Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, also called driving while impaired, driving while intoxicated, and drunk driving, is responsible for scores of traffic fatalities and injuries each year. According to National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) statistics, alcohol-related crashes were to blame for over 17,000 deaths in 2006 alone. State and federal legislatures enact laws to prevent the many injuries and deaths that result from alcohol-related crashes. In their zeal to eradicate drunk driving, organizations like Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) have pushed many states to enact tough laws that impose even tougher penalties for driving under the influence. In Maryland, you can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while impaired (DWI) if you are driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle while under the influence of alcoholic beverages, controlled substances, or both. “Actual physical control” means that you don’t have to actually be driving the vehicle to be charged with DUI or DWI. In fact, the car does not even have to be running for you to be deemed in actual physical control of it. If you are charged with DUI or DWI, you face stiff penalties, including suspension of your driving privileges, exorbitant fines, and even jail time.
Maryland’s DUI laws create a presumption that you are driving while under the influence of or impaired by alcohol if a breath or blood test indicates that you have a certain level of alcohol in your blood. That threshold level is .07% for DWI and .08% for DUI. The prosecuting attorney only has to demonstrate that a test indicated that you were over the “legal limit” in order to prove you are guilty of DUI or DWI. Once this is established, the burden then shifts to you to prove that you were not under the influence of alcohol. You may do this by introducing evidence of your own, such as proof that the chemical test was inaccurate or the machine was faulty, the results of an independent chemical test of your blood alcohol concentration, or witness testimony that rebuts the presumption that you drove under the influence of alcohol.