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State leaders continue to push for harsher DUI penalties

Even though Maryland has always had strict penalties for those convicted of DUI-related offenses, the governor and state lawmakers have taken steps in recent years to reduce the state's continued high rate of crashes -- many of them fatal -- that involved a drunk driver. These measures have increased the penalties for those convicted of DUI-related offenses.

Two years ago, the 2016 Drunk Driving Reduction Act mandated that anyone convicted of DUI have an ignition interlock device installed in their vehicle. These devices require drivers to take a Breathalyzer-type test before the car will start. Drivers on parole or probation for DUI offenses who fail the test can face more fines, the loss of their driver's license and possibly end up in (or back in) jail.

Gov. Larry Hogan reportedly plans to continue to push the state legislature to pass the Repeat Drunk Driving Offenders Act when it's back in session. The proposed law would impact anyone who is facing a third or subsequent DUI conviction. It would make a third offense a felony that could carry as much as a 10-year prison sentence. The same penalties could apply to anyone convicted of a second DUI offense if it involved a life-threatening injury or fatality.

The potential consequences for those convicted of even their first DUI can be serious. Currently, they can face as long as a year behind bars, a fine of $1,000 and a license suspension of up to six months. All of those penalties increase with a second and subsequent convictions.

A DUI arrest is nothing to take lightly. Whatever the circumstances, if you've been charged with DUI in Maryland, it's essential to take the matter seriously and understand the potential short-term and long-term impacts on your life.

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