In the State of Maryland a person charged with DUI/DWI faces two separate legal proceedings : a criminal trial typically in District Court or if a Jury trial is requested the case will be tried in the Circuit Court. The other proceeding is an administrative hearing regarding your driver’s license. The Motor vehicle administration (MVA) hearing is heard before an Administrative Law Judge. The ALJ does not have legal authority to send a licensee to Jail. By stark contrast, a Criminal Judge does have jurisdictional authority to sentence the Defendant to jail. The criminal trial takes place at District or Circuit Court, where a judge or jury will decide whether you are guilty of DUI/DWI. The state has the burden of proof which means the State must prove each and every element of the crime. If not proven, then Judgement of Acquital is granted for the Defendant.
The defendant has a right to trial by jury because the alleged crime carries a potential penalty of 90 days incarceration or more. NOTE, this does not necessarily mean you will receive a 90 day sentence. My mission as your defense attorney is to represent you zealously and protect your constitutional rights. Each case is unique and avoiding jail, points, fines, and whenever appropriate, conviction, is the mission of the criminal defense attorney.
The MVA administrative hearing does not address your liberty and fines, rather it addresses your license. The Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) may revoke, suspend, modify or issue a warning (public reprimand). After you are cited for driving under the influence, you will be given a temporary Maryland driver’s license and your license will be confiscated. This temporary license is set to expire in 45 days, and you have 10 days to request an administrative hearing where you can fight to keep your license. If you fail to timely request an MVA hearing and pay the filing fee your license will be suspended. It is wise to contact an Attorney immediately to protect your rights.
In the case of MVA v. Styslinger, (No. 53, September Term 2016), the Maryland Court of Appeals held that:
“Under the State’s implied consent, administrative per se law, if an individual detained under suspicion of drunk driving refuses to submit to a breath test for blood alcohol concentration, the individual’s driver’s license
is suspended. The individual may challenge the validity of the suspension at an administrative hearing. At such a hearing, the Motor Vehicle Administration (“MVA”) must show that the officer who requested the licensee to submit to the test had reasonable grounds to believe that the licensee was driving (or attempting to drive) while impaired, that there was evidence of alcohol use, that the officer provided the
licensee with the appropriate advice of rights in requesting a test, and that the licensee refused to take the
test. The MVA need not prove that the licensee actually was driving (or attempting to
drive) while impaired, so long as the officer had a reasonable belief that the licensee was
doing so. Maryland Code, Transportation Article, §16-205.1.
In the criminal prosecution, however, the Court has recognized the “stationary shelter” defense. A person may use the car to “sleep it off,” even with the motor on and not be driving, and therefore not be guilty in the criminal case. The seminal case that sets forth factors considered by the finder of fact in the “stationary shelter defense” is Atkinson v. State, 331 Md. 199, 1993. In Atkinson the Court of Appeals held that the evidence was not legally sufficient to support a conviction for driving while intoxicated. The defendant there “was sitting intoxicated and asleep in the driver’s seat of his vehicle.” 331 Md. at 202. A key factor in that case, however, was that the vehicle was:
“lawfully parked on the shoulder of the road.” Id. The defendant could well have been “sleeping it off” and there was no evidence to support even an inference that he had actually driven the car while intoxicated. In terms of the circumstances that may give rise to an inference that the car has recently been driven, a key factor is that of where the car is resting when it is first observed by the police.
“The location of the vehicle can be a determinative factor in the inquiry
because a person whose vehicle is parked illegally or stopped in the roadway
is obligated by law to move the vehicle, and because of this obligation could
more readily be deemed in ‘actual physical control’ than a person lawfully
parked on the shoulder or on his or her own property. In sum, the primary
focus of the inquiry is whether the person is merely using the vehicle as
stationary shelter or whether it is reasonable to assume that the person will,
while under the influence, jeopardize the public by exercising some measure
of control over the vehicle.”331 Md. at 217. (Emphasis supplied)
At the separate MVA hearing, which, as previously emphasized, is separate from the criminal case, the MVA is not held to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, but is rather held to satisfying the lesser standard of “reasonable grounds to believe” the person was driving. If this can be shown the licensee can lose his or her license or privilege to drive in Maryland for 270 days for a first refusal or two years for a second or subsequent refusal or be required to participate in the ignition interlock program.
The best advice is to not drive while impaired. That said, let us not be naive, as a matter of public policy, the person who makes the decision NOT to drive after imbibing, consistent with the holding in ATKINSON, should be treated accordingly in a just society. Lives are at stake. Even if the facts are not on all fours with Atkinson, when properly presented they may serve as additional mitigation in negotiations. Discuss these issues with your Lawyer.
If you have been charged with an alcohol related traffic offense call me at 410-491-0227 to discuss your case and arrange a free and courteous consultation.