As a Maryland lawyer who regularly handles Maryland DUI cases in front of the MVA, there are some important things you need to know about how the MVA hearing process works. As outlined in this previous Maryland DUI article, an MVA hearing must be requested in a timely fashion, or you simply won’t get one. Here are some other important points to remember:
- The MVA Administrative hearing is in front of a judge at the Office of Adminstrative Hearings (OAH)
- They are held across the state, but the headquarters is located in Hunt Valley
- The judge is not a judge in the black robe sense, but should still be treated the same. They are called Judges (Administrative Law Judge) and they literally have your Driver’s license in their hands.
- Assuming you request a timely MVA hearing after being charged with a Maryland DUI, your automatic suspension will be stayed pending the Administrative hearing
- The ALJ has little discretion in the process, but much less than a “black robe” judge, as the rules and regulations for breath testing and Maryland DUI procedure are rigid for the Administrative hearing.
Maryland DUI: What are the penalties
As outlined in this previous Maryland DUI article, suspension of driving privileges vary greatly. Often for a first time Maryland DUI offender, the penalty suffered at the hands of the MVA is greater and more damaging than the criminal penalty. However, there are a few pointers to keep in mind:
- If you blow over a .15 and there are no technical or legal defenses to your breath test result, forget about keeping your license intact. With BAC’s above .15 and with little or no technical defenses, we often advise our clients to get the interlock device installed on their car. Why? Because the ALJ will suspend your license, no matter what. Getting to the Administrative hearing costs you $125, plus an additional appearance in court on your behalf for your Maryland lawyer. Finally, it looks better for your criminal case and the “black robe” judge will appreciate the affirmative steps you have taken for your pending Maryland DUI. Remember, regardless of the Administrative hearing result – a dismissal or a PBJ on your Maryland DUI is the ultimate goal.
- If you refuse. See #1 regarding the interlock device. It will save you money in the long run and put you in a better position to get a dismissal or PBJ on your Maryland DUI.
Maryland DUI: What defenses do I have?
Fortunately, as rigid as many of the procedures are regarding the MVA Admistrative Hearing process, you still have a number of good defenses you can raise and those same rigid procedures can be used as a sword against the MVA’s case. In fact, many of these defenses won’t hold water in the criminal portion of a Maryland DUI. In no particular order (and not in excruciating detail) here are some of the things that can help you beat the MVA:
- No notice in the DR-15A form
- If the officer’s statement lacks material elements pursuant to Maryland Transportation Article Section 16-205.1
- If the officer violated the 4th amendment when stopping the Maryland DUI offender.
- The stop occurred on private property
- The officer lacked jurisdiction
- The officer’s statement is not under oath
- The officer failed to advise the driver fully of his/her rights per the DR-15 form
- The Breath test operator failed to follow regulations
- The breath result was within a Maryland DUI margin of error
- Insufficient breath defenses
- The officer fails to appear after subpoena
- The officer failed to provide rights to a lawyer
- The 2 hour limit on obtaining a breath test is not complied with
Maryland DUI: What defenses don’t I have?
This list is a bit shorter, but also not exhaustive. Here goes:
- The rules of evidence are relaxed, so hearsay is generally admissible
- If you are over a .15, the MVA administrative hearing may be a moot process, because the ALJ’s have limited discretion to mitigate a suspension at higher BAC results
- The law is written so that you “consent” to taking the breath test; when you refuse you have a tougher hill to climb at the MVA administrative hearing
Maryland DUI: Bottom line
As you can see, there are a large number of technical and factual defenses available during the MVA administrative hearing. Having a highly skilled Maryland lawyer at your side is critical to success in the hearing. If you find yourself charged with a Maryland DUI, be sure you call your favorite ENlawyers.