After getting pulled over for drinking and driving, many people wonder if they will go to jail after a DUI in Maryland. Like most states, Maryland imposes severe penalties for individuals who get caught driving under the influence of alcohol. These penalties include possible jail time.
However, if you have been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI), this does not mean that you will automatically go to jail. First-time offenders (and even repeat offenders) can avoid jail time in many cases; and, depending on the facts of your case, an experienced DUI defense lawyer may be able to help you avoid a conviction entirely.
At the same time, however, it is important not to downplay the risks you are facing. While a defense lawyer may be able to help you avoid jail time, incarceration is a real possibility. To protect yourself, you need to execute a strategic defense, and you need to be able to convince the judge that you don’t deserve to spend time behind bars.
The Penalties for DUI in Maryland Include Jail Time
When facing a DUI in Maryland, it is important to have a clear understanding of what is at stake in your case. Driving under the influence is a crime in Maryland, and getting convicted of a crime has serious consequences. This is especially true when the crime involves driving on public roads and putting yourself—and others—in harm’s way.
Let’s say you are facing a DUI charge as a first-time offender. The police pulled you over, and you blew 0.08 percent on the breathalyzer. The officer arrested you on the spot, and you now have a court date in the near future.
If you find yourself in this situation, you are most likely facing the following penalties:
- A $1,000 fine
- 12 months in jail
- 12 points on your driver’s license
- A six-month driver’s license suspension
- Mandatory alcohol abuse assessment and education
To be clear, these are the maximum penalties for a standard first-time DUI conviction in Maryland. The judge has the discretion to impose a lighter sentence; and, if you decide (based on your defense lawyer’s advice) to negotiate a plea deal, prosecutors can agree to recommend less than the maximum penalties Maryland law allows. For most DUI defendants, staying out of jail is their top priority; and, with the right approach, it will be possible to avoid jail time (even if you get convicted or plead guilty) in many cases.
Repeat DUI Offenders Face a Mandatory Minimum Jail Sentence
If you are facing a DUI charge as a repeat offender, your situation is different. Maryland law imposes enhanced penalties for second DUIs—and these penalties include a mandatory minimum jail sentence. Under Maryland law, repeat offenders face up to a two-year jail stint (along with fines and other penalties), and the law states that repeat offenders must serve a minimum of five days in jail.
How Can You Avoid Jail Time if You Are Facing a DUI in Maryland?
Given the risk of going to jail for a DUI in Maryland, what can (and should) you do to protect yourself if you have been arrested for drunk driving? Depending on the circumstances of your case, your options may include:
1. Seeking Probation Before Judgment (PBJ)
Seeking probation before judgment (PBJ) is a good option for first-time offenders who are unlikely to avoid a conviction at trial. If you are able to secure a PBJ, you will avoid a conviction (and jail time), and your arrest will not go on your driving record.
2. Seeking an Alternative Sentence
If you are not able to secure a PBJ, your defense lawyer may be able to help you obtain an alternate sentence. For example, instead of jail time, your lawyer may be able to help obtain a sentence of probation, community service, or home detention.
3. Attending an Alcohol Education Course
Attending an alcohol education course before your DUI trial can show the judge that you are serious about reforming your behavior and making sure you don’t drink and drive again. This type of proactive approach has helped many DUI defendants avoid jail time in Maryland.
4. Negotiating a Plea Deal
Negotiating a plea deal avoids the uncertainty of trial, and it could be your best option if you are ineligible for a PBJ. While plea deals can take many different forms, most defendants will want to secure deals that keep them out of jail, as discussed above.
5. Fighting for a “Not Guilty” Verdict at Trial
Finally, if you have a strong defense to your DUI, you may be able to avoid jail time—and avoid a conviction entirely—by fighting for a “not guilty” verdict at trial. When you talk to a DUI defense lawyer, your lawyer will provide an assessment of your likelihood of success in court.
If you are facing a DUI charge in Maryland, we encourage you to contact us for more information. To schedule a confidential consultation as soon as possible, call (410) 390-3101 or request an appointment online now.