March 2011 Archives

DUI or DWI In Maryland: What Is Your Right to Expungement?

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

Many Maryland DUI/DWI attorneys are advising clients that a DUI or DWI conviction can be expunged after three years. That advice is simply not true. Not only can't a drinking and driving conviction be expunged, a judgement of probation before judgment for DUI or DWI cannot be expunged. The clear and unambiguous language of Forn 4-504.1. Petition for Expungement of Records states that expungement of a violation of Transportation Article, ยง 21-902, which includes both DWI and DUI offenses, is not available.

dept of justice.jpgA few months ago the Department of Justice's civil rights division advised the nation's courts to have interpreters available for free at all criminal and civil proceedings and beyond the courtroom, including detention facilities, anger management classes and parol offices. The letter also cited several specific failures. One important instruction from the DOJ was that any court that receives federal funding is subject to Title VI of the Civil Rights Act, which requires access for all individuals regardless of their national origin. This requirement also includes offering services to limited proficiency speakers.

Too often people who speak Spanish, Korean and/or Chinese face clerks who are unaware of available services or indifferent to the needs of those who speak limited English. Many times outdated versions of translated forms are used. In some cases, Spanish, Korean and/or Chinese people are told they must pay for interpreters. In rare cases, people who can't speak English are treated rudely by court personnel. The Maryland Access to Justice Commission, a state body made up of judges and other officials formed in 2008, is investigating language barriers in Maryland's courts and issuing recommendations on how to improve communication. Maryland courts tend to do a good job providing Spanish interpreters at formal hearings, however, there are many procedures and nuances in our courts where no interpreter is available especially for Korean and Chinese people. Basically, there is no type of mechanism to deal with people who don't speak English who come to the courthouse.

Gone to Carolina in My Mind...Going to Jail in Maryland

| No Comments | No TrackBacks

PBJ, and I'm not talking about peanut butter and jelly, is what every person guilty of drunk driving wants to hear when sentenced. Recently, Maryland law changed extending the period of time defendants for susequent offenses are eligible for probation before judgement from five years to ten years for certain crimes. DUI/DWI is one of them. Don't be surprised if you didn't know about this change; neither did a Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge who gave out a second PBJ to an Anne Arundel County official even though he was given a PBJ within the past ten years. I blogged about this controversy a few months ago. In short, you can't double up on a PBJ.

This week I was in court twice dealing with this very issue. Wednesday I had to drive to Hagerstown for a hearing to reconsider a sentence. My client was sentenced to four days in jail and twenty-four months supervised probation for his second drinking and driving conviction. I wasn't his attorney at trial, but I thought the sentence was a little harsh (actually this sentence isn't that bad compared to what many judges have been handing out recently for subsequent offenders). He also refused to blow. By that I mean he wouldn't take the breathalyzer. There is a dispute about whether you should submit to a breathalyzer when you are pulled over if you are a subsequent DUI/DWI offender. Without detailing the consequences of refusal or going into every subtle argument that can be made for and against taking a breathalyzer, let me simply point out that judges absolutely hate if you refuse to blow. With that being said, my client's refusal to blow, along with the fact that he was a subsequent offender, by law, led to enhanced penalties.