The Law Office of Matthew E. Bennett

A Maryland Law Firm Based in Silver Spring And Serving Surrounding Communities

Harsher penalties for first-time and repeat DUI and DWI offenses

Maryland increased its penalties for individuals who receive a drunken or impaired driving charge. Under the Repeat Drunk Driving Offenders Act, judges can order a harsher sentence for both first-time offenders and those convicted of three prior offenses. 

The Act increased the maximum jail sentence for motorists convicted of three DUI or DWI charges to 10 years. As reported by The Southern Maryland Chronicle, a judge may also order a convicted driver to pay a fine of up to $10,000. Not all defendants realize that both a DUI offense and a DWI offense can count toward the new three-prior-offense harsher penalties. 

Difference between a DUI and DWI 

Other than their shared contribution to the harsher penalty rules, Maryland differentiates between intoxication by alcohol and impairment by other substances. Driving under the influence, or DUI, refers to an individual who has a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08% or higher. When an officer arrests and charges a motorist with DUI, it generally means a chemical sobriety test result showed his or her BAC over the legal limit. 

Motorists may face a charge of driving while impaired, or DWI, even if their BAC tested below 0.08%. The DWI charge can result from a law enforcement officer having probable cause to believe a substance other than alcohol contributed to a driver’s observable impairment. 

Without strong evidence that can show a defendant took prescription pills or ingested other substances before operating a vehicle, a prosecutor may not find it easy to obtain a DWI conviction. A chemical blood test may not reliably show how much prescription medication or other substances an individual ingested before the arrest. 

Defense against the harsher penalties 

Motorists with prior convictions may have options to avoid Maryland’s harsher DUI and DWI penalties. A strong defense may reduce a sentence and minimize fines based on the facts of each individual’s arrest. Under certain circumstances, a plea bargain can reduce a DUI charge to a less serious reckless driving charge.