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3 Basics of DUI/DWI in Westminster/Hampstead, Maryland

Author: Portner & Shure

In Westminster, there is a “two-tiered” drinking and driving statute prohibiting two distinct levels of impairment. Below is an explanation of the differences between a DUI and a DWI and what happens when your BAC is tested to be below the legal limit:

1) Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol: DUI

The more serious offense, codified in Transportation § 21-902(a)(1), is driving under the influence of alcohol or what is commonly referred to as DUI. If the defendant submits to police-administered blood or breath alcohol test and the reading is 0.08 or higher there is a permissive inference that the driver was under the influence of alcohol. Driving under the influence is a statutory misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in jail and/or a $1,000 fine. Motor Vehicle Administration penalties can include the imposition of twelve points, and the possibility of a revocation of the driver’s license or privilege to drive.

2) Driving While Impaired by Alcohol: DWI

The lesser offense, codified in Transportation § 21-902(b)(1), is driving while impaired by alcohol or what is commonly referred to as DWI. Where there is a blood or breath alcohol test that results in a blood alcohol reading of 0.07, it is considered prima facie evidence that the person is impaired by alcohol. Driving while impaired is a statutory misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of two months in jail and/or a $500 fine. Motor Vehicle Administration penalties can include the imposition of eight points, and the possibility of a suspension of the driver’s license or privilege to drive.

3) Low Blood Alcohol Content or No Breath or Blood Test

If the defendant’s blood or breath test is greater than 0.05 but less than 0.07 there is no presumption that the defendant was driving under the influence or impaired by alcohol. If the test result is a 0.05 or less, there is a presumption that the defendant was not driving under the influence or impaired by alcohol. In the absence of a breath or blood test, there must be some evidence that the defendant consumed alcohol prior to or while driving.

Proof of this element can consist of evidence that a witness detected an odor of alcohol on the defendant’s breath, slurred speech, red or glazed eyes, an open container in the vehicle, four or more clues out of six on the horizontal gaze nystagmus test, a statement by the defendant admitting to consuming alcohol, or other evidence tending to show that the defendant consumed alcohol prior to or while driving. Law enforcement has three standard field sobriety test used to determine whether a suspect is driving under the influence of or while impaired by alcohol. They include horizontal gaze nystagmus test, the walk, and turn test, and the one leg stand test.

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