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What You Need to Know about Maryland New DUI Law: Noah’s Law

GlassDriving after having a few drinks on a night out is never a good idea, and the DUI penalties in Maryland that were once considered to be somewhat lax compared to surrounding states will now be made to be far more severe for those finding themselves in this precarious situation, especially if there was a car accident. By way of background for the new law:

On December 3rd, 2015 Montgomery County officer, Noah Leotta, was fatally struck by a drunk driver. Leotta was returning to his car after conducting a stop on another vehicle when Luis Gustavo Reluzco, 47, was driving and hit both the police cruiser and officer Leotta. The result of this young officer’s death lead to the Maryland State Senate’s unanimous passing of ‘Noah’s Law’ in March of 2016 and will go into effect this Saturday October 1st, 2016. The DR-15 (Advice of Rights) which the officer must read to you prior to requesting you to blow in the machine at the police station has changed accordingly and become far more severe than it has ever been regarding the MVA consequences to your driver’s license.

The new law addresses test failures (ie. a blow of .08 or more) and alcohol test refusals before court and the effect of a DUI conviction on your driver’s license after court. Noah’s law lowers the blood alcohol level at which ignition interlocks are permitted and encouraged to be installed from 0.15 to 0.08. More specifically, you can either install an interlock for 6 months or you will be suspended for 180 days for a first offense .08 case; this is an increase from the standard 45 day suspension.  Noah’s law will also essentially require an interlock for individuals who have refused a breath test, not just those who have been convicted of driving under the influence. Again, if you do not take the interlock for a period of 1 year following a refusal to blow, your license will be suspended for 9 months.  Thus, it does not make much sense to go without a license for 9 months or 270 days when you install the lock for a period of 12 months and be on your way.  As you can see in the convenient chart below, the new law will significantly increase mandatory suspension periods for those who choose not to install the interlock device.  The state is sending a very strong message that if there is any alcohol or DUI infraction along these lines, an interlock is all but mandatory if you need to drive.

Once the law goes into effect on Saturday, the new legal consequences will give Maryland the push to join the other 27 U.S. states that currently require interlock devices for persons convicted of drunk driving. The sanction of ignition interlocks for those convicted of DUI has reported to yield the lifesaving results of not only a 67% drop in DUI recidivism, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control, but also a reduction in alcohol-impaired traffic fatalities mostly in part to laws mandating interlocks for all convicted drunk drivers; NHTSA data.

 

 

Comparison of Current Administrative Per Se Penalties

v

 Increased Administrative Per Se Penalties Under the Bill

 

                             

                        Above 0.08

   

Above 0.15

 

     Test Refusal

Offense Current New Current New Current New
First 45 days 180 days 90 days 180 days 120 days 270 days
Second (subsequent) 90 days 180 days 180 days 270 days 1 year 2 years
Accident death 6 mths same 1 year same

 

Source: Department of Legislative Services                                              BAC = Blood Alcohol Concentration

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The 4th Amendment to the United State’s Constitution protects all citizens from unreasonable searches and seizures, that includes one’s home, car and automobile. An officer may however stop a vehicle if they believe they have reasonable articulable suspicion that a crime is being committed, ie. Speeding or Drunk Driving. A traffic stop is generally a “warrantless” stop meaning that the officer must meet the criteria of “reasonable articulable suspicion” before pulling over a motorist an impeding on their 4th Amendment right to be free of police stops.

This is a very significant issue that may have a bearing on your dui or non-dui arrest. A seasoned attorney will be well versed in whether a traffic stop passes Constitutional evaluation or fails and therefore should be thrown out. This is why it remains imperative to retain effective counsel in all cases.

Just this week during trial I was able to secure a Not Guilty on a very significant DUI because of a bad stop. It was raining and my client was driving on the beltway at a speed that was 5 miles per hour less than the speed limit. It was late at night so it was obvious that the officer thought my client was impaired. However outside of the slow speed my client committed no traffic violations. An officer can pull someone over for going to slow but they must prove that the drivers speed impeded traffic or wasn’t reasonable given the road condition. The officer while on the stand during trial said that he pulled my client over for a well being check. He said he wanted to make sure my client was ok. When asked why he pulled him over for that and not a traffic violation the officer said he didn’t think he had enough evidence to pull over for a traffic violation.

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Reasons why a multiple DUI offender should hire the best DUI attorney they can.

Hint: All DUI lawyers are not created equal.

Most multiple DUI offenders believe that the judge is going to throw the book at them no matter what they do in preparation for their DUI trial. That is to say, they know things do not look good and many presume nothing can be done to fix or mitigate the situation. This is not true and is fatalistic to your case. Yes, judges are not looking to give a defendant with multiple prior DUIs a break, but with aggressive and knowledgeable defense counsel, sometimes things can work out far better then expected.

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Will you be considered a first offender in Maryland if it has been 10 years since your prior DUI conviction or PBJ? Well, it is much like your virginity, once you lose it-you lost it!

What do I mean by that? Once you have received a DUI or DWI and received some form of probation or guilty verdict, that can never be undone and you will never be considered a “first offender” again; in point of fact, you are not a first offender, you will be a second offender, even 10+ years later.  Now, if you go to court on your first offense and you are found Not Guilty by the judge or jury, well then that is NOT a first offense because you were not found guilty and you did not receive a probation before judgment.  A not guilty means you were not guilty of the charge and is therefore not considered a first offense.  In this instance, a “second violation” irrespective of when it occurs (1 year or 5 years) is indeed a first offense (because you beat the earlier offense) and you are entitled to first offense status.  Ie. eligible for a PBJ.

