a normal person would believe the person was impaired) then a blood test may be performed on the driver.

However, because the blood tests typically only indicate the presence of a drug in the driver’s blood and not the amount or the effect the drug has on the driver, more evidence is needed to convict the driver. Additional evidence includes: the driver’s statements, the officer’s observations, and other proof of recent drug use besides the blood test.

In Maryland, it is a crime to drive under the influence or while impaired while transporting a minor. (§ 21-902(a)(3), (b)(2), (c)(3), and (d)(2)). A “minor” is anyone who is less than 18 years old (Crim. Law § 1-101(g).)

The maximum penalty for a conviction under (a)(3) [DUI while transporting a minor] or (d)(2) [driving under the influence of a controlled substance while transporting a minor] is two years incarceration and/or a $2,000 fine. For the second offense of this type, the maximum penalty is three years incarceration and/or a $3,000 fine. For the third offense, the maximum penalty is four years incarceration and/or a $4,000 fine.

The maximum penalty for the first conviction under (b)(2) [DWI while transporting a minor] or (c)(3) [driving while under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol while transporting a minor] is six months in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. For the second or subsequent offenses of this type, it is up to one year in jail and/or a $2,000 fine.


If you have any questions about speeding tickets, please ask them at our legal help forum. free legal questions

Ask Questions, Get Answers

free legal help forum

Contact a DUI Lawyer Today!