Driving while under the influence of alcohol or drugs is a serious offense in the state of Maryland (and everywhere else in the country), and could have life-changing consequences. If you have been arrested for this offense, you may be confused, worried and wondering what your next step should be. In this article, we’ll talk about the different types of charges related to driving, as well as whether or not to hire a lawyer and what you should look for when hiring one.
What are the different types of offenses?
Chances are, you may have heard the terms “DUI” and “DWI” interchangeably. But they are actually two different offenses. Let’s break them down at a high level.
Driving While Impaired (DWI) is the less severe of the two charges. Specifically, this charge relates to a person operating a motor vehicle with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) between 0.07 and 0.08 percent. (This is the official level in Maryland; other states may differ somewhat.)
Driving Under the Influence (DUI) is more serious; it’s the charge brought against a driver whose BAC is higher than 0.08 percent.
Note that there are various complexities with each charge. For example, if you’re a repeat offender, or your impairment involves more than just alcohol (both prescription drugs or controlled substances), the severity of your offense increases. The same is true if a minor is in the car with you when you’re arrested.
What are the punishments for DWI and DUI offenses?
Again, this is dependent on the circumstances surrounding the driver’s arrest, but Maryland law dictates that a first DWI conviction carries a punishment of up to 60 days in jail, a six-month license suspension, a $500 fine or some combination of all three. If the driver is a repeat offender, this punishment increases to up to six months in jail, a nine-month license suspension or a $1,000 fine.
Not surprisingly, since DUI offenses involve a higher degree of impairment, the punishment for them is more severe. A first-time DUI offender faces a year in jail, a six-month license suspension and a $1,000 fine – all of which increase with each subsequent offense. Being arrested while driving with a minor in the car also leads to more fines.
Should you hire a lawyer for a DWI or a DUI?
The short answer: yes. Here are some of the reasons why:
- An experienced attorney can walk you through all of the potential charges you’re facing and give you an idea of what’s at stake with a conviction.
- Attorneys with experience handling DWI and DUI cases in Maryland know the ins and outs of the law and can help you build a strong defense – one that takes every consideration into account and prepares you for every possibility.
- Lawyers are more qualified to be able to examine the details surrounding your arrest; for example, they will look to see if the officer or officers made any mistakes during or after the incident.
- If you have to appear in court, a lawyer will speak on your behalf; if you are aiming for a settlement, the lawyer can focus on negotiating with the prosecuting attorney.
What should I look for in a DWI or DUI attorney?
Before deciding on a lawyer to represent you, take the following things into consideration:
How much specific experience does this attorney have? You want someone who has a proven track record in representing DWI and DUI cases in Maryland, and who will know how to advocate for you.
What is the attorney’s reputation? If a lawyer has years of experience but few successes in DUI or DWI cases, or if their reputation is less than stellar, then it’s probably best to keep looking. Your future is too important to trust to anyone less than the best. Ask family, friends or colleagues for recommendations.
How well does the attorney communicate? You will be able to determine fairly quickly if you have a good rapport with your prospective attorney. Are they responsive? Do they take the time to answer your questions? Communication is crucial, so make sure you feel comfortable.
Are the attorney’s fees reasonable? You don’t want to scrimp too much on the lawyer you choose, but you don’t want to be overcharged, either. Research the fees that all of your prospective attorneys charge before making your decision.
Details are key
Once you’ve decided on an attorney, it’s time to schedule a consultation. Be prepared to answer a variety of questions about your arrest. The attorney will likely ask you to take them through the day or night of the incident in detail – where you went, who you were with, the amount and type of alcohol or substances you consumed and so on. They will also ask if you have any prior DWI or DUI arrests (or any other criminal convictions).
It’s very important to be as honest as you can be, and to provide as many specific details as you can possibly provide. The more your attorney knows about your background and the details of your situation, the more likely they are to be able to provide you with effective representation.
Does a DWI conviction mean jail time?
Not necessarily. There is an array of different options that you may be able to pursue, including alcohol education and treatment, in lieu of prison time – especially if you’re a first-time offender. These are things that a lawyer with experience managing DWI and DUI cases can help you explore.
Facing a DWI or DUI charge is overwhelming. Your best course of action is to prepare yourself by enlisting the help of a professional who is dedicated to pursuing your best interests.
If you’ve been charged with a DWI or a DUI and you are thinking of hiring a lawyer, contact the Law Offices of Nicholas Parr in Baltimore, MD today to schedule your free consultation. We don’t receive a fee unless we win.