As the holiday season starts up, it’s easy for drivers to find themselves in a position where they are drinking and driving. According to the National Highway and Safety Administration, drunk driving accidents increase during the holiday season. Starting on Thanksgiving until New Year’s Day, there are more alcohol-related accidents than at any time of year.
Nationally, over the past five years, 300 people on average died in drunk driving crashes the week between Christmas and New Year. In 2016, 781 people lost their lives in drunk-driving-related crashes just in December.
Most instances of DWI and DUI occur in large metropolitan areas. In Maryland, nearly half of all impaired driving accidents occur in the Baltimore area.
Maryland lawmakers often make changes to Maryland drunk driving laws. Joining the growing ranks of states that have cracked down on DWI and DUI offenders with prior convictions, Maryland’s political leaders recently beefed up the penalties for driving while impaired (DWI) and driving while under the influence (DUI). The “Repeat Drunk Driving Offenders Act” took effect on October 1. The law increases the maximum jail time for those convicted of vehicular homicide while under the influence from three to five years. It also doubles prison time from five to 10 years for drivers with prior convictions. The new law also includes heavier punishments for impaired drivers convicted of traveling with someone under 18 in the car — one year in jail for the first offense, two years for the second.
That’s in addition to the changes made in October 2016 when state politicians increased penalties for Maryland drunk driving and mandated increased participation in the program requiring that a device be placed on a car that won’t allow the vehicle to start if the amount of alcohol in the driver’s bloodstream measures more than a set level.
There are two basic drunk driving charges in Maryland – DUI and DWI.
DWI stands for “driving while impaired.” A DWI can be charged when a driver’s blood alcohol is measured at .04% to .07%. Charging a DWI at the lower end of the scale is up to the judgment of the officer. In many instances, if you measure at the lower end of the scale and take a field sobriety test but fail the test, an officer will probably charge you with a DWI. A DWI is a lesser offense than a DUI.
DUI stands for “driving under the influence.” Being charged with a DUI in Maryland means that your blood alcohol concentration posted at 0.08% or higher. Blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is the amount of alcohol present in a 100 milliliter (mL) volume of blood. A DUI is a greater offense than a DWI.
Blood alcohol levels after alcohol consumption can depend on many factors, including gender, body weight, whether food was eaten along with the drinks and the amount of alcohol in the drinks. But, where one drink equals 1.5 ounces of 80 proof liquor (40% alcohol), 12 ounces of beer (4.5% alcohol), or 5 ounces of wine (12% alcohol), a 160-lb man who has had two drinks an hour would test at .05%, a 180-lb man who has had two drinks an hour would test at .04% and a 200-lb man who has had two drinks an hour would test at .04%.
Driving while impaired charges are prevented in several ways. Maryland drivers can prevent DUIs and DWIs by refusing to drink and drive, designating a sober driver, by using NHTSA’s SaferRide app — which is available for Android devices on Google Play, and Apple devices on the iTunes store — to call a taxi or a friend to be picked up, or by using a rideshare app such as Uber or Lyft.
An experienced attorney can help if you are facing a DWI or DUI charge in Baltimore, Ocean City, or another part of Maryland. The attorneys at The Law Offices of Thomas J. Maronick have experience fighting Maryland drunk driving charges. You can contact Thomas Maronick on his cellphone at 410-885-1775, the law office at 410-244-5068 or via our website for a free consultation.