DUI interlock device

Maryland DUI License Suspension

Understanding the Impact of a DUI Charge to your Maryland Driver’s License

The purpose of this blog is to provide and easy guide in explaining the driver’s license ramifications of being charged with a DUI. For additional information, please visit our Maryland DUI website.
Maryland Driver's License A somewhat unique aspect of Maryland law is that the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) is solely and exclusively in charge of a Maryland issued driver’s license and driving privileges within the State of Maryland by non-Maryland drivers.   While it is beyond the scope of this blog, it is noteworthy that other states use the term “Department of Motor Vehicles” which, among other things, denotes less authority.

Collateral Consequences of DUI

When a police officer makes an arrest for DUI, he actually is working under a statutory scheme by which he is performs services for two different agencies.  First, he is operating as a police officer with the attendant authority to make an arrest.  But, he also acts as an agent of the MVA.

And, as an agent of the MVA, he is authorized to confiscate a Maryland driver’s license and issue a temporary paper license.  The paper license also includes a notice of proposed suspension.  The officer cannot confiscate a non-Maryland license.  However, he will issue a notice of proposed suspension to a non-Maryland licensed holder.  The effect of the proposed suspension to a non-Maryland driver is limited to the jurisdiction of Maryland.

police officer giving a man a Breathalyzer testShould I Consent to Breathalyzer?

In order to take this action a police officer must assert under oath that he believes that there are “reasonable grounds” that a driver is under the influence of an intoxicant.   The officer must give the driver a written form that explains the rights in taking or refusing an intoximeter test for alcohol.  (The breath test is given at a police station and can be admissible as evidence of intoxication at a criminal trial and administrative hearing.  This differs from a preliminary breath test (PBT) sometimes given at the roadside, which is inadmissible).  At this point, the driver either elects to provide two breath samples or refuses. Note: you will not lose your license for declining to take the preliminary breath test – only refusal of the breath test at the police station will result in Maryland license confiscation and order of proposed suspension.

Consequences of failing or refusing the breath test:

Submitted   to the test and: Blood Alcohol Content 0.08 though 0.14
  • 1st offense – 45-day suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent – 90-day suspension
Submitted to the test and   failed – Blood Alcohol   Content 0.15 or more:
  • 1st offense – 90-day suspension
  • 2nd or subsequent offense –   180-day suspension
Operating a commercial   motor vehicle at the time:
  • 1st offense – 1-year Commercial Driver’s License (CDL) disqualification
  • 2nd or subsequent offense – lifetime CDL disqualification
Operating a commercial   motor vehicle carrying hazardous materials at the time
  • 1st offense – 3-year CDL        disqualification
  • 2nd or subsequent offense – lifetime CDL disqualification

So, should an individual arrested for suspected DUI take a breath test?  The answer is mixed.

If a person is stone cold sober or has had only a small amount of alcohol, then it is advisable to take the test.  If a person is highly intoxicated, probably little good will come from a high breath test result.  The devil is the “in-between” situation.

Perhaps, it would be instructive to look at the options resulting from a breath test that exceeds .08 but is less than .15.  Once a person has been arrested and elects to take a breath test that exceeds .08, a Maryland issued license will be confiscated.  However, a hearing opportunity is available.  At hearing, presided by an administrative law judge, a restrictive license can be obtained.

However, if the breath test results in a .15 or higher, no restrictive license is permitted.  Rather, a 1-year interlock option is all that is available.  Interestingly, this is the only option on a refusal or a second offense DUI.  The difference lies only with the length of suspension.  But, for most drivers, any extended license suspension is unacceptable.  In other words a 90 day or 120 day suspension ultimately makes no difference.  Neither is acceptable.  So, if an individual believes that that his “in-between” is likely higher then lower or this is more that a first offense, refusal may be the better decision.

The Interlock Exception for Employment Use of Vehicle

A reoccurring issue is where an individual must operate an employer’s vehicle as part of their job.  The MVA permits an interlock exception for employment.  However, the MVA still expects that the personal vehicle will have the interlock installed and that that vehicle will average 50 engine starts per month.

A regular judge cannot “take away your license”; nor can a judge extend a work privilege license.   The judge issues a sentence and depending on the nature of the conviction, the MVA imposes points and can take administrative action against a Maryland license.  The MVA will also notify the National Driving Registry of convictions to non-Maryland license holders and pursuant to a cooperative agreement among the participating states, action may be taken by the issuing state.

Challenging A Drivers License Suspension

This whole category of impact can be viewed as collateral effect. The Court imposes a conviction, and the MVA takes administrative action.  In other words, a person can be found guilty of DUI and legally get in their car and dive home.

Once the conviction is received by the MVA however, notice will be mailed to the Maryland driver advising that a suspension or revocation will result unless a hearing is timely requested or under certain circumstances an agreement to participate in the interlock program is made.  The notice is time sensitive.  Action must be taken or the right to a hearing will expire.  If you’re facing license loss due to a DUI conviction, never procrastinate: call our office immediately and speak with an experienced Maryland DUI attorney.

An important point is that if an individual is convicted of a DUI, make sure that the address with the MVA is current.  MVA mail is never forwarded – even with an active forwarding order with the US Mail.