Most drivers who are charged with driving under the influence of alcohol or narcotics are charged with a state crime. Cases are heard in the county where the offense occurred or where the driver lives. There are some instances though where a driver can be accused of a federal DUI.
Filing federal charges requires some federal involvement – typically that the offense occurred on federal property. Maryland has numerous federal roads, including the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Suitland Road. If a drunk driver speeds on one of these roads, then federal charges could be brought against him or her.
Federal property also includes:
- Military bases
- National parks
- National monuments
- Any property owned by the US government
Most of the time, local or state law enforcement officials will be the ones who enforce traffic laws, issue a sobriety test, and potentially arrest you for DUI. However, if you are driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol at a national park, for example, or on government property, you could face federal DUI charges.
How a federal case differs from a state case
There are many key differences between federal court cases and state court cases. Some of these differences that experienced federal DUI attorneys understand are:
- There are different participants. State court cases are brought and tried by the local county prosecutor’s office. Federal cases are brought by federal prosecutors.
- There’s a different court. Federal cases are brought in federal courts and heard by federal judges.
- The evidence is different. The admissibility of evidence, the filing of motions, the way the case is conducted, and the way appeals are handled are subject to federal criminal rules of procedure – and not state rules of procedure.
- The law is different. In most state courts, drivers with a blood alcohol content of .08 or higher are presumptively guilty of DUI. The same is true for a federal DUI; however, there are different laws and court decisions that govern how the police can stop and question a suspect, what instrument certification requirements are required, how the results should be handled, and other matters.
- The jury pool is different. In state courts, the jurors are normally selected from the county where the case is being tried. In federal courts, jurors can be chosen from several counties.
- The penalties are different. The length of time for a conviction and the fines and costs are usually harsher in federal court. The effect of prior convictions on sentences is also different. The prisons are also different. State court defendants, if found guilty, spend time in county and state courts whereas defendants in federal crime spend time in federal prisons. Federal prisons are usually much harsher than county and state courts. Members of the armed services who are convicted of a federal DUI may be dismissed from the military.
Generally, drivers give their implied consent to be testing for their blood alcohol level at both the state and federal level. It is a federal crime to refuse to submit to a breath or blood test to determine alcohol concentration.
DUI charges can be attacked in different ways in federal court. The police may not have had the right to stop you. They may not have explained your rights before giving you a chemical test. The testing machines may not have been inspected properly. You may have a valid explanation.
At the Carey Law Office, we fight to suppress illegal evidence. We work aggressively to obtain acquittals. When fair, we negotiate plea agreements. For help now, please call our DUI lawyers in Bowie or Crofton. We represent accused drivers who reside in Anne Arundel County, Prince George’s County, and the neighboring areas. Please 301-464-2500 or fill out the contact form to arrange a free consultation.