Law Offices of Thomas C. Mooney - Criminal Defense
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Will I go to jail if I'm convicted of drunk driving?

Getting pulled over by the police is never a comfortable experience, but if you have stopped after having a couple of drinks, the experience can be even more unnerving. You may even think you are ok to drive and not over the legal limit - but what if you have had too much? If you're charged with drunk driving will you be sent to jail? If your blood alcohol content (BAC) is above the legal limit (0.08 percent or higher in Maryland), jail is a possibility.

If you are pulled over do not panic. There may be several reasons why you were pulled over, so don't volunteer any information that might incriminate you. If the officer believes they smell alcohol, they might ask that you take a breathalyzer test or may even request that you get out of the car for a "field sobriety" test. It can be hard to remember which requests demand cooperation, and which don't. Field sobriety tests, such as touching your nose, walking in a straight line, and balancing on one foot don't prove or disprove sobriety. No one can send you to jail for poor balance. If you are asked to take a Breathalyzer test, only comply if you know you are under the legal limit. Refusing will add a criminal charge, but it will make it harder for the prosecution to prove you were intoxicated. Blood and urine tests are actually less conclusive than Breathalyzers.

Possible fines and jail

If you are charged with DUI/DWI, being handed jail time or fines are likely high on your list of concerns. Your jail sentence - if there is one - and the amount of fines you owe depends on whether you are charged with a DUI - which means your BAC was .08 or higher, or a DWI which means your BAC was .04-.08 (lower limits are in place for those under 21 or commercial drivers).

A DUI charge can potentially land you in jail for up to a year, but only 2 months for a DWI if it is your first offense. The amount of time doubles for a 2nd offense for a DUI, and increases to a year for a DWI. Fines may also be charged up to $3000 depending on how many offenses are on your record.

Driving restrictions

In addition to paying the court with your time and/or money, you also need to deal with the Motor Vehicle Administration. You'll have 10 days after an arrest to request a hearing with the MVA which can protect your license from being suspended. Depending on the outcome of your case, you might be issued a temporary license, or be restricted to driving with an ignition interlock device, which prevents your vehicle from starting if the built in Breathalyzer detects alcohol.

Your chance at defense

To pull you over police officers must have probable cause. In many cases, they don't. In other instances, tests taken are not accurate. While police may like you to believe that your guilt or innocence is set in stone, this isn't necessarily true. An experience DUI attorney can look at the circumstances of your case, and may be able to get your case dismissed or charges reduced to a lesser offense.

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