Driving while impaired is a serious cause for concern in Maryland; according to the Maryland Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA), impaired drivers are to blame for one-third of all roadway deaths in the state in the past five years. If you have been charged with driving while impaired in the state of Maryland, you have a right to request a hearing in front of the Motor Vehicle Administration to reconsider the suspension of your license. An MVA hearing is not something that should be taken lightly; the fate of your driver's license depends on the outcome of this hearing.
A Breakdown of a DWI Charge
DUI charges aren't the only charges that a Maryland driver can face after consuming alcohol then driving; oftentimes, a driver can be charged with driving while impaired (DWI) even with less than a 0.08% blood alcohol content. Maryland law states that a driver can be charged with driving while impaired if his or her BAC was between 0.04% and 0.08%. Therefore, individuals who are charged with DWI are often just below the 0.08% BAC required to be charged with driving under the influence.
Penalties for a DWI Conviction
Although driving while impaired carries a lesser charge than driving under the influence, penalties for DWI are still severe--a DWI carries the following possible penalties:
- Administrative license suspension for up to 270 days this means that you are unable to drive legally for a period of six months. Furthermore, in order to reinstate your license, you may have to complete an alcohol abuse program
- Jail time ranging from 60 days up to 3 years
- Fines of up to $500
- An ignition interlock device: in some instances, you may be ordered to have an ignition interlock device placed in your vehicle. This is a breathalyzer device that requires you to blow into the device before your car will turn on.
The penalties listed above can be increased if a minor was in the vehicle at the time of your arrest, and can also increase if you have been charged with subsequent offenses of DWI.
Motor Vehicle Administration Hearings
Whenever your license has been suspended for driving while impaired in Maryland, you may ask the MVA for a hearing to review the suspension. During this hearing, a judge will determine whether your license will remain suspended, or whether your license will be reissued to you.
What to Expect Before and During an MVA Hearing
If you are preparing for an MVA hearing for driving while impaired, there are several things understand about these hearings.
- Time limits exist to request a hearing: A request for an MVA hearing must be submitted in a timely manner--within 10 days of your arrest if you want a temporary license to be issued until the date of your hearing, or a maximum of 30 days if you do not want a temporary license. If a hearing is not requested in a timely manner, such a hearing will be denied.
- Hearings aren't free: you must pay a $150 filing fee to request this hearing.
- Hearings don't happen instantly: as a general rule, it takes between 4 and 6 weeks for an MVA hearing to take place. If your hearing is rescheduled, it can take even longer for the hearing to take place. If you have applied for a temporary license, that license will need to be extended in order for you to be able to legally drive until the hearing.
- Temporary licenses: as stated above, if you wish to have a temporary license issued to allow you to drive in the interim between your arrest and the MVA hearing date, you must submit your request for a hearing within 10 days of your arrest. This license will last 45 days, which is generally enough time for the MVA hearing to be scheduled.
- MVA hearings are not trials: an MVA hearing is an administrative hearing which is heard in front of the Office of Administrative Hearings (OAH). Oftentimes, these hearings are not even heard in a courtroom, but instead in the administrative judge's office. The judge might not even be wearing robes during this hearing.
- Quick and straightforward: These hearings often last between thirty minutes and an hour, and are only attended by the administrative judge, yourself, and your attorney. The arresting officer will provide evidence stating the MVA's position for suspending your license, and your attorney will, in turn, argue why your license should be reinstated.
What Happens After an MVA Hearing
Following your hearing, the Motor Vehicle Administration will be updated about the outcome of your hearing, and your driving record will be updated accordingly. If your license was suspended, you will need to surrender your license to an MVA office in Maryland.
If you are unhappy with the decision the judge makes during your MVA hearing, you can appeal the decision within 30 days in the Circuit Court.
If you Request an MVA Hearing, Hire an Attorney
If you decide to request an MVA hearing for the reinstatement of your license, it's important to hire a competent criminal defense attorney to represent you at your hearing. Oftentimes, an attorney will be able to uncover problems with your arrest or actions of the arresting officer which can have a positive impact on the outcome of your case. Such defenses can include:
- Illegal traffic stops: an officer must have reasonable cause to pull you over in order to charge you with driving while impaired; if you were pulled over without reason, then your charge may be invalid.
- Inaccurate BAC or field sobriety tests: BAC tests aren't always accurate, and field sobriety tests don't always provide solid proof that a person was driving while impaired.
Facing an MVA Hearing? We're Here to Help
If you have been charged with driving while impaired in Maryland and are facing a hearing in front of the Motor Vehicle Administration, James Peters is standing by to provide competent representation to give you the best chances of a good outcome. To schedule a consultation to discuss your charge today, fill out an online contact form or call (301) 795-8272 today.