Ignition Interlock Device Laws Debated
Proposed new legislation to require ignition interlock devices for anyone convicted of a first time DUI charge in Maryland got a boost, when Governor O’Malley went on record supporting such a measure, stating he would sign the bill.
The bill passed the State Senate last year, but was stalled by the House Judiciary Committee. The chairman of that committee is known to be a criminal defense attorney who is skeptical of these measures, but there is good reason to question whether this legislation would go too far in punishing average citizens.
An ignition interlock device is a system that requires a driver to blow into a device and prove that they don’t have any alcohol on their breath before the car’s ignition will start. The device
Restaurant and bar industry advocates suggest that it is unfair to tag someone who makes a one-time mistake, barely over the legal limit of .08%BAC with the same penalty as someone with a history of alcohol abuse, who may be driving several times over the limit for alcohol impairment. A law like this takes away judicial discretion to make a distinction between these two types of cases, and would require an interlock device to be installed for any 1st offense DUI. Current law makes these devices available at a judge’s discretion, or in cases where a defendant may choose a shorter license suspension in exchange for one of these devices.
The new law would require the devices for anyone facing DUI penalties, even if they are given a Probation Before Judgment, or PBJ, which is not considered the same as a conviction by Maryland DUI laws.
DUI Convictions and Public Records; DWI Sentencing Considerations
Criminal convictions are public records, so there isn’t much that can be done when DUI/DWI convictions are published in Maryland newspapers. In the times of quick and easy online access to public records, it is difficult to hide these facts. For some people, it is a reason to consider fighting DWI or DUI charges in court.
Insights into Penalty Differences
These drunk driving conviction records do give us an interesting view on how penalties for pleading guilty can vary, even with the same offense in front of a different judge.
For example, one particular judge appears to insist on the defendant abstaining from alcohol as a condition of probation, and getting an alcohol restriction on your license.
This may be a fairly minor distinction, but the larger point is that judges have specific tendencies. Some are very fair to defendants, and some are very tough. Some judges may be reasonable on process and motion issues, but extremely tough when it comes to sentencing.
This is just another area where an experienced Maryland drunk driving defense lawyer can make a significant difference in the outcome of your case. An attorney who knows the judges who preside in a particular court, and his or her tendencies may be able to anticipate certain situations you would like to avoid.
You can’t pick the judge in your case, but if you do end up with a judge that might be more likely to rule unfavorably in a certain situations, then you might be more likely to ask for a continuance, or agree to a continuance if the prosecutor requests one for some reason.
That kind of specific experience really does matter, and can make a real difference in your case.
So when you call for a consultation, be sure to ask about specific experience with cases just like yours, as well as experience in the court where you are assigned. An experienced defense attorney will know the court, the judges, and their tendencies, and will be able to factor that information into whatever recommendations you are given.
For a free case evaluation on a DUI or DWI charge in Maryland, please contact us today!
Effectiveness of Maryland’s DUI Roadblock Plan Disputed
In a letter to the editor published in Southern Maryland Online, a representative from the American Beverage Institute cites studies that show that roving patrols are far more effective in arresting drunk drivers than organized, visible roadblocks.
It is a reasonable assumption that roadblocks are not a particularly effective use of the limited enforcement resources of the police department. Big, showy roadblocks may make people believe that they are helping reduce drunk driving more than standard, quality police work, and now the evidence supports that belief.
The question is, does stopping and questioning people randomly to check for signs of intoxication make more sense that actually trying to identify people who appear to be driving dangerously or erratically?
And evidence shows the answer is that these efforts don’t make sense, and are an inefficient use of police resources in enhancing public safety.
Anyone who has ever driven on a highway any night of the week can tell you that there is no shortage of people who are driving unsafely or too quickly. You could pull over every third car for exceeding the speed limit. And, though more time consuming then simply stopping ever car at a checkpoint, at least those individuals would be actually suspected of doing something wrong.
It is always helpful when individuals and groups come together to honestly and objectively assess the best ways to prevent drunk driving. Too often, the neo-prohibitionist groups like MADD are the only voice in the discussion.
By the way, the American Beverage Institute is an industry group that represents bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, and is an important voice in fighting drunk drivers at the source.
DUI Roadblock Checkpoints Announced in Talbot County
Police in Talbot County Maryland announced they are setting up DUI roadblocks this weekend. The locations are undisclosed, but the fact that roadblocks will be in affect is designed to deter drunk drivers. It is also a requirement for the DUI roadblock to be legal that they be announced in advance, to make them constitutional under Maryland law.