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DUI/DWI

Ellicott City DUI Attorneys

Aggressive Defense of Drunk Driving Charges in Maryland

We understand what's at stake if you have been arrested for DUI or DWI: jail time, your driver's license, a criminal record, high insurance rates, even your livelihood. We know that a qualified Maryland attorney can make all the difference.

Based in Ellicott City, the DUI attorneys of the Willis Law Firm, P.A. provide aggressive representation of those accused of drinking and driving in Howard County, Anne Arundel County, Baltimore or surrounding areas. Whether it is your first violation or third offense, our knowledge of DUI and DWI laws enables us to protect your rights and build a winning defense.

Contact us immediately at 410-461-9400 to protect your rights.

Maryland Drunk Driving Charges and Penalties

A charge of driving under the influence (DUI) usually means that your blood alcohol content was measured at .08 or greater. You can also be charged with driving while impaired (DWI) for a BAC less than .08, if an officer observes erratic driving or you "fail" a field sobriety test or.

The DUI carries greater consequences. A first offense DUI conviction is punished by a fine of $1,000, automatic revocation of your license, and jail time of up to a year. DWI is punished by a $500 fine, suspension of your license, and possible jail time. Possible sanctions for second or third offenses include up to two years in jail, license revocation, and ignition interlock on your car.

If you were involved in a drunk driving accident, or if you have previous DUIs, you may be facing felony charges. Experienced legal representation is critical — for any DUI charge.

The sections below provide basic information regarding DUI and DWI. They are not intended as legal advice or to substitute for representation by a qualified Maryland DUI attorney. See our Drunk Driving Information Center for additional details about DUI and DWI charges.

What a Lawyer Can Do for You

Charges of DUI and DWI carry substantial penalties, both by way of a fine, potential jail time, and points on your driving record. A lawyer can help you not only by recognizing technical legal defenses, by knowing what the judge is likely to do given the facts of your case, and what you can do to improve the odds of a favorable disposition.

Willis Law Firm, P.A. will represent you vigorously in court on the criminal charges, as well as Motor Vehicle Administration license suspension hearing to retain or regain your driving privileges.

Our veteran attorneys will challenge the legitimacy of the stop, the methods used in a roadside sobriety test, or the accuracy and effectiveness of a breath test, to get charges dismissed or reduced, or to minimize the consequences of a guilty plea or conviction.

First, our Ellicott City DUI attorneys will evaluate the case and determine whether there are any triable issues. Second, your lawyer will determine the best course of action based on the likely outcome of a trial.

The Traffic Stop

Unless the police are operating a roadblock, or you are involved in an accident, the officer must have a reason to pull you over. There are three main reasons given by the police:

  • You were weaving or driving erratically.
  • You committed a traffic violation such as crossing the center line or running a red light.
  • You were speeding.

At certain times, particularly late at night on Saturday, or very early in the morning on Sunday, the police know that there is a good chance that anyone out at that time has been drinking. They are looking for any reason to pull you over, and will do so for even the tiniest infraction.

Field Sobriety Test

Field sobriety tests are a series of physical and mental tests the cop gives to establish probable cause for arrest. They are humiliating and, frankly, difficult to pass even while sober:

  • The one-leg stand or the walk and turn, designed to test your balance and ability to follow verbal directions.
  • Alphabet or counting tests to determine whether you can think straight enough to count backwards or to recite the alphabet starting in the middle.
  • The horizontal gaze nystagmus test (HGN), a physiological test to detect intoxication by tracking telltale fluttering while your eyes follow a pen or other object.

These tests are based on junk science. The observations of the officer, however, are admissible in court, although the cop can't testify that you passed or failed. To be meaningful, the tests must be properly administered. Most cops are trained to use them, but they do not always do it right. Your lawyer will know how it should be done and be able to cross-examine the cop to see whether he is qualified, and whether he did it right.

The law does not require you to submit to field sobriety tests (as it does the breath test), and there is a good argument for refusing to take them. For example, if you have been drinking and are intoxicated, they provide evidence of that. If you refuse the breath test (discussed below) it may be the only evidence, other than the cop smelling alcohol, noting red and glassy eyes, or slurred speech (which will always be in the cop's report). If you know you have not been drinking, then you could ask the cop to give you a preliminary breath test (PBT) with a device he carries for that purpose. The results of the PBT are not admissible in court, but it will show the cop that you are sober.

Once the officer has determined that you may be intoxicated, either by the PBT or the field sobriety tests, you will be arrested and taken to the station. There you will given a form explaining your rights with respect to the breath test, and you must sign whether you will take the test or refuse it. You probably will not be given a chance to call a lawyer, so you will need to make the decision on the spot. But should you take it?

The Breath Test

One of the most frequently asked questions about DUI is whether a person should take the breath test. By driving on Maryland roads, you consent to take the breath test. Refusing to take the test will result in losing your license for a substantial amount of time (120 days). It is also a crime to refuse to take the test. Because it's a crime, and we're lawyers, we can't advise you ever to refuse the test any more than we can advise you to steal. Therefore, you have to decide for yourself whether or not to take the test. Consider the following:

  • If you take the test, the results will be admissible in court to show what your blood alcohol concentration was. If it was .08 or above, you are guilty of driving under the influence per se. That means you are guilty by definition. If it was substantially higher than that, say .14, then the judge knows that you were pretty drunk.
  • If the judge does not have the results of the breath test, he may find you guilty of the crime of refusing the test, but he has only the officer's observations to determine whether you were guilty of DUI / DWI. For example, did the cop stop you because you were weaving, or because you were speeding? Weaving could be used to infer that you were drunk. Also, how did you do on the field sobriety test? If you could not stand up, then maybe you were drunk (another good reason to refuse the field sobriety test).

So, with the breath test results, the judge knows to what extent you were intoxicated, and it is a slam dunk for the State to get a conviction for the more serious version of driving under the influence (DUI per se). Without it, it is much more likely that you would only be found guilty of the lesser crime of DWI (driving while impaired), which carries a much lighter sentence. This is particularly importance if you are a repeat offender who was really drunk when the officer stopped you.

Experienced Drunk Driving Representation

Contact our Ellicott City DUI attorneys as soon as feasible to protect your rights and examine the facts of your case. We explore every avenue to fight the charges and obtain the most favorable outcome possible in your circumstances.