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DWI versus DUI: The reality of the 2 charges

Maryland has two types of drunk driving charges. The first is a DUI. The second is a DWI. A DWI is actually less serious when you look at the descriptions of these charges.

No matter which you're charged with, defending yourself is key to getting away with fewer penalties. Here are some things to know about the differences between DWIs and DUIs.

What's a DUI in Maryland?

A DUI charge is given when a person has a blood alcohol concentration of .08 percent or higher. If you have this level of alcohol in your blood, the state considers you under the influence of alcohol "per se." The limit applies whether or not you appear intoxicated. Per se rules mean that no matter whether or not you pass field sobriety tests, you'll be able to be charged for drinking and driving. The state needs no other evidence.

What's a DWI in Maryland?

A DWI is less serious than a DUI in Maryland. The difference is that a DWI can apply to those with blood alcohol concentrations of .07 percent. Officers and prosecutors need to show additional evidence of your intoxication if they want to pursue a DWI. If you fail the field sobriety tests, smell of alcohol or have open containers in your vehicle, these could all support their case that you were not in a condition to drive.

What happens to underage drivers?

Those who are caught driving while intoxicated while under the age of 21 face penalties for doing so. In addition, the legal limit for alcohol is lower than for adults. The zero-tolerance policy sets the Maryland BAC limit at 0.02 percent for those under the age of 21.

Commercial drivers don't get off easily, either

Commercial drivers can't get away with avoiding penalties, either. In fact, like minors, their BAC limit is lower than other drivers, even though they're adults. A commercial driver may have a BAC of no more than .04 percent at any time when behind the wheel. Additionally, there are restrictions on commercial drivers set by the federal government. For instance, they're meant to wait several hours after their last drink before getting behind the wheel of a commercial vehicle.

What happens if you get a DUI or DWI in Maryland?

A first offense leads to fines of up to $1,000 and a possible jail sentence of one year. Second offenses have a minimum jail sentence of five days, but you could face up to two years. Fines also rise up to $2,000. Third-time offenders face a fine of up to $3,000 and up to three years in jail.

A DWI is less serious and results in lower penalties. You face fines of no more than $500 regardless of the number of times you've faced a DWI and may end up in jail for two months on a first offense or up to a year on all other subsequent offenses.

It's important to remember that only a .01 percent difference affects the penalties significantly. Fighting for a DWI instead of a DUI is a good use of your time if you're close to the limit.

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