Tougher DUI penalties could be coming to Maryland if bill passes

Proposal would require ignition interlock devices for all first-time DUI offenders

Maryland is poised to become the latest state to require all DUI offenders to install ignition interlock devices in their cars. According to WBOC 16 News, a bill under consideration by state lawmakers would expand Maryland's current ignition interlock program to include all first-time DUI offenders. Nearly half of all states currently require the devices for first-time offenders. Although many safety advocates support the measure, critics of the proposal say it is a disproportionate punishment for first-time offenders.

Expansion of ignition interlocks

Under current Maryland law, repeat drunk drivers are required to have an ignition interlock device installed in their cars. Current ignition interlock requirements only apply to first-time offenders if the driver is under 21, there is a minor in the car, or the driver registers a blood-alcohol content level of 0.15 or above.

If SB 395 is passed, however, anybody who registers a blood-alcohol content level above 0.08, including people convicted of their first offense, will have to install an ignition interlock in their vehicles. Under the proposal, first-time offenders would have to have the devices installed for a minimum of six months. People who fail to cooperate with the order would have their licenses suspended. According to the Baltimore Sun, 24 states already require ignition interlock devices for first-time DUI offenders.

Benefits and restrictions

From the point of view of first-time DUI offenders, ignition interlock devices are highly controversial. On the one hand, ignition interlock devices do provide the benefit of allowing convicted DUI offenders to maintain their driving privileges. People who lose their license sometimes continue to drive in order to keep their jobs or family together, thus exposing themselves to further criminal penalties.

For some people, however, an ignition interlock device seems like an intrusive and disproportionate punishment, especially for somebody who has never been convicted of a previous offense. Critics say the devices treat first-time offenders as though they were habitual drunk drivers. Furthermore, while financial aid is available, the cost of installing the devices is the responsibility of the offenders themselves, thus increasing an already heavy burden for convicted drivers.

Criminal defense

Maryland is taking drunk driving increasingly seriously and, as the above article shows, people convicted of DUI may soon face even tougher penalties. People who are facing a charge of DUI should, therefore, contact a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. A qualified attorney can help defendants understand what potential options they may have when responding to a charge of drunk driving and what actions can be taken that may mitigate the harm caused by these serious charges.