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Drunk Driving Charges and Administrative Penalties



States differ in their administrative penalties connected to whether a person who is detained for drunk driving takes a blood alcohol level test, their penalties following a person’s conviction in court and their criminal penalties for a person accused of drunk driving.

Generally, a breath or blood test of .08 will expose a person to the most serious charges for drunk driving, also called Driving Under the Influence (DUI) or Driving While Intoxicated (DWI). The higher the test result, the greater the exposure to conviction of the more serious charge. All jurisdictions have lesser included charges, variously referred to as Driving Under the Influence or Driving While Impaired and the penalties, while still significant, are not as severe.

Test results are used in court to prove the criminal charge and at the motor vehicle administration in the state where the offense takes place. The test result, or a person's refusal to take a test, impacts the administrative penalty he or she faces. Administrative penalties are independent determinations unrelated to what occurs at trial. Generally speaking, a higher test result, or refusal to take the test, means a greater administrative penalty and a longer suspension or restriction of driving privileges.

Should I take the blood alcohol test?

 

There is no simple answer to this frequently asked question. If a person could know the test’s results before choosing to take it, answering that question would be easier.  Still, taking the test is a double-edged sword, so it is important to understand the impact this decision can have.

If a person decides to take the test, and receives a result of .15 or more, it is prima facie evidence in court of being under the influence, or intoxicated, and subjects the person to a suspension of their privilege to drive for 180 days for a first offense and 270 days for a second or subsequent offense.  This sanction cannot be modified except through enrollment in the ignition interlock program for one year. 

If the test results in a blood alcohol content between .08 and .14, while still exposing a person to a 180-day suspension, there is a possibility of the issuance of a restricted license with enrollment in the interlock program for a minimum of 180 days. If the person does not wish to get the interlock device installed, then he can request a restricted license that allows him to drive to school, the doctor or work only. 

A test result of .07 or less will not have any administrative ramifications. Moreover, a low enough test result can be prima facie evidence that a person was neither impaired nor under the influence at the time of the arrest. That could lead to the charges being dropped or an acquittal. 

While refusing a test provides less evidence for the prosecution to use in court, it can subject the person to a suspension of 270 days for a first offense and up to two years for a second or subsequent offense.  As with a result of .15 or greater, this sanction cannot be modified except through enrollment in the ignition interlock program for one year and, additionally, this disposition will be reported on the person’s public driving record.

In these types of cases, there is a great deal at stake and the law imposes time limits on the defendant for certain important filings in court and to protect the defendant’s right to an administrative hearing. Therefore, it is important to consult with an attorney as soon as possible following an arrest. Not all convictions in court result in further administrative penalties in Maryland and some other jurisdictions. It is important that a defendant learns what he can do in preparing his defense to enhance his chances of keeping his record clear of a conviction and the points and administrative penalties that accompany a conviction. States differ in their administrative penalties connected to whether a person who is detained for drunk driving takes a blood alcohol level test, their penalties following a person’s conviction in court and their criminal penalties for a person accused of drunk driving.


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