Maryland may soon have some of the toughest DUI laws

A bill that would expand Maryland’s ignition interlock program to all DUI offenders has passed the House of Delegates.

The Maryland House of Delegates recently passed House Bill 1342 in a unanimous vote, paving the way for the state to soon see a major increase in penalties for people convicted of impaired driving, according to WBOC 16 News. Although the bill still has to pass the Senate and be signed by the governor, its backers say they expect to have enough support this year to see the bill become law. If passed, HB 1342 would significantly expand Maryland’s ignition interlock program to include all DUI offenders, including those who refuse a breath test.

New DUI penalties

Under current law, ignition interlock devices are only required for first-time drivers in instances where the defendants register a blood-alcohol content (BAC) reading above 0.15. If HB 1342 becomes law, however, the devices would be required for all drivers with a BAC above the legal limit, which is 0.08. The change would mean that even first-time offenders would be forced to install the devices in their vehicles.

Furthermore, as WBAL-TV points out, the version of the bill that was recently passed by the House allows drivers who refuse a breath test to opt for either a 270 day license suspension or to keep their driving privileges so long as they install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles. The expansion of the interlock program to include those who refuse a breath test had been controversially removed by a House committee before being restored by Delegates.

What it means for Maryland

The bill is not yet law and it could still go through significant changes as it makes its way through the Senate. However, some supporters of the bill say that at the very least they expect the Senate to pass the measure and that lawmakers there may even add tougher provisions against DUI offenders to the bill. While those who support ignition interlocks have tried and failed for seven years to pass an all-offenders law, they say this year looks to be the one when Maryland will pass such a bill.

For those convicted of impaired driving in Maryland, this bill offers both benefits and drawbacks. While an ignition interlock is certainly an intrusive device, particularly for first-time offenders, it does have the benefit of at least allowing offenders to maintain their driving privileges even after a conviction.

Criminal defense

With Maryland’s impaired driving laws undergoing some significant changes, it is important for anybody who has been charged with a DUI to contact an experienced and qualified criminal defense attorney immediately. The right attorney can help defendants understand their rights and options under the current law and how they may be able to proceed in such a way that best protects their interests and freedoms.

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