What’s the difference between a DUI and a DWI in Maryland? In Maryland DUI and DWI are both charges the state can bring against someone accused of drunk driving. The difference between DUI and DWI charges can be tricky to understand. DUI and DWI are often charged together. DUI, or Driving Under the Influence, is the more serious charge. DWI, which stands for Driving While Impaired, is the less serious of the two. Although the prosecutors in Maryland can charge both DUI and DWI at the same time, the defendant can be convicted of only one of them in one case. If the conviction is for DUI, then the DWI charge merges into the DUI charge. If the conviction is for the DWI, then the defendant cannot also be convicted of the DUI charge because the elements for DWI fall short of the elements for DUI. The difference between DUI and DWI in Maryland can be thought of as a difference of degree.
Maryland DUI Penalties
DUI carries a maximum penalty of one year in jail, a 120 day license suspension, and a $1000 fine. When a driver is stopped with a BAC at or above .08% the driver will almost always be charged with DUI per se. At this BAC level the law presumes the driver to be affected by alcohol. This means that a driver can be charged with and convicted of DUI without the state having to prove that he was actually affected by the alcohol in his blood. It is also possible to charge DUI when the driver’s BAC is below .08. In order to prove this kind of a DUI case, the prosecutor must convince the judge or the jury that the driver’s coordination was substantially impaired by alcohol. Many drivers are unaware that they can be charged with DUI with a BAC below .08, but that is the case. This kind of charging is somewhat unusual, likely due to the fact that it requires the state to prove additional elements to win a conviction. It should be mentioned here that second and third DUI convictions come with increased penalties of up to two and three years in jail. In a parallel administrative hearing process conducted by the MVA, a .08 or higher BAC causes 12 points to be assessed against the driver’s Maryland Drivers License. The accumulation of 12 or more points immediately triggers the MVA to issue a revocation letter.
Maryland DWI Penalties
DWI, the lesser drunk driving related charge, carries a maximum penalty of 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. DWI is charged when a driver is stopped with a BAC from .07% up to .079%. In order to be convicted of DWI, the prosecution must prove that there was alcohol in the driver’s blood and it was impairing his coordination while driving. In a case where the driver’s BAC is .079 or under, the MVA assesses eight points against the driver’s license. Eight points is enough to trigger a suspension letter to be sent by the MVA.
Low BAC Drunk Driving Cases
In Maryland BAC levels from .051 up to .079 do not serve as evidence per se that the driver was under the influence. However, BAC levels in this range may be presented as evidence to show that the driver was under the influence or impaired. At levels below .05, Maryland law creates a presumption that the driver is not under the influence. In certain rare low BAC cases the state will attempt prosecute despite this additional hurdle created by Maryland law.
Other Maryland DUI Law Situations
Ultimately, DUI and DWI punishments can be significantly enhanced if there is a minor child in the vehicle while the driver is drunk. Also worth mentioning is that a driver under the age of 21 can be charged with DUI with a BAC of just .02% !
Matthew Baum is a Baltimore-based criminal defense lawyer who represents people charged with DUI, DWI, and other serious traffic violations. As a part of his criminal defense practice he has handled hundreds of serious traffic cases. If you or someone you care about has been charged with DUI or DWI, please call (410) 929-3435 to schedule a free consultation. Evening and weekend consultations are available.