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The Basics of Maryland Drunk Driving Laws

Maryland drunk driving laws are fairly complex. There are multiple charges that fall under the umbrella of drunk driving in Maryland, and there are different penalties for each charge. The two main charges are known as driving under the influence (DUI) and driving while impaired or operating while impaired (DWI or OWI) in Maryland.

If you have been arrested for either offense, you will want to seek out the counsel of a Maryland DUI attorney. Maryland DUI lawyers can help you understand the charges against you and come up with a defense strategy tailored specifically for your case.

Maryland Drunk Driving Laws: DUI Versus DWI

Under Maryland drunk driving laws, a distinction is made between being over the legal blood-alcohol limit and driving while impaired by alcohol.

Driving while impaired is considered a lesser offense than driving under the influence, and thus the penalties for DWI are less severe than those for DUI.

You may be arrested and charged with a DUI in Maryland if, via chemical testing, a police officer determines that your blood-alcohol content is .08 percent or higher. This is the legal limit in Maryland.

To receive the lesser charge of a DWI in Maryland, your blood-alcohol content must fall between .07 and .08 percent. Once again, this will be determined through chemical testing.

Suspicion of Drinking and Driving in Maryland

Under Maryland drunk driving laws, a police officer may pull you over on suspicion of either a DUI or DWI for a number of reasons.

One of the most common reasons an officer may pull you over is because you committed a traffic violation. Examples of traffic violations include:

  • Driving through a red light
  • Failing to stop at a stop sign
  • Driving with your headlights off at night
  • Speeding
  • Driving in two lanes at once

A police officer may also pull you over even if you are not breaking a traffic law. If your driving appears erratic, that is reason enough for an officer to investigate further. Examples of erratic driving behavior include:

  • Weaving in and out of a lane
  • Driving too slowly
  • Hesitating before passing through a green light

Once the officer has pulled you over, he or she may try to gauge whether you are intoxicated by observing your behavior. Alcohol on your breath, slurred speech, and bloodshot eyes are all signs of possible intoxication.

Field Sobriety and Breathalyzer Tests

If, after observing you up close, the officer still suspects you of being intoxicated, he or she may ask you to step out of the vehicle and submit to field sobriety tests.

Field sobriety testing is used by Maryland police to determine whether someone is probably drunk. Possible field sobriety tests that an officer might use in a Maryland drunk driving incident include:

  • Saying the alphabet
  • Standing on one leg
  • Walking in a straight line
  • Following a moving object with your eyes without moving your head

The officer may also seek to administer a breathalyzer test. A breathalyzer is a device that can gauge blood-alcohol content by detecting trace amounts of alcohol in a person's breath.

Refusing Chemical Testing

Under Maryland drunk driving law, if you refuse to undergo chemical testing, including a breathalyzer test, you may be subject to some stiff penalties.

For instance, you may have your driver's license immediately suspended for 120 days for a first offense. After that, you could have your license suspended for one year, just for refusing a breathalyzer test.

Maryland is one of a handful of states that does allow you to have an attorney present while taking a chemical test to determine blood-alcohol content. Once arrested by police, you will have the constitutional right to a Maryland DWI attorney. As long as your lawyer can appear within two hours of your arrest, you can delay your chemical testing until your attorney arrives.

If you refuse to submit to field sobriety testing, the officer has the right to arrest you on the spot on suspicion of driving drunk or impaired.