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Common Misconceptions About DUIs

Kathleen M. Kirchner Attorney At Law June 25, 2024

Driving under the influence (DUI) is a serious offense that carries severe penalties in Maryland. Unfortunately, numerous misconceptions about DUIs can lead to misunderstandings and potentially devastating consequences.  

Kathleen Kirchner is a highly experienced attorney who practices DUI defense in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Serving clients throughout Queen Anne's County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, and Howard County, Kathleen Kirchner stands as a trusted resource for individuals facing DUI charges. With a robust track record of successfully defending clients and a deep understanding of state laws, she is dedicated to providing thorough and compassionate legal representation. 

DUIs are not just traffic violations; they have far-reaching implications that can affect your personal and professional life. In Maryland, the laws surrounding DUIs are stringent, with penalties including fines, license suspensions, and even jail time. Knowing the facts can help you make informed decisions if you find yourself in a situation involving a DUI. This article aims to set the record straight by debunking some of the most common misconceptions surrounding DUIs, specifically for Maryland residents, drivers, and individuals facing DUI charges. 

Misconception 1 - I Can Refuse a Breathalyzer Test without Consequences 

Maryland operates under implied consent laws. This means that by obtaining a driver's license, you automatically consent to submit to chemical tests (such as breathalyzer tests) if an officer suspects you of driving under the influence. Refusing the test can lead to immediate penalties. 

Consequences of Refusing a Breathalyzer Test 

Refusing a breathalyzer test in Maryland can result in harsh penalties. The state can impose a license suspension of up to 270 days for first-time offenders and up to two years for subsequent refusals. Additionally, refusal can be used as evidence in court, potentially weakening your defense. 

Given the potential consequences of implied consent laws, seeking legal counsel like Kathleen is essential to help you understand your rights and navigate the legal process.  

Misconception 2 - I Can’t Be Charged with a DUI If I’m Not Driving 

Many people believe that they can only be charged with a DUI if they are actively driving. However, Maryland's DUI laws also cover situations where an individual is in "physical control" of a vehicle. Physical control means having the ability to operate the vehicle. This can include scenarios like sitting in a parked car with the engine running, or even if the car is off but the keys are within reach.  

Legal Implications 

In Maryland, you can be charged with a DUI even if the vehicle is not in motion. Being in the driver's seat with the keys in the ignition can be enough for a charge. If charged under these circumstances, consulting with an attorney like Kathleen can help clarify what constitutes physical control and build a defense strategy tailored to your situation. 

Misconception 3 - I Don’t Need a Lawyer for a First-Time DUI Offense 

Some think that a first-time DUI offense is minor and doesn’t require legal representation, but this could not be further from the truth. First-time offenders may face fines, license suspension, and even jail time. The consequences of a first-time DUI can be severe, impacting your personal and professional life.  

Potential Consequences of a first-time DUI 

A first-time DUI offense in Maryland carries significant penalties, including: 

  • Up to one year in jail 

  • A fine of up to $1,000 

  • A six-month license suspension 

  • 12 points added to your driving record 

Additionally, the court may require you to participate in an alcohol education program or install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. 

Hiring a criminal defense attorney like Kathleen can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. Legal counsel can help you understand the charges, potential penalties, and available defenses.  

Misconception 4 - I Can’t Fight a DUI Charge 

Many people believe that once charged with a DUI, there is no way to fight it. However, several defense strategies can be employed to challenge a DUI charge. 

Some of the common defense strategies for a DUI charge in Maryland include: 

  1. Challenging the traffic stop: If your attorney can demonstrate that the officer did not have reasonable suspicion to initiate the stop, any evidence gathered during the stop may be suppressed. 

  1. Questioning field sobriety tests: Field sobriety tests (FSTs) are often used to establish impairment, but they are not foolproof. Your attorney may argue that the FST results were unreliable or improperly administered. 

  1. Breathalyzer accuracy: Your attorney might investigate whether the breathalyzer used was correctly maintained and whether the officer administering the test followed all required protocols.  

  1. Medical conditions: Certain medical conditions can mimic signs of intoxication or affect breathalyzer results. An experienced attorney will look into your medical history to see if it can provide a plausible alternative explanation for the alleged impairment. 

  1. Rising BAC defense: The "rising BAC" defense argues that your blood alcohol concentration was below the legal limit while you were driving but increased between the time you were stopped and when the test was administered.  

  1. Witness testimony: Witnesses who were with you before and during your arrest can testify that you were not exhibiting signs of impairment. Such testimonies can help create reasonable doubt about the prosecution's claims. 

  1. Improper police conduct: If the arresting officer failed to follow proper procedures, such as neglecting to read you your Miranda rights or using excessive force, this misconduct can be grounds for challenging the charges.  

Building a strong defense against a DUI charge in Maryland involves scrutinizing every detail of the arrest and the evidence. Each case is unique, and an experienced DUI defense attorney will tailor these strategies to the specifics of your situation to achieve the best possible outcome. Kathleen can assess the specifics of your case and develop a robust defense strategy. 

Frequently Asked Questions about DUIs in Maryland 

What is considered drunk driving in Maryland? What is the legal blood alcohol content (BAC) limit? 

In Maryland, drunk driving is defined as operating a vehicle while impaired by alcohol or drugs to the extent that it affects your driving capabilities. The legal BAC limit for drivers over the age of 21 is 0.08%. For commercial drivers, the limit is 0.04%, and for drivers under the age of 21, any detectable amount of alcohol (0.02% or higher) can result in a DUI charge. 

Is it possible to have a DUI conviction expunged from my record in Maryland? 

In Maryland, DUI convictions cannot be expunged from your criminal record. Once convicted, it remains on your record permanently. However, if you were charged but not convicted, or if the charges were dismissed or you received a not guilty verdict, you may file for expungement to remove the arrest and charge records. 

Are there mandatory jail sentences for DUI convictions in Maryland? 

While Maryland does not have mandatory minimum jail sentences for first-time DUI offenses, repeat offenses carry stricter penalties. For a second DUI conviction within five years, the law mandates a minimum jail sentence of five days. For third or subsequent offenses, the penalties increase significantly, including longer mandatory jail terms. 

Understanding the realities of Maryland's DUI laws is crucial for anyone who drives. Misconceptions can lead to poor decisions with severe consequences. By debunking these myths, we hope to provide a clearer understanding of DUI charges and the importance of legal representation. 

Contact Kathleen Kirchner for Help with your DUI Case 

If you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge, seek legal advice as soon as possible. DUI charges can have serious consequences, including hefty fines, license suspension, and even jail time. An experienced attorney can help you through the legal process, potentially mitigating the severity of these consequences. 

Contact Kathleen M. Kirchner Attorney At Law for experienced legal counsel in Anne Arundel County and throughout Queen Anne's County, Calvert County, Prince George's County, and Howard County, Maryland. Kathleen has a proven track record of defending clients against DUI charges, protecting their rights and working toward the best possible outcome. Don't leave your future to chance—let a skilled attorney like Kathleen guide you through this challenging time.