Now, what is this business about 10 years? That time period is the new limit in which a “second offender” is not even legally eligible for a probationary disposition such as  a PBJ.  Therefore, if in your first DUI offense you received the benefit of probation before judgment and therefore were able to keep your record clean and void of any points, that would mean you are not even eligible for a PBJ within 10 years of receiving your first PBJ. You can however retain the best lawyer you can find and fight your case in court and try to obtain a not guilty in the second offense.

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Zero Tolerance for DUI in Maryland: .08 breath alcohol is NOT the limit

A common misconception is that the legal alcohol limit for a DUI in Maryland is a .08 BAC. Most people believe that if you blow below a .08 then you are home free. Maryland is actually a zero tolerance state. This means that any amount of alcohol in your system can and will trigger DUI and DWI charges. Unfortunately, Maryland continues to broadcast this misinformation to the public and our clients continue to be amazed when we explain a .03-.05 is enough, under certain circumstances, to result in a driving while impaired charge.

This misconception has been an issue for years. Maryland, along with most states continues to run campaigns saying .08 is the limit, however it isn’t. A lower BAC number is just as damming as a .08. The only difference is that if you did spectacularly on the field sobriety tests you can attack the notion of impairment unlike a .08. .08 is Per Se impairment, this means that the defense cannot argue (or will be completely ineffective if they do) that the driver was not impaired by the .08. At a .07 the presumption is that the driver is impaired. The defense will have to overcome this presumption through evidence and through testimony.

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Understand the Strict Law that applies to lawfully “sleeping it off” and avoiding a DUI in Maryland

Have you ever made the intelligent decision after leaving a bar or a friends place that you may have had too many drinks to drive safely? What to do next? The intelligent thought would be to find a place to park and sleep it off.

However, despite the good thinking, from a legal perspective you must be careful. Maryland law is unfortunately strict about what counts as legally “sleeping it off” v. what counts as “physical control” and thereby exposing you to a DUI/DWI. The controlling case in Maryland speaking to the shelter doctrine is Atkinson. The Court in Atkinson determined they did not desire to punish a Maryland driver who knew he should not be driving and made the safe choice to sleep it off.

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DUIs and Troubling Trends in Carroll County, Maryland

The new State’s Attorneys regime in Carroll County is acting with little respect towards the legal process and the bench, at present, is letting them get away with it. We were in Court for trial last week for what was a rather innocuous DUI case. We were there to try the case as there were several triable issues.   When I approached the prosecutor she made an offer on the case. I told her it is a trial and to let me know when her officers arrive. The prosecutor agreed and we all waited.

Later on the prosecutor approached me and offered the lower DWI count as a plea deal. I asked her why she was doing that; she said her officer is unavailable. She then said that if we do not take her offer that she will just drop the charges and re-file. I told her to do what she needs to do but that she is setting a dangerous precedent by handling the case this way.

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How to get arrested for DUI in Maryland when not driving a car:

After an accident the police show up to sort out the details; but what if the cops smell alcohol on somebody’s breath and charge them with DUI without carefully determining who was actually driving the car? That is what happened on our case this week. Our client was involved in an auto accident and the police somehow surmised that our client was driving when in reality he was not the driver. Then the case becomes a matter of the State trying to prove the Defendant was the driver and the defense proving it was somebody else.

Sometimes the actual driver of the vehicle blames the other person for driving and the officer then makes a judgment call as to who was driving. Generally when a client tells me that they weren’t driving they continue with a “friend” was driving. I proceed to tell them that I need to speak with the friend. It is at this point that the client decides his friend is unavailable or the friend simply never shows at the DUI trial. I set up a case review with this client a month before trial and strangely the “friend” actually showed up.

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No DUI or criminal case is a slam dunk for the prosecution. Trial work is always fluid and anything can happen when you tell the Judge “Ready for trial.”  Have you ever noticed how many people never say that and just plead cases away? At Bruce Robinson & Associates we are a trial firm, we try DUI cases and we don’t hesitate to say “Ready for Trial.”

A recent example of this happened today in a DUI case in Cecil County, Maryland.  This Defendant was a multiple DUI offender with 2 DUIs within the past 5 years.  Two DUIs inside of a ten year period of time is a bad thing because the defendant is unable to get a probation before judgment and therefore must flat out win his case or he will suffer the consequences of a DUI conviction. In addition to being a multiple offender, this client also had a very high breath result. The State’s Attorney was demanding jail in front of a tough District Court Judge who would have loved nothing more than to oblige the State in it’s demand.

The Prosecutor asked me if  she needed all of her officers for this case. I was thinking, what a strange request, of course you do; evidently sh was used to too many lawyers who just roll plead their clients out. I told the prosecutor that not only did she need all her officers,  but they needed to be in the court room (not just generally available).  After half of the docket went by I began to see a glimmer of hope in the case that the State may not be able to prove its case because the arresting officers may not be available for trial. Ironically, the prosecutor never even checked in with her officers the day before as she is supposed to in order to obtain their presence in court.

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More states are legalizing marijuana, either for medical use or recreational use. As of 2014, only two states fully legalized it for all users – Colorado and Washington – but 18 states allow it for medical reasons. Even if you don’t partake of it, it can still affect you.

It’s important to understand its effects on the insurance and banking industries, since more states are likely to begin the legalization process in the coming years.

Auto Insurance