Back-seat drunk drivers?

Most people find back-seat drivers irritating. Hearing criticisms while trying to carry out a task is never easy. When the passenger in the back-seat is intoxicated the situation can turn from merely annoying to criminal. In January 2013, an intoxicated back-seat passenger caused an accident in one of Maryland's neighboring states, and is now facing driving under the influence charges.

Passenger caused accident

In January 2013, five passengers in a 1997 Saturn went to the hospital after the vehicle ran off Virginia 24 west of Aftons Meadow Road. Authorities allege that a 23-year-old female in the back-seat who was intoxicated reached forward and grabbed the steering wheel, jerking it out of the driver's control. The action caused the car to go off the road and eventually overturn. The woman now faces reckless driving and driving under the influence charges in Virginia.

Authorities stated that was is irrelevant that the woman was not in the driver's seat for purposes of the charges she faces. They argue that by grabbing the wheel she assumed control of the vehicle for purposes of the law.

Maryland drunk driving penalties

While the accident and subsequent charges did not occur in Maryland, drivers in the state should always seek legal counsel when involved in alcohol-related auto accidents. The driver is not the only person who could face criminal charges.

Maryland drivers potentially face two different charges if authorities arrest them for drinking and driving. The top infraction is driving under the influence, which is when a driver's blood alcohol content is .08 or higher. A lesser - but still serious - offense is driving while intoxicated. A driver who has a BAC of .04 to .07 and who displays evidence of impairment may be charged with DWI.

The penalties that drivers face if convicted of a drunk driving offense in Maryland can be severe. A first DUI offense can result in up to a year in prison and a fine of up to $1,000. In addition, a DUI results in 8 points on a person's driving record, and he or she faces a driver's license suspension of up to 60 days. Those who had BACs of .15 or higher must install ignition interlock devices in their vehicles for one year in order to be able to regain driving privileges.

The penalties for a DWI conviction are also stiff, even though DWI is technically a lesser infraction. A driver facing a first DWI offense could be sentenced to up to 60 days in jail, as well as a $500 fine.

Consult an attorney

Maryland authorities take drunk driving offenses very seriously. They will not hesitate to prosecute these cases to the full extent possible. Those facing drunk driving-related charges should speak with an experienced DUI attorney who can zealously advocate for their rights.