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What to do if you're facing a holiday season DUI or DWI charge

The holidays bring their own sources of stress and joy. The amount of social drinking that takes place between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day can be fun for some but can land others in a legal mess. You may think you're fine to drive, but then you get pulled over for erratic driving. There's also the risk of enforcement zones and roadblocks, where police stop and speak with every driver to evaluate if they are under the influence.

If you are facing a DUI or DWI charge stemming from a traffic stop or roadblock, you need to take proactive steps to protect yourself and your future. That should include retaining the services of a defense attorney as soon as possible.

There's a difference between DWI and DUI charges

Maryland defines a DWI (driving while intoxicated) offense as someone with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.07% or higher who fails roadside sobriety tests or appears visually impaired. A DUI (driving under the influence) charge is used for those with a BAC of 0.08% or higher, regardless of their performance on sobriety tests. If you are under the age of 21, your BAC only needs to be 0.02% to put you at risk of DUI/DWI charges. DUI offenses are considered more serious. DUI charges generally have steeper punishments attached to them to deter would-be offenders.

Maryland takes DWI and DUI offenses quite seriously

Even first time offenders charged with a DUI or DWI can face severe penalties. For a DUI, first time offenders could lose their license for six months, pay a $1,000 fine, and could go to prison for up to a year. Second offenses net a year without a license and a requirement for an ignition interlock system after that, along with at least five days, but up to two years in jail and a $2,000 fine. DWI offenders face six months without a license, a $500 fine, and up to eight months in prison. Second DWI offenses can result in a year without a license, a $500 fine, and up to a year in prison.

Don't confess or plea until you've spoken with an attorney

It can seem tempting, particularly when you're facing a night in jail, to try to become friendly with the law enforcement officials you're dealing with during your arrest. While it's important to be polite and respectful while you're being arrested and processed for intake, don't mistake professionalism for friendship. Saying too much to law enforcement can make any form of defense more difficult when you're finally in court, and the consequences can be severe! Don't speak to law enforcement until you've had a chance to speak with an experienced Maryland defense attorney.

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