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Are tougher drunk driving laws headed to Maryland?

The consequences that follow a drunk driving conviction in Maryland are very serious. Depending on the severity of the charges, fines, suspended or revoked driving privileges and even jail time can result. However, there are some states with even harsher DUI and DWI penalties, and the federal government may push Maryland into adopting similar laws.

Currently, 17 states require everyone who is convicted of a drunk driving offense to install an ignition interlock device into their vehicles. The device is sort of an in-vehicle Breathalyzer that prevents the car from starting if the driver's breath registers over the legal limit. In Maryland, such devices are required only for repeat offenders and first-time offenders who are far beyond the legal blood alcohol limit, but the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration wants all states to tighten these laws.

The NHSTA isn't only asking states to mandate the ignition interlocks for all DUI offenders, but it is putting its money where its mouth is. The federal agency has made $20.8 million in highway safety incentives available to states who adopt these laws.

The effort is meant to curb drunk driving fatalities. According to federal data, drunk drivers who are involved in a fatal accident are likely to have had a prior DUI conviction.

While it is important to keep our roads safe here in Silver Spring and throughout the country, it is also important not to trample on the rights of law-abiding citizens. Having an ignition interlock device installed in one's vehicle is a major expense--about $75 a month out of the pocket of the driver--and it is also quite embarrassing.

Often, first-time offenders are not actually guilty of drunk driving, but they just did not think they had a real chance to fight the charges. However, it is often possible to successfully fight drunk driving accusations. Whether or not Maryland ramps up its DUI laws, it is important for Montgomery County residents who are accused of drunk driving to work with an experienced attorney who will help resolve the case in a reasonable way.

Source: Washington Post, "Federal official push for tougher state drunken-driving laws," Ashley Halsey III, Aug. 14, 2012

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