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Changes in Maryland’s DUI Law: Ignition Interlocks for All Convictions


June 16, 2024

In recent years, driving under the influence (DUI) has been a significant public safety issue in Maryland, as it has been across the United States. To curb the devastating effects of drunk driving, Maryland has implemented stringent measures over the years. One of the most notable changes soon to take effect is the mandatory use of ignition interlocks for all persons convicted of DUI, including those who receive probation before judgment (PBJ).

Understanding the New DUI Legislation

Ignition interlock devices are designed to prevent a vehicle from starting if the driver has been drinking. The device requires the driver to blow into it, and if alcohol is detected above a pre-set limit, the vehicle will not start. This technology has been an essential tool in reducing repeat offenses among convicted drunk drivers.

Previously, Maryland required ignition interlocks for certain categories of DUI offenders, such as repeat offenders, those with particularly high blood alcohol content (BAC), or drivers who caused an accident while under the influence. However, the new law extends this requirement to all DUI convictions, including first-time offenders and those granted probation before judgment.

Key Provisions of the New Law

  1. Mandatory Ignition Interlocks for All Convictions: The most significant change is the requirement for all individuals convicted of DUI to install an ignition interlock device. This includes those who have received probation before judgment, a common outcome for first-time offenders. The device must be installed in the individual's vehicle for a specified period, typically ranging from six months to a year, depending on the specifics of the case.
  2. Probation Before Judgment (PBJ) Inclusion: Under the new law, individuals who receive PBJ will no longer be exempt from the ignition interlock requirement. PBJ allows a judge to withhold a formal conviction, provided the defendant meets certain conditions. While PBJ can offer a second chance to avoid a criminal record, it will now come with the mandatory installation of an ignition interlock device.
  3. Compliance and Monitoring: Offenders are required to have the ignition interlock device installed by a state-approved vendor. They must regularly report for monitoring and maintenance of the device to ensure compliance. Failure to comply with these requirements can result in further penalties, including the extension of the interlock period or revocation of the individual’s driving privileges.

The Rationale Behind the Change

The extension of the ignition interlock requirement to all DUI offenders, including those with PBJ, is based on several critical factors:

  1. Reducing Recidivism: Studies have shown that ignition interlocks are highly effective in reducing repeat offenses among DUI offenders. By preventing the vehicle from starting if alcohol is detected, these devices act as a significant deterrent against drunk driving.
  2. Public Safety: Drunk driving poses a severe risk to public safety. The new law aims to reduce the number of drunk drivers on the road, thereby decreasing the likelihood of accidents, injuries, and fatalities.
  3. Consistency and Fairness: Applying the ignition interlock requirement uniformly to all DUI offenders, regardless of their sentencing outcome, ensures a more consistent and fair approach to DUI enforcement. This change eliminates any perceived leniency for first-time offenders who receive PBJ.

Implementation and Impact

The implementation of this new legislation will involve several steps and considerations:

  1. Awareness and Education: Public awareness campaigns will be essential to educate both the public and legal professionals about the new requirements. Understanding the consequences of a DUI conviction, including the mandatory ignition interlock, can act as a deterrent and encourage responsible behavior.
  2. Vendor Coordination: The state will need to coordinate with approved vendors to ensure there are enough resources to install and maintain ignition interlock devices for the increased number of offenders. This includes ensuring that vendors are accessible across the state, especially in rural areas.
  3. Judicial and Law Enforcement Training: Judges, prosecutors, and law enforcement officers will require training on the new law to ensure it is applied consistently and effectively. This training will also cover monitoring and enforcement of compliance with ignition interlock requirements.

Potential Challenges

While the new law is poised to bring significant benefits, it may also face some challenges:

  1. Cost and Accessibility: The cost of installing and maintaining an ignition interlock device can be a financial burden for some offenders. Ensuring that these devices are affordable and accessible to all, regardless of economic status, will be crucial for the law's success.
  2. Enforcement: Effective monitoring and enforcement are essential to ensure compliance. This will require adequate resources and coordination among various state agencies and approved vendors.
  3. Public Perception and Acceptance: Some individuals may perceive the mandatory ignition interlock requirement for PBJ recipients as overly harsh. Public education campaigns will need to address these concerns and emphasize the law’s role in enhancing public safety.

The forthcoming changes to Maryland’s DUI laws represent a significant shift in the state’s approach to combating drunk driving. By mandating ignition interlocks for all DUI convictions, including those with probation before judgment, Maryland aims to enhance public safety, reduce recidivism, and ensure a more consistent enforcement of DUI penalties.

This of course will make defending DUI charges more challenging.  If you or a family member is charged with drunk driving, you should immediately contact a dedicated, experienced criminal defense attorney, as there are very strict time limits for filing to keep your driver’s license.  At the law offices of Craig M. Kadish & Associates, LLC, we have been representing individuals charged with DUI/DWI for nearly 40 years.  We will ensure that all of your rights are protected and that everything that can be done will be done to help you continue driving. Contact us today for a free consultation.

Craig M. Kadish - Criminal Defense Attorney Maryland

Craig Kadish

With 30 years of experience and a lengthy track record of success, Craig Kadish has earned a reputation as one of the nation’s most highly sought after criminal defense attorneys. Mr. Kadish has practiced criminal law for three decades, winning an array of high-profile cases. He has had the honor of being recognized both locally and nationally for his dedication, diligence, and prowess in representing clients in exacting and innovate ways. He’s known as a leader in his field. His tenure as a criminal defense attorney and law professor has given him invaluable expertise that few other attorneys possess.

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