For many Marylanders, Driving on a Suspended License or Driving Suspended is the most serious charge they will ever face. It’s what lawyers call a “jailable” traffic offense. That’s because the maximum possible penalty includes potential jail time. Depending on how you are charged, Driving on a Suspended License in Maryland carries a maximum possible penalty of either 60 days in jail or one year in jail. That penalty comes along with other serious penalties, including large fines and numerous points on your driver’s license.
When you are charged with Driving Suspended in Maryland, you and your lawyer need to take careful stock of the state’s case against you and then decide whether or not you have a workable defense. This blog post discusses a few available defenses to Driving on a Suspended License in Maryland. Keep in mind that no blog post can be a substitute for having a consultation with a licensed defense attorney who practices in your area. This blog post isn’t legal advice. If you are charged with Driving Suspended then you should talk to a lawyer. You should also be aware that the odds of someone successfully representing himself without knowing the Rules of Evidence, applicable case law, or the Rules of Procedure are exceedingly small. With that said, here are three defenses that can be used in Maryland Driving on a Suspended License cases:
Maryland Driving on a Suspended License Defense #1: I Didn’t Get Any Notice of Suspension
In order to be convicted of Driving Suspended in Maryland, the state must prove that you knew or should have known that you were suspended at the time you were caught driving. In legal terms, the state must prove that you had the required mens rea. That’s Latin for the “guilty mind,” associated with the offense. For Diving on a Suspended License in Maryland, the mens rea is “knowingly.” That means that the prosecution must prove that you had knowledge of your suspended status. How can the state prove knew or should have known that you were suspended? The typical means of proof is to introduce your driving record into evidence. Prior to the effective date of your suspension, the your MVA driving record should show that the MVA mailed you a suspension notice. They automatically send out a notice to your address on file. Without evidence to the contrary, most courts will rule that you knew you were suspended if notice was mailed properly. This is where a defense lawyer can help you. In order to make a good no notice defense, you need solid facts to support your claim that you didn’t get the MVA suspension notice despite their having mailed it. Although you can expect to face strong resistance to this argument, it can be won provided the right facts are brought to the court’s attention. If you are talking with a lawyer about a no notice defense, you can refer to it as a McCallum defense, based the name of a Maryland Court of Appeals case that supports this argument.
Driving on a Suspended License in Maryland Defense #2: No Probable Cause for a Traffic Stop
In order for you to be convicted of Driving on a Suspended License in Maryland, the sate must prove that the traffic stop, if there was one, that lead to the officer’s discovery that you were suspended was initiated for a valid reason. This is not just true for Driving on a Suspended License cases in Maryland; this is a general principal of criminal law recognized throughout the United States. The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees that we have the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures as we go about our daily lives. The Fourth Amendment and the high court case law that gives clarity to its meaning is just as valid in traffic cases as it is in serious felonies. This means that if a police officer stops your vehicle without probable cause, the court should not allow evidence concerning the suspended status of your license to drive to be admitted into evidence for the state. This is commonly called a suppression defense. In order to make a convincing argument for suppression, your lawyer should get all of the facts concerning your vehicle stop and have solid case law to support his or her legal arguments.
Maryland Driving on a Suspended License Defense #3: I Was Not Driving
The law that prohibits driving on a suspended license in Maryland makes it illegal to drive while your license is suspended and you know your license is suspended. (See Defense #1, discussed above, if this mention of knowledge sounds unfamiliar to you.) Did you catch that? The state actually must prove that you were driving. This means that the state must have at least one witness who saw you operating your car. If the officer found you when you were standing beside your car, resting in your house, sitting on the curb, or at some other time when you were not exercising control over your vehicle, the state may not have the evidence it needs to prove the “driving” element of Driving on a Suspended License. Of course this kind of defense does not apply to every Driving Suspended case. Your lawyer should look carefully at the facts alleged and at the witnesses the state brings to court to determine whether or not the state can prove that you were driving.
Ultimately, in order to prove that you were guilty of Driving on a Suspended License, the prosecution must prove each and every element of that offense to the judge or to the jury. The standard of proof required to sustain a guilty finding is “beyond a reasonable doubt.” This means that, in order for you to be convicted, the state must prove each element to a moral certainty. It’s your defense lawyer’s job to look for deficiencies in the state’s case and to bring those deficiencies to the attention of the judge or jury. Please understand that the list of defenses highlighted above is by no means an exhaustive list. In order to know whether or not you have a defense in your Driving on a Suspended License case, you should talk to an experienced traffic defense lawyer who practices in your area.
Matthew Baum is a defense attorney with offices in Baltimore, Catonsville, and in Columbia, Maryland. He has entered his appearance for the defense in hundreds of Maryland Driving on a Suspended License cases. He believes wholeheartedly in every person’s right to be presumed innocent. If you or someone you love has been charged with Driving on a Suspended License and you would like to discuss your options, call Baum Law Offices at (410) 929-3435.