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Baltimore Criminal Law Blog

Maryland man charged with DUI, driving without interlock device

If you've been convicted of DUI, it's essential to understand all of the penalties and restrictions resulting from that conviction, even if you don't have to spend time in jail. Here in Maryland, one of those requirements is the installation of an ignition interlock device (IID) on your vehicles if you get your driver's license back. That's mandated under the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016 (commonly known as Noah's Law).

While an IID can be inconvenient and embarrassing at times, it can protect you and others on the road from harm. It can also protect you from getting yet another DUI.

Frat parties + underage drinking = possible criminal consequences

While attending parties at fraternity and sorority houses are often considered part of the college experience, there is also an expectation among many that drinking alcohol will also be a part of this experience. While this may be the norm at many parties, it’s incredibly important for party attendees to know there could be consequences for drinking at these parties, especially if you are under the age of 21.

Parents can prevent underage drinking this Fourth of July

Many Americans can't imagine celebrating the Fourth of July without alcohol. Beer, wine and stronger stuff are staples of most holiday cookouts and parties. Unfortunately, this means easy access to alcohol for teens and even younger kids.

Maybe they're at a home where parents have relaxed the rules a bit and figure that a wine cooler or two won't do any harm. Maybe they've taken advantage of the parents' distraction to sneak off with a bottle of whiskey. The Foundation for Advancing Alcohol Responsibility says that 65 percent of young people who engage in underage drinking get their alcohol from family or friends.

While drunk driving is declining, drugged driving in on the rise

Drunk driving has been declining on America's roads, according to the Governors Highway Safety Association (GHSA). However, the news isn't all good. The same GHSA study found that drugged driving has been increasing β€” and the results have been deadly. The percentage of drivers killed in crashes who were found to have drugs in their system rose from 28 percent in 2006 to 44 percent in 2016.

While one might suspect that the opioid epidemic in this country has something to do with this increase, in fact, just 16 percent of the drivers who perished while under the influence of drugs were on opioids. Some 38 percent had marijuana in their systems.

What is 'Noah on Patrol?'

Many of our readers are familiar with "Noah's Law." That Maryland law, officially called the Drunk Driving Reduction Act of 2016, was enacted following the death of a young Montgomery County police officer, Noah Leotta. He was killed by a drunk driver with two prior DUI arrests. State law requires those convicted of DUI (even first-time offenders) to have an interlock ignition device (IID) installed on their vehicles.

However, Noah's father says that the law isn't as effective as it should be because too many judges allow those facing their first DUI to have probation. That means that an IID isn't required. He says that these "slaps on wrists are a source of great frustration for police officers making DUI arrests." Officers feel like their efforts to enforce the law are "frequently undermined in court."

What are colleges doing to prevent underage drinking?

If you're sending your child off to college in the fall, whether here in Maryland or across the country, you're likely nervous about the kinds of things he or she will be exposed to, e.g., copious amounts of alcohol. You may find some assurance in the knowledge that colleges and universities are taking steps to curb underage drinking among their student bodies by implementing policies that prohibit it and penalties for those who fail to adhere to those policies.

Too many young people die from alcohol before they're even old enough to legally drink β€” whether by alcohol poisoning, vehicle crashes, suicide or even homicide. Working to prevent such tragedies is obviously the right thing for schools to do. However, these institutions also want to prevent costly lawsuits and damage to their reputations that can result when a student is injured or worse as the result of underage drinking. These institutions can also face local and state penalties.

What you should know about ignition interlock devices

Ignition interlock devices (IIDs) save lives. According to a recent study conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), states with laws that require people who are guilty of driving under the influence to have IIDs installed in their vehicles reduce fatal DUI-related crashes by 16 percent.

Under "Noah's Law," which went into effect here in Maryland in 2016, even first-time DUI offenders are required to have IIDs installed. More than half of all states as well as the District of Columbia mandate IIDs for at least some people after their first DUI offense.

Driving can be impaired long before you're at the wheel

No amount of alcohol is going to improve your driving ability. That's why Maryland law states, "A person may not drive or attempt to drive any vehicle while under the influence of alcohol."

If a police officer suspects that you've been driving under the influence, you can be arrested regardless of your blood alcohol content (BAC) is. If your BAC is .08 or above (.02 or more if you're under 21), you can be arrested on that evidence alone, even if you're not exhibiting any other signs of impairment.

DUI influences everything in your life, including your fraternity

The Greek system in colleges provides social and professional benefits to students while creating a strong, diverse community amongst members. But this environment often appeals to students looking to explore their newfound independence through alcohol and parties.

Fraternity members are much more likely to abuse alcohol than their non-Greek affiliated peers, and with alcohol abuse can come poor decisions, like drinking and driving. Some college-age drivers think a DUI is nothing more than a simple traffic offense, but you should be aware that it is more serious and can have long-ranging consequences.

Schools using random breath tests at events to prevent drinking

Kids have been sneaking alcohol into high school sporting events, dances, graduations and other functions since our grandparents' time -- and probably before that. While many high schools require kids who are suspected of being under the influence to submit to Breathalyzer tests, now there's a growing trend across the country to administer these tests randomly before kids can get into an event.

At one high school homecoming dance, kids had to roll dice at the entrance. Those who rolled a "two" had to go into a separate area and take a breath test administered by police officers. That amounted to just over 3 percent of attendees. Some kids simply volunteered to be tested. None tested positive for alcohol.