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DUI v. DWI: Drunk Driving Crimes in Maryland


You have probably heard of Driving Under the Influence (DUI), and you may also have heard of Driving While Impaired (DWI). You may think that these terms are just two different names for the crime of drunk driving in Maryland. Actually, they are two separate offenses, with different elements that must be proven in order to convict a person, and a different range of punishments if convicted.


If a chemical test of your blood alcohol content (BAC) registers at .08% or higher, you can be arrested and charged with DUI. It doesn’t matter if your driving was observed to be actually impaired or not, because the law presumes that at .08% BAC, you are impaired. However, the police must have had cause to stop and test you in the first place; if they didn’t, the breathalyzer test may have been an unconstitutional search.

You can also be charged with DUI even if your BAC is less than .08%, if other independent evidence shows that your driving abilities were impaired.

The consequences for a DUI conviction can include a 120-day suspension of your driver’s license, a $1,000 fine, and up to a year in jail. In addition, a DUI puts 12 points on your license, which will initiate a revocation of your driver’s license by the MVA.


A DWI charge is usually made when the breathalyzer shows a BAC of .07% or more but less than .08%, and impaired driving ability was observed, such as through failure of a field sobriety test. Again, there must have been valid and sufficient grounds to pull you over to begin with, and your defense attorney may be able to challenge the arrest on this basis.

Penalties for DWI conviction include a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. Also, eight points will be lodged against your license, which will launch a suspension letter from the MVA.

Driving While Impaired by Drugs

It is important to know that under Maryland law 21-902, a person also cannot drive while impaired by drugs (including both prescription and illicit drugs). The state’s burden is to prove both the impairment by drugs and the element of driving. In order to prove that the driver was impaired by drugs, the officer must have valid qualifications as a drug recognition expert. If not, much of that officer’s testimony may be inadmissible against you.

Seek Help Immediately for a DUI or DWI Arrest

DUI and DWI may both be charged together, depending on the circumstances, but you cannot be convicted of both charges for the same offense. An arrest on either charge should of course be taken very seriously, because the effects of an arrest and a criminal conviction can affect you in your employment, security clearance and other matters for a long time to come. You are urged to contact a criminal defense attorney who handles drunk driving cases as soon as possible after an arrest for DUI or DWI.

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