Maryland's Graduated Licensing System
What Young Drivers Need to Know About Driving, Drinking, and Drugs
Here is what you need to know about the legal consequences of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs in Maryland.
Your driver’s license is a passport to mobility. Once you’ve successfully completed all requirements, you’re awarded the privilege to drive.
But this privilege comes with a great deal of responsibility. Irresponsible driving can lead to senseless deaths, personal injury, and property damage. Drinking or using drugs and driving significantly increases chances of being involved in an accident. It could even contribute to you or someone else losing their life.
This information will help you understand your role, responsibilities and the possible penalties when drinking alcohol, using or possessing drugs and driving.
When You Crash, You Kill
Did you know that 15 to 20 year-old drivers are the highest risk group for a fatal crash? Seventy percent of fatalities in this age group involve the use of alcohol. Night driving statistics are even worse:
- Young drivers average about 20 percent of their driving at night – yet they account for more than 50% of all nighttime crash fatalities!
Of that 50+ percent, 21% of those involved were intoxicated by alcohol.
When Cops Will Stop You
Police officers are authorized to stop and detain any person when they have reasonable ground to believe the individual is, or has been, driving or attempting to drive a motor vehicle:
- While under the influence of alcohol (DUI)
- While under the influence of any drug, or combination of one or more drugs and/or alcohol (DUI)
- While under the influence of a controlled dangerous substance (DUI-CDS)
- While intoxicated (DWI)
- In violation of an alcohol restriction.
They Will Test You, Too
Signing a Maryland’s driver’s license or learner’s permit application form enters you into an agreement. It says that if you are detained by a police officer who suspects you’re driving or attempting to drive under the influence or intoxicated by alcohol an/or drugs, you agree to submit to a chemical test of your blood, breath or urine. This is called a Blood Alcohol Concentration, or BAC test.
The penalty for violating this agreement is an automatic 120-day license suspension. If you are detained a second time, refusal to take the BAC test will result in an automatic one-year suspension of your driving privileges.
Maryland’s .08 Law
If a police officer suspects a person has been drinking and is behind the wheel, the officer can request the driver take a BAC test. If you submit to it, and your level of alcohol registers at a concentration of .08 or more, you are legally considered intoxicated.
If you are legally intoxicated, the MVA can impose penalties:
- A 45-day license suspension for the first offense
- A 90-day suspension for a subsequent offense
- Total loss of driving privileges
Penalties are even greater if the offense occurred while the driver is transporting someone under 18. If transporting a minor, the driver may face a fine of up to $4,000 and a prison sentence of up to four years.
Be warned that MVA actions may be taken even if you are not found guilty of using alcohol and driving. In addition to MVA actions, you may still face other penalties imposed by the district court, such as fines and jail time, if you’re convicted of charges arising from the same incident.
You are at risk of losing your vehicle insurance coverage also. Under the terms of automobile insurance policies, insurance companies may cancel or refuse to cover you if you are driving or attempting to drive under the influence of alcohol, impaired by drugs or alcohol, or by a controlled dangerous substance.
The Difference between DUI and DWI
- Driving under the influence (DUI) is driving with a blood alcohol concentration between .04 and .08
- Driving while intoxicated (DWI) is driving with a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or higher.
One Beer or Less and You Could Lose Your License
You don’t have to be drunk to lose your driver’s license! Maryland law states that no one under 21 may consume any alcohol. If a driver under age 21 has been drinking – even just one beer or less – and their blood alcohol concentration level is .02 or more, the driver has violated this restriction and the license may be suspended or revoked. The driver may also face a fine of up to $500.
Drugs Can Cost You Your Car
Did you know that if you are driving a vehicle in which drugs are found, the vehicle can be seized and impounded? This law applies regardless of who brings the drugs into the vehicle. So even a passenger in your car who may be in possession of drugs can cost you your vehicle.
A Co-signer Can Suspend Your License
As you know, when you’re under 18 in Maryland, you must have a parent, guardian or other qualifying adult co-sign your license application for consent for you to drive.
But did you know that a co-signer can write a letter and withdraw their consent, allowing the MVA to suspend your license? The suspension remains in effect until either the minor reaches the age of 18 or another qualified adult co-signs.
Rookie Driver Provisional License Restrictions
Under Maryland’s Rookie Driver program, provisional license holders under 18 are prohibited from driving between the hours of midnight and 5:00 a.m., unless accompanied by a licensed driver, at least 21 years old.
Rookie Driver Provisional Licenses require conviction-free driving before one can be eligible for a full driver’s license. Additional restrictions may also be given when a provisional license holder violates the conditions of the license.
Fake ID’s are No Joke
It’s illegal to misrepresent your age or to help someone else do so for any reason, including to illegally buy or possess alcoholic beverages. Using someone else’s driver’s license, ID card or a fake ID will cost you:
- Maryland laws allow fines of up to $2,000 and/or imprisonment of up to 3 years.
- The MVA can cancel, suspend or revoke your driver’s license.
- If under 18, the Maryland Juvenile Services Administration may require you to attend a supervised work or alcohol rehabilitation program.
- Maryland Juvenile Services Administration may also ask your parents or guardians to withdraw their consent for you to hold a license.
- Federal penalties can include a fine of up to $25,000 or imprisonment for up to 15 years.
So Make Smart Choices!
- If you’ve been drinking alcohol or using drugs in any amount, DON’T DRIVE.
- Even if you think you haven’t had too much to drink or the effects of a drug have worn off, it’s not worth the risk to get behind the wheel.
Once you’re involved in a crash or someone has been hurt or killed, it’s too late to make another choice. Don’t break laws or abuse driving privileges. Consequences of your choices will follow you the rest of your life.