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Drugged driving in Maryland

Maryland law enforcement can file drug charges against individuals who possess or distribute drugs. Police can also make arrests of motorists who drive under the influence of drugs. A person may be guilty of driving under the influence for operating any vehicle unsafely because they are too impaired by any drug. It is also illegal to operate a vehicle while being impaired by a controlled substance.

Maryland courts have found that the state's medical cannabis laws do not legally allow any person to use cannabis. Patients may still face criminal penalties but the state's Compassionate Use Act allows courts to lessen penalties for possession and use of marijuana. However, the Compassionate Use Act applies to prosecutions for use and possession but may not mitigate penalties in a DUI prosecution.

Drivers legally consented to take a test, as a condition of holding a driver's license, when they are stopped for suspicion of driving while impaired by alcohol, a controlled substance or other drugs. Drivers, however, may not be forced to take a test unless there was an accident that caused death or threatening injury to someone else.

The driver's license will be suspended for up to 45 days for a refusal to submit to a chemical test. Drivers have the right to speak to an attorney before submitting to a test by this cannot unreasonably delay the test's administration. Chemical tests may help prove that a driver is impaired but are not necessary for a conviction. A conviction may be based upon observation of the driver's behavior.

Maryland may operate sobriety checkpoints and stop vehicles and their occupants. Law enforcement must run the checkpoints in accordance with regulations that carefully restrict police discretion and assure that motorists are not stopped without cause.

Criminal penalties run from two months imprisonment for the first offense to up to three years in jail for the third offense within five years. Additionally, motorists may face fines, completion of drug or alcohol rehabilitation programs and license suspension for convictions.

A driver stopped or arrested for suspicion of impaired driving should seek immediate legal assistance. An attorney can help assure that their rights are protected, that illegally seized evidence is excluded and that other evidence is challenged when appropriate.

Source: NORML, "Maryland drugged driving," Accessed Aug. 1, 2017

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