In most cases, DUI offenses by themselves are misdemeanors. DUIs may become felonies if additional circumstances add to the severity of the offense, such as if someone is killed. Whether the charge is a misdemeanor or a felony, there are often defenses. The police may not be able to prove that you were intoxicated or under the influence of drugs at the time of the offense. Breath tests and blood tests may not be admissible because the police failed to properly administer the tests. There may not be evidence that you were driving the vehicle. Many other defenses may apply.
What circumstances may cause a DUI offense to be charged as a felony?
The following drunk driving offenses which result in the death of another person will result in felony charges:
- Section 2-209. Manslaughter by vehicle or vessel – gross negligence. A violation of this offense is a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. The penalties are more severe for subsequent offenses.
- Section 2-210. Manslaughter by vehicle or vessel – criminal negligence. A violation of this offense is a felony punishable by up to 3 years in prison and up to $5,000 in fines. The penalties are more severe for subsequent offenses.
- Section 2-503. Homicide by Motor Vehicle or Vessel While Under the Influence of Alcohol or Under the Influence of Alcohol per Se. This offense applies if a person who negligently operates a vehicle is under the influence of alcohol or under the influence of per se. A conviction is a felony subject to imprisonment not exceeding 5 years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both. The penalties are more severe for subsequent offenses.
- Section 2-504. Homicide by Motor Vehicle or Vessel While Impaired by Alcohol. This offense applies if a person who negligently operates a vehicle (is impaired by alcohol) is guilty of a felony and on conviction is subject to imprisonment not exceeding 3 years or a fine not exceeding $5,000 or both. The penalties are more severe for subsequent offenses.
Generally, a doctor or a coroner can testify to how a person died. Our drunk driving defense lawyer will fight to show that the defendant was not driving negligently, criminally negligently, or grossly negligently at the time of the accident that caused the fatality.
The manslaughter and homicide charges are different. For a Homicide by DUI, only simple negligence is required. For the manslaughter charges, either criminal negligence (a higher standard to prove than simple negligence) or gross negligence (a higher standard to prove than criminal negligence) are required. The manslaughter charges don’t require proof that the driver was intoxicated or impaired.
Additional enhancements for when someone is injured
In a case where a person accused of driving under the influence ends up causing harm or injury to another person, the accused may face additional penalties – but the enhancement is still a misdemeanor. Don’t let that fool you into thinking it is not a serious charge. You may face up to two years in prison and an additional $3,000 in fines if convicted. For a secondary offense, the fines may be up to $10,000, and the prison sentence may be up to five years.
What is the difference between a DUI and a DWI?
A driver can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) in Maryland if he/she has a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) level of .08 or more at the time they are driving. This charge can be filed whether a driver’s operation of the vehicle is impaired or not. This type of criminal offense is known as DUI per se because the key factor is the BAC level of .08 or higher.
A driver can be charged with driving while intoxicated (DWI) if the driver’s BAC level is .07 or higher and the driver’s ability to drive is impaired. A driver can also be charged with a DWI if the driver was under the influence of drugs and the driver’s operation of the car was impaired.
What are the consequences for DUI and DWI violations?
For a DUI that is a first offense, the penalties are imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of up to $1,000 or both. The length of the prison time and the amount of the fine may increase to up to two years and up to $2,000 in fines.
The penalties for a first and second DWI are up to two months in jail and up to $500 in fines (or both) for a first offense, and up to one year and up to $500 in fines (or both) for a second offense.
A third offense misdemeanor DWI or DUI is up to 5 years in jail and $5,000 fine, and the penalty for a fourth offense DWI or DUI is up to 10 years in jail and $10,000 fine.
The fines and penalties can increase if a minor was in the vehicle and for third and subsequent offenses. For third and subsequent offenses, a mandatory minimum sentence will be imposed. The defendant may also be required to submit to various substance abuse tests.
Imprisonment includes confinement in an inpatient rehabilitation or treatment center, or home detention if approved by the court and other conditions are met.
Both DUI and DWI convictions will also be reviewed by the Maryland Motor Vehicles Administration (MVA). The MVA can suspend your driver’s license for a long period of time. Defendants have the right to request a hearing before the MVA.
Maryland does permit some defendants to be placed on probation before judgment (PBJ) for first-time offenses if approved by the judge and no other offenses apply. The charges may be dismissed if the defendant completes the terms of the probation.
Any type of DUI or DWI charge is a very serious offense. Convictions can result in prison time and fines. There are many other secondary penalties for DUI/DWI convictions. Defendants may be required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on their vehicle to test their BAC level. A defendant’s insurance premiums will skyrocket. The DUI conviction may appear on a background check, which can make it hard to find employment. A DUI conviction could also affect a defendant’s professional license.
If you were charged with a DUI, felony homicide, or murder charge, Carey Law Office has the experience and advocacy skills to help. With locations in Bowie, Crofton, and Owings, we’ve helped many defendants obtain their freedom. Contact us now to schedule a consultation. We also serve Calvert County.
My name is Joe Carey, and I am the founder and principal attorney of the Carey Law Office. I have lived in Maryland my entire life. I grew up in a small town in Prince George’s County and, with the help of my partner in life, Nancy, I raised my family here: three exceptional children (a son and two daughters), and two goofy, spoiled black Labrador Retrievers. Learn More