In Maryland, you have a right to represent yourself in a criminal and/or traffic court. You also have a right to an attorney, which you can choose to hire yourself, or the judge can appoint a public defender.
What to expect in a DUI court case
In Maryland, most drunk driving offenses are misdemeanors. If a driver is found guilty of a DWI or DUI, they face hefty fines and jail time. Penalties for DWI/DUI offenses in Maryland can range from a $500 fine and two months in jail to a $5,000 fine and the possibility of five years in jail. There are also other penalties, such as the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device in your vehicle for six months to three years. If this is your first DUI offense, you will likely not be sentenced to any jail time, but the judge may still order the IID, fines, supervised probation and alcohol treatment.
If the drunk driving occurred while transporting a minor, the length of jail terms are much longer.
The possible jail time and fines increase with each subsequent conviction for drunk driving offenses.
If you were charged with a DUI or DWI that involved an accident then there will be much more severe penalties. You could face a felony DUI charge, with up to ten years in jail and a $20,000 fine.
If you were impaired by alcohol and drugs at the same time, or just impaired by drugs without alcohol, you can still be charged for Driving While Impaired under certain variations of 21-902 of the Maryland Transportation Article.
The Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) will assess “points” to your driving record if you are convicted of a DUI or DWI. Points could remain on your driving record for two years.
- A driver who is convicted of a DWI will get 8 points on their driving record, making him/her susceptible to a license suspension.
- A driver who is convicted of a DUI will get 12 points on their driving record, making him/her susceptible to a license revocation.
The pros of hiring an attorney
An attorney can negotiate with the prosecutor on your behalf to try and get the charges reduced or dropped altogether. An experienced DUI attorney will also be able to challenge the evidence against you, which could result in a not-guilty verdict.
A lawyer can also prepare you for what to expect in court and help you make the best decisions for your specific case. For example, if the prosecutor offers a plea deal, an attorney can help you decide whether or not to accept it. An experienced defense attorney can also help you navigate MVA hearings related to DUI/DWI charges and lower the risk of the MVA assessing points on your license which cause increased car insurance costs.
The cons of hiring an attorney
An attorney can be expensive, and you may have to pay a retainer fee upfront. You will also be responsible for any other costs associated with your case, such as expert witnesses or court fees.
If you decide to use a public defender, they may not have the time or resources to devote to your case that a private attorney would. This could mean that you don’t get the best possible defense.
It’s important that you weigh your options carefully before deciding whether or not to hire an attorney for your DUI case in Maryland. Consider your circumstances and desired outcome, and speak with a few different attorneys before making a decision. Also, educate yourself on the expungement laws with DUIs and DWIs which are very strict in Maryland. Deciding to retain a private attorney may be in your best interest as Maryland will never allow you to expunge a DUI or DWI conviction